Qualified by Experience

Some members have already been looking at the possiblity of recognising an agent's expertise gained other than through the passing of professional exams.

The point (if there is one) of restricting tax agent work to members of certain bodies would seem to be the raising of standards, or maybe providing assurance to the world at large that the agent they select can be relied upon. However, as members have pointed out, just having passed some exams many years ago is no proof of technical competence now. Nor is the fact that someone has not passed exams an indicator of lack of competence. I'd also be very worried if I were HMRC and be seen to be "approving" tax agents as competent - think about the mess created by the FSA and the banks.

HMRC has asked the current "pool" of tax agents to give their views on whether the tax profession should be restricted to those who are members of a professional body (or association). The implication is not just that they have passed exams, but also that they comply with rules on continuing professional development, carrying liability incurance and so on.

While accepting that good and bad practice can be found on either side of the fence, please could those who are not currently members of one of the main professional bodies express their views on whether we (you) should be called upon to demonstrate your competence, both at a single point in time and/or ongoing (if you think this is appropriate). Your views on whether we should grandfather all current agents, and effectively shut the door on new entrants unless they pass examinations of some sort would also be useful.

Or do you think (please all respond) that any sort of control of this area of the market should not be attempted?

Please can you give some idea in your responses whether you are a member of a body or not.

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johnjenkins's picture

@Paul

johnjenkins | | Permalink

Seems OGA has summed my feelings up very nicely.

Terminal 5 mmmmmmmm wasn't that the terminal that had all the baggage problems??? Perhaps the incentive to get done on time outweighed the incentive to get things right. I wonder if lessons have been learned!!!!!

So to sum up Qualifieds have their own "regulator" unqualifieds are regulated for MLR under Customs.

Please, please, please would someone tell my what else NEEDS to be regulated by an outside "body"

John and OGA

pauljohnston | | Permalink

Thank you for your assistance with this.  I can see that this may be a major sticking point. I am not sure of the fix though!

qualified by experience

david5541 | | Permalink

iTs a shame really but over at least the last 30 years since the virtual abolitiion of the audit in small firms and deregulation of the professional bodies by their governing boards there are too many time barred/QBE/ex inspector (what ever) agents and accountants undercutting independent qualified firms with a high street presence who used to accept small clients as a loss leader and might I say gave the best service that we all aspire to.

HMRC cant afford to regulate them excpt through the MLR process and lack of qualifications, PII and reputation puts them in a very competitive market place always ready to udercut their qualified colleagues who used to dominate the high street until the 1970's and before the advent of thatcherite deregulation/abolition of the ICAEW foundation route/distance learing etc. etc.

 

QED where should the demarcation line be drawn?

membership fees

david5541 | | Permalink

The fact is the only bunch of GEEKS who know what they are getting into when they fork out on PII, membership fees and CPD are you and me. The public on the whole are totally ignorant of the distinction arising from good professional ethics which grows out of getting a qualification. Rarely would any member of the public  know who ACCA ICAEW CIMA (AND THE TINPOT AAT WHO i HAVE RESIGNED FROM and heavily advertise to attract all and sundry) as an FCCA. All they will ask is "are you chartered?

To the public the word accountant means as much as CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT, after all there are not chartered solicitors are there? and yet they have the legal privilege of running client accounts without any concerns from their regulatory bodies.

johnjenkins's picture

The market place decides David.

johnjenkins | | Permalink

If a small business cannot afford CA fees they will look elsewhere. Isn't it better that the UQ pracitce properly where they can be seen rather than behind the client, as I believe happens in the US.

Perhaps a registration system for who wants to be in practice so that tax payers can look see what is available but isn't that what HMRC are angling for??????

In the US... and here

EGo | | Permalink

A few people have mentioned the US. Their system is changing too. Unqualified agents will have until 2013 to take a competency exam. Agents will be obliged to sign the tax return to say they completed it. Taxpayers will be advised not to use or to report agents who won't sign a tax return. It might not be foolproof but they too are changing. In Australia too they insist on qualifications to do certain tax work.

If I was HMRC I might be happy for anyone to act as an agent - eg an ordinary taxpayer might help their eldeerly mother with her tax return and it will probably end up in a better state - so great, let that continue, please.

But letting someone into their systems to make changes (eg add in £50,000 of pension contributions to a coding notice) is a totally different matter. I'd want to know who they were and have some level of assurance that they were a bona fide agent. Otherwise anyone could say they were an agaent for anyone else and wreak havoc.

Maybe we don't need to be full blown ACAs or CTAs, but if I was HMRC I'd at least want to ensure agents accessing the system had PII, did CPD, had access to proper technical material etc and had a basic level of competence. Perhaps we need to design our own basic standard which would be acceptable to Government and to our fellow professionals. We ought to be able to design something that was easily achievable by competent experinced professionals. EG if I only deal with SA then I don't need to know about transfer pricing but I do need to understand how coding notices work - something which would be useful if HMRC frontline staff knew too!

-- EGo

johnjenkins's picture

Sorry Ego

johnjenkins | | Permalink

don't agree. To be in practice these days you have to be competant otherwise you wouldn't have any clients. In fact the more bent, the more competant. You have to know how the system works to get round it. So any competance test would not show up dodgy agents. The agents that aren't competant will make mistakes which would probably stand out like a sore thumb and hopefully a nice kind tax inspector will put them right and competance will improve.

As you said the US plan isn't foolproof and I can't see any change. Anyway they will be bankrupt soon so what then?

ShirleyM's picture

Why not just basic requirements?

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Example, the requirements for agents should only be:

PI Insurance

Completion of CPD

MLR regsistration/supervision

Data Protection registration

I would have thought that any agent who is rubbish would have had claims against his/her PII, and the cost of PII would rocket in cost and would effectively make them quit trading, or not bother having any insurance, and the latter would rule them out from the requirements.

Tinpot??

birkettco.com | | Permalink

What an immotive comment, David. I have been a member of AAT since its inception and have been a fellow member for many years. I run a small practice, take my regulatory responsibilities very seriously, undertake many hours of CVPD (as do my staff - who are also AAT) and pay a considerable sum each year in PII premiums.

The argument here is not about chartered or non-chartered, it is abour professional competence and ethics and you cannnot pigeon hole these skills on a partical group of tax agents. My 30+ years of experience has taught me that there are good and bad qualified and non-qualified practitioners  -  letters after the name give nobody a guarantee of professionalism.

I see no easdy answer to this. HMRC are hardly going to be independent arbitors and the individual professional bodies will naaturally have their own agendas.

Perhaps the professional bodies could collaborate and recomend an independent oversight body where current approved body members would be automatically registered and those agents not belonging to any professional body could pay a fee to cover monitoring costs.

Whatever system is adopted is, I fear, going to prove to be very bureaucratic and, at the end of the day, will cost out clients more in fees.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

EGO ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... you miss the point, many many agents don't want those rights anyway.

Many of us think if HMRC were semi-competent we could go back to the old days of a quick phone call (or heaven forbid these days an email). The only rights many of us want is view only just so we can ensure that the tax return is correct and complete so as to avoid wasted time dealing with a query because the client forgot to tell us about something.

That is all I want and I think many on here are of the same inclination.

Miss the point?

EGo | | Permalink

But I don't think we are ever going to get back to the halcyon days of the Inland Revenue. Their staff have been cut to about 2/3 of what they were then. It just ain't gonna happen, unless the Government find a few £bn to spend on HMRC.

I'd consider signing up to a system where I could change a coding notice, process a VAT registration in minutes not months etc. But I'd want to be sure that it was not HMRC striking me off if something went wrong. I'd want an external body to review that. And the price for signing up - well PII, CPD, AMLR, data protection etc seems reasonable. Most of us do that anyway. OK in theory a criminal could do all that and get in but if HMRC's risk assessment picked them up quickly it would pay for itself. And it would keep away from tampering with the system those that don't play by the rules, don't do CPD, don't have PII etc  - we've all come across them.

As long as it's voluntary to be in or out of self service, what's the problem.

  -- EGo

Old Greying Accountant's picture

Yeah but no but ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... HMRC only need 1/3 of the staff they had - IF

  1. They had a half-decent computer system that they hadn't been ripped off by the vendor in buying
  2. Agents have full view of all taxes
  3. HMRC had e-mail as a primary method of contact with agents, if necesary through a closed system.

FFS, everything is or soon will be filed online.

HMRC need basically three levels of staff, technicians to handle queries where things are wrong and make changes as directed, well trained advisors to deal with queries (if necessary have specialist advice centrs for differnet types of tax/situations) and review staff to look at the SA and respond as appropriate.

We will be doing most of the work for them, and we are mostly I think happy to do so as it means it is likely to be done correctly.

Their "shortage" of staff is not helped by the over generous leave and sick pay terms etc etc.

johnjenkins's picture

Hey OGA

johnjenkins | | Permalink

your beginning to sound like WD, I said I said your beginning to sound like WD.

We don't need monitoring, we don't need extra fees, we don't need a cuddly toy. What we want is Watneys, sorry got carried away (yes I know that's what you'd like).

Seriosly though we really don't need anything other than to be allowed to view and have a raport with a competant person if there are differences - Shimples.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

I'll have no gossiping in this jungle!

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

You bunch of pooftahs

But John, fine pair of shoulders, show em off, show em off, sholders back, chest out , lovely boy lovely boy!

(duplicated post now removed :o) )

Now SHUUUUUUUT UUUP

Bring back the Watney Cup!

johnjenkins's picture

You'll like this OGA

johnjenkins | | Permalink

Watching a program on UFO's and how we have been visited etc. etc. and apparently messages via binary code, walls, mountains, burning bushes etc. etc. have been sent to us over the years. Just wondered if HMRC might have received mixed messages??????????? (Have Messages Received Correctly).

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