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Accountant background check

Accountant background check

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Hi All, 

I am currently in talks with an accountant to run over my books, file a return, accounts etc.  

However, I want to make sure that they are the real deal.

Is there a governing body that they should be registered under to confirm that they are charted and can do what I ask?

Thanks, 

Jason

Replies (97)

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By johngroganjga
13th May 2014 14:37

Yes you can check their qualifications with whichever body they say they are a member of.  Which body is that?

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By jay22981
13th May 2014 15:35

Thats just it John they have not claimed they are with any body. I want to ask them who they are with. Is there a recommended body that I should ask if they are a member of?

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By johngroganjga
13th May 2014 15:45

The obvious way to proceed is to find out what qualifications they claim to have:

Letterhead?

Business card?

Brass plate outside office?

Website?

If all else fails - ask them.

Then, if you want to verify what they claim, contact the professional body in question.

Doing it back to front will be MUCH more time-consuming.

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By Ken Howard
13th May 2014 15:47

Probably not then

If a firm doesn't mention it's regulatory body, then it's probably not got one.  Most chartered firms would include "chartered/chartered certified/chartered management/chartered tax adviser" on their website, letterheads, business cards, etc.  

There are several "chartered" bodies which are regarded as the top tier.  Then you have an intermediary tier such as AAT (accounting technician) which is also a perfectly respected body.

Then you have several "trade associations" that are just that - they basically let anyone in on payment of the subscription and a couple of references and don't require exam qualifications etc.

Remember the term "accountant" isn't protected and literally anyone can call themselves an accountant or a firm of accountants, even if they don't have experience, exam qualifications, insurance etc.  

You are right to be wary.

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Time for change
By Time for change
13th May 2014 16:11

In addition to all of the above

was this firm recommended to you?

If they weren't then, my question would be, what drew you to them?

No matter what type of service I am looking for I would usually start by asking people who I know and trust to point me in the direction of trusted service providers/craftsmen and women..

Nothing is perfect but, it should be a move in the right direction.

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By ccassociates
13th May 2014 16:21

This old chestnut again

Why do you need your accountant to be chartered, do you know what being chartered entails. does this accountant come recommended, do they have a website you can check out . would you use an estate agent who was not a Chartered Estate Agent.

There are many Accountants out there who offer a brilliant ethical trustworthy accountancy service who are not chartered. here are also Chartered Accountants out there who would rob you blind and provide a poor service.

Look for an accountant that has a good reputation regardless of whether they are chartered.

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Replying to Vile Nortin Naipaan:
By johngroganjga
13th May 2014 16:37

Virtue out of necessity?

ccassociates wrote:

Why do you need your accountant to be chartered, do you know what being chartered entails. does this accountant come recommended, do they have a website you can check out . would you use an estate agent who was not a Chartered Estate Agent.

There are many Accountants out there who offer a brilliant ethical trustworthy accountancy service who are not chartered. here are also Chartered Accountants out there who would rob you blind and provide a poor service.

Look for an accountant that has a good reputation regardless of whether they are chartered.

You wouldn't happen to be involved in a practice that's not chartered would you?  Oh yes!  According to your website you are.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that, and good luck to you.  But please declare your interest next time.

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Replying to Vile Nortin Naipaan:
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By JDBENJAMIN
16th May 2014 12:27

CCASSOCIATES, I would not use a chartered estate agent, as......

...there is no such thing. I take it you're not a chartered accountant, judging by what you say (and the ungrammatical way you say it).

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By justsotax
13th May 2014 16:56

I will have a wild

guess John, you are chartered? Nothing wrong with that - but not sure anything in CCassociates comment suggested not using a chartered, just that there is a choice, don't think going for an accountant with a good reputation is the worst advice in the world?

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By ccassociates
13th May 2014 17:03

Sorry John

Didn't realise it was necessary to pin my colours to the mast, just to answer a question.

I have worked for two chartered accountants in my accounting life, one was struck off for fraud the other for incompetency. (neither when I was still there by the way)

To the world they are "Chartered Accountants" still even though they do not practice as such.

I was simply trying to emphasise the point that  Chartered status is not always a sign that everything is rosy and that the Accountant is a good one, each one of us has human traits

 

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
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By chatman
16th May 2014 11:13

No longer Chartered

ccassociates wrote:
I have worked for two chartered accountants in my accounting life, one was struck off for fraud the other for incompetency

So they are no longer Chartered Accountants. Surely that is the point: they are now unqualified.

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By johngroganjga
13th May 2014 17:13

Rotten apples

There are of course rotten apples in every barrel.  I trust you are not saying that chartered accountants are more likely to be incompetent crooks than other accountants.

My only point was that your intervention was slanted in a very obvious direction and when I look - surprise, surprise - it's a self serving one.

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By andy.partridge
13th May 2014 17:40

I find myself agreeing with John. Sorry John.

Unless there is evidence that chartered accountants are more incompetent or crooked than other accountants the suggestion made is unbalanced and unfair.

Actually, it's also counter-productive. Chartered accountants have the advantage of several decades of positive spin put on their qualification so it can seem churlish and might provoke suspicion to try undermining the received wisdom of the general public.

No, I'm not a chartered accountant. I'm a chartered management accountant and so know little about accountancy or tax.

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By Flash Gordon
13th May 2014 17:45

FFS

Qualifications are great. Better still is experience. I passed all my theory exams for flying but the actual practical bit was a tad different (I didn't like it when the wind blew!). So I guess I'll not be claiming I'm a pilot just yet.

And don't forget that some qualified accountants have given up membership of their former prof bodies because they got a bit miffed with forking out each year for less and less. Personally I'm in this group - I passed the exams, got the practicing certificate, paid ACCA far more than they deserved and then decided enough was enough. I'm now with ICPA. So that makes me qualified by letters, qualified by experience, and not practicing under one of the chartered bodies. Guess I'll need a whole camp of my own!

Find an accountant who comes with good recommendations from people you know, or failing that go with one that you feel comfortable with. Don't get hung up on a piece of paper.  

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By Flash Gordon
13th May 2014 17:47

PS

P.S. I don't think CCA was suggesting that chartered are dodgy. Just pointing out that both sides can be great or dodgy. A qualification doesn't change it either way.

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By gordonb
13th May 2014 17:55

Do they have a website you can check out?

Question as posed by CC Associates- Visit said website and see "We are professionally qualified through ICPA". I was not aware that ICPA had any qualifications of their own.

Then on the Tax tab "CC Associates are Authorised Agents" under the HMRC logo. Not sure HMRC would approve of this.

 

GordonB

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By Marion Hayes
13th May 2014 18:07

Find out what you need first

then look for recommendations -

There are many reasons that you might need to use a Chartered or Certified Accountant. If you are using finance, or may need a mortgage, or a reference in the future, check which bodies your bank etc will recognise. There are some who only recognise certain qualifications  - never mind being unqualifeid!!

I am qualified by experience so the first thing I tell people who come to see me is that I am not an accountant. There are certain matters I do not deal with and others I am happy to  help with. We then talk about what they need now, and in the future, the insurance cover I have, MLR requirements and go on from there.

FYI - I was given this list as UK accountancy bodies which were acceptable to Santander:

I.C.A.E.W Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales - A.C.A / F.C.A

I.C.A.S Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland C.A (Chartered Accountant) - A.C.A.S / F.C.A.S

I.C.A.I Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, also known as Chartered Accountants Ireland - C.A

A.C.C.A / A.A.P.A  Association of Chartered Certified Accountants / Association of Authorised Public Accountants – A.C.C.A / F.C.C.A / A.A.P.A / F.A.P.A

C.I.M.A Chartered Institute of Management Accountants - A.C.M.A / F.C.M.A

CPAuk Certified Public Accountants Association - A.C.P.A / F.C.P.A

A.A.T Association of Accounting Technicians - M.A.A.T / F.M.A.A.T

A.I.A Association of International Accountants - A.A.I.A / F.A.I.A [not FAIA (acad)]

 

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By gordonb
13th May 2014 18:18

Santander list

Marion, There are 3 other bodies on their list. C.I.P.F.A, C.I.O.T and I.F.A.

 

Regards,

 

Gordon

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By Marion Hayes
13th May 2014 18:24

@Gordon

Thanks - The list I copied was provided by the mortgage advisor - Sorry all

 

Edit: Perhaps we should start keeping our own lists to be able to make recommendations to our clients when they are looking for finance

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Replying to itp3e:
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By HUGH W DUNLOP
13th May 2014 19:00

Edit: Perhaps we should start keeping our own lists

I understood this was standard procedure. All banks do not accept the same qualifications, though many do overlap. I have original copies of banks accepting ICSA and IFA qualifications pinned behind my membership certificates and copies on my computer ready to print out for clients when required.

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By Tosie
13th May 2014 18:30

A C P A /FCPA

I have always thought that these were "bought" qualifications.

In addition to recommendations I think it is important that you feel comfortable with any accountant that you consider appointing.

Having served "articles " and passed exams I learnt far more working for an unqualified accountant who only dealt with small businesses.

In my town there is a firm of accountants with beautiful offices and impressive web site .I found out this week that they are not qualified.i.e no paper qualifications.

 

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By taxhound
13th May 2014 19:26

Don't wish to be dragged into an argument about which is better

I know there are some very good non-qualifieds out there, but I would ask how they gained their experience if they have not got any formal qualifications, and get some recommendations.

I recently lost a client to an unqualified person.  In the handover letter she asked if we could keep in touch so she could pick my brains for tax advice for some of her clients.

Not hugely impressed!  I did not tell my ex client, and maybe she won't need specialist tax advice in the future....

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Time for change
By Time for change
14th May 2014 08:21

Cards on the table, I'm not qualified.

Been in the profession 41 years, 32 of them in my own practice.

I stand in awe of someone like John (Groganjga) and one or two others on here, who are technically craftsmen like in their responses.

I've had a good business career, earned a good living, given something back (hopefully) in making a weekly contribution to a local BBC radio station for 10 years or so and, I've tried to provide an excellent level of service. However, I also know my limitations and wholly heartedly respect the qualified community. We should be all able to live together in peace and harmony.

I'm also a stickler for fair play and, having visited the said website, I also find it "unfair" to portray that a firm is an "authorised agent" of HMRC. The firm is only authorised to view or obtain specific client's details, where they have an authority. The term used is therefore misleading and I've seen it on another website which was previously advertised on the Aweb site. I would remove it, if I were in that situation.

If you're good enough, in the profession, you don't need to portray something which is clearly not true.

In closing, when I left my previous chartered boss, who I'd got on with extremely well, he suggested that I was simply a "cowboy". It's not an expression which I've ever forgotten, or forgiven and, in line with comments I've made earlier, it has no place in this debate, in my view.

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Time for change
By Time for change
14th May 2014 08:41

Posted twice, by mistake

I'm still learning my limitations!

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Stepurhan
By stepurhan
14th May 2014 08:46

One advantage of letters

I am ACCA qualified.

I would always say you are better seeking recommendations for an accountant. This is hopefully going to be a long-term relationship and have a big impact on your life, especially your wallet. You need to find someone you feel you can trust and that you can get along with.

But, if you really have nothing else to go on, there is one advantage of choosing someone with letters. You know that, at some point, they have to have taken exams and thus proved they know something about accounts and tax. They are also required to undertake continuing study, so they should be up to date. By contrast, you have no way of knowing if an unqualified person is someone who has spent years studying every bit of tax law going, or someone that glanced at Wikipedia for five minutes and then rented an office.

At most it should be a tie-breaker between two candidates. Proving knowledge by exams years ago doesn't prove competence now. Enforced ongoing study doesn't mean they have taken the new knowledge in. The unqualified person down the road could well be the genius that has read every tax law and the qualified person could be the incompetent buffoon. Do some research to find a better way of telling them apart.

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By Flash Gordon
14th May 2014 10:52

Letters

But what happens for someone who had the letters (like me) but gave them up? I'm not supposed to use my letters anymore so clients won't know I took the exams, yet I did. 

Anyway, most clients can't be bothered and don't know the difference. As long as you do a decent job they're happy. 

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Replying to andy.partridge:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
14th May 2014 11:44

Who needs letters?

Flash Gordon wrote:
But what happens for someone who had the letters (like me) but gave them up?
You don't need letters. If being the man who saved every one of us is not a big enough recommendation then I don't know what is.

This is precisely why I said it should be the last resort. Choosing an accountant is far too important a decision to leave to some letters alone.

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By Flash Gordon
14th May 2014 10:54

@ Time for change

As a cowboy you get the best dressing up outfit - a hat, chaps and the guns. That beats the red indians hands down - who wants feathers these days?! And the cowboys always win :)

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By justsotax
14th May 2014 11:38

aren't some letters

better than others...

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Stepurhan
By stepurhan
14th May 2014 11:41

Letters worth more

Q is worth 10, and E only 1, so there are obviously some differences.

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By GuestXXX
17th Mar 2015 16:27

.

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By justsotax
14th May 2014 12:38

so an

NVQ is worth more than an ACA then....

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Replying to lionofludesch:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
14th May 2014 14:16

Got it covered

justsotax wrote:
NVQ is worth more than an ACA then....
Fortunately I have an NVQ (it's what got me into accountancy in the first place bizarrely) so I've got it covered.

More controversial. By extending that particular analogy, ACCA is worth more than ACA. :-D

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By Allan Scott
14th May 2014 13:27

COMPETENCY

I've just had a practice quality review. Annually I have to give details of my training programme and plan for next year as well as supply PII details. These are some of the requirements to stay registered as a CA. Unqualifieds(including those that buy some form of meaningless title) do not have these type of requirements and therefore are best avoided.

 

Would you engage a gas heating engineer who wasn't a member of the Gas Safety Council but was qualified by experience-of couse not

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Replying to seanvbridges:
Me!
By nigelburge
14th May 2014 16:36

Yes

Allan Scott wrote:

Would you engage a gas heating engineer who wasn't a member of the Gas Safety Council but was qualified by experience-of couse not

I would and I do!

One of the most useless gas engineers I ever met worked for British Gas for many years and never stopped telling everyone so. He was the sort that would do a crappy job as long as it "complied with the rules".

Come to think of it - I have met accountants like that too - qualified AND non-qualified.

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By Flash Gordon
14th May 2014 13:38

Gas Heating Engineers

Allan, would you prefer an engineer who had passed an exam but never actually touched a boiler unsupervised in real life, or an engineer who had worked on boilers for 40 years but hadn't got the exam certificate? Given some of the British Gas engineers who've serviced my boiler I know which I'd opt for. Still, at least when your boiler went wrong and blew your house up, you could say you'd been made homeless by a qualified person. I'm sure it would be a comfort.

 

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By GuestXXX
17th Mar 2015 16:28

.

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By Allan Scott
14th May 2014 13:56

MISSING THE POINT

Flesh, yours is hardly a logical argument

The point is that the Corgi engineer would have been tested on boliers on a regular basis whereas you have no idea whether the other "engineer" has had any testing or training or possibly if he was competent enough to understand boilers and, if the boiler blew up whether you would be able to claim his insurance for your damages.

 

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By justsotax
14th May 2014 16:49

damm you

Stepurhan...I am beaten....(but now you have opened a can of worms...ACA vs ACCA...)

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By CW2012
14th May 2014 15:37

Informed choice

Stepping bravely into the fray, when questioned about using an unqualified accountant my answer has been that when I see a doctor I like to see one who has been to medical school. Whilst I agree that there are some regulated accountants out there who are unscrupulous and some unregulated that are of the highest calibre I still believe that using a regulated member of an RCAB cuts down the chances of roguish behaviour hugely. The recent Cornish case regards an unregulated accountant behaving poorly, you only have to look at recent court cases to see the disparity between the numbers of unregulated and regulated accountants being found guilty of financial misdemeanours.   

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By justsotax
14th May 2014 15:58

I guess the

only question then becomes...will the chartered accountant being doing all of my work...or will he pass it to the inexperienced and part/unqualified trainee to complete the majority of the work, and just review it at the end....

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Replying to tom123:
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By HUGH W DUNLOP
14th May 2014 20:04

justsotax PM | Wed, 14/05/2014 - 15:58 | Permalink

Good point there. I know of one local firm who have fancy city centre offices, but have much of their work done at an 'accounts farm' some miles outside the city, where youngsters sit at desks in an old garage, surrounded by oil drums and other garage gear. Several years ago I got a new client from them as he had been presented with his accounts written on a sheet torn out of a school jotter and was not too pleased at the fee he had been charged for this. The young girl had merely thought to save him time by posting the accounts direct to him.

 

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By Nadine
14th May 2014 17:11

Qualifications

I am an MAAT and have been for approximately 10 years. I am currently studying for my ATT qualification as well. I have worked for the same practice for seven years and, as this is a Limited Company, I do not need to register as a member in practice with the AAT or ATT therefore, any prospective client would not be able to check my qualification with either body.  Where does that leave me and the many other accountants, like me, in this great debate????

As has been said previously, the OP should ask around the local area about the practice he is considering, speak to friends or neighbours for recommendations and, at the end of the day go with his instincts - If it feels wrong now, it will probably turn out to be so in the long run.

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Replying to leshoward:
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By GuestXXX
17th Mar 2015 16:28

.

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By ccassociates
15th May 2014 10:21

perspective

I have read this thread several times so as not to approach my response with a knee jerk reaction, lets put a few things in perspective.

I was merely trying to assist the OP with his choice of accountant, the advice was that he needn't get hung up on the term chartered as it is not the only measure of quality and competence, indeed many ordinary people do not understand the difference between chartered and not chartered or audited and unaudited, incidentally neither do most banks. 

Not being chartered does not equate to not being qualified, I am qualified, and our website does not say that I am qualified by ICPA but by AAT, in fact I am an FMAAT and former Inland Revenue, I have 40 years experience in this business on both sides of the fence.

HMRC are aware of our claim to be an authorized agent, we sought permission which was granted they even gave us the logo to use on the website.

I am not ex military my colleagues husband is, I suggest that if you are going to pick the bones out of the website at least read it first

Thanks to those who have defended me

Shame on you who have chosen to vilify me and the British Military.

For your information my maternal grandfather died of wounds received on the Somme, my father, a desert rat died of wounds received on the beaches of Anzio, My brother a Welsh Guard  served in Ireland  and Aden.I have one son and two step sons, my son served in the Royal Navy, the oldest stepson is serving RAF and just returned from Afghanistan, the youngest just qualified for the RLC and is serving in The British Army I have over 150 ex paras, marines SBS SAS on my books I am sure that some of these "pongos" would  take umbrage at some of the comments on this thread however my advise (not qualified advice of course) is to treat the comment with the contempt it deserves. 

[Moderator's note: Elements of this post relate to previous comments that have been removed for breaking our community rules. Apologies to all concerned if the comments here seem to be off topic, but it may give an indication of how bad things got. Please treat this as a reminder not to indulge in personal vilification and to keep to the original topic. John Stokdyk, Editor.]

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Replying to DJKL:
By James Reeves
15th May 2014 10:37

HMRC "Authorised agent" policy

ccassociates wrote:

HMRC are aware of our claim to be an authorized agent, we sought permission which was granted they even gave us the logo to use on the website.

Maybe this should be a separate topic for discussion, but I have heard others say they have had such approval and yet it is completely at odds with HMRC's own rules on the matter given here:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/terms/agents.htm

which expressly forbids what you are doing and suggests that HMRC could take legal action against you.

Out of curiosity can I ask when did you receive this permission from HMRC? Perhaps they have introduced their stricter policy only recently.

Have any other members received such permission?

 

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Kirkers
15th May 2014 10:38

100%!

ccassociates wrote:

I have read this thread several times so as not to approach my response with a knee jerk reaction, lets put a few things in perspective.

I was merely trying to assist the OP with his choice of accountant, the advice was that he needn't get hung up on the term chartered as it is not the only measure of quality and competence, indeed many ordinary people do not understand the difference between chartered and not chartered or audited and unaudited, incidentally neither do most banks. 

Not being chartered does not equate to not being qualified, I am qualified, and our website does not say that I am qualified by ICPA but by AAT, in fact I am an FMAAT and former Inland Revenue, I have 40 years experience in this business on both sides of the fence.

HMRC are aware of our claim to be an authorized agent, we sought permission which was granted they even gave us the logo to use on the website.

I am not ex military my colleagues husband is, I suggest that if you are going to pick the bones out of the website at least read it first

Thanks to those who have defended me

Shame on you who have chosen to vilify me and the British Military.

For your information my maternal grandfather died of wounds received on the Somme, my father, a desert rat died of wounds received on the beaches of Anzio, My brother a Welsh Guard  served in Ireland  and Aden.I have one son and two step sons, my son served in the Royal Navy, the oldest stepson is serving RAF and just returned from Afghanistan, the youngest just qualified for the RLC and is serving in The British Army I have over 150 ex paras, marines SBS SAS on my books I am sure that some of these "pongos" would  take umbrage at some of the comments on this thread however my advise (not qualified advice of course) is to treat the comment with the contempt it deserves. 

Could not agree more!
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Replying to DJKL:
By jon_griffey
15th May 2014 17:30

Authorised agent

ccassociates wrote:

HMRC are aware of our claim to be an authorized agent, we sought permission which was granted they even gave us the logo to use on the website.

 

Looks then like someone at HMRC has not been reading their own guidance...

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/terms/agents.htm

 

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Replying to Wanderer:
By djn24
16th May 2014 12:24

Authorised?

jon_griffey wrote:

ccassociates wrote:

HMRC are aware of our claim to be an authorized agent, we sought permission which was granted they even gave us the logo to use on the website.

 

Looks then like someone at HMRC has not been reading their own guidance...

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/terms/agents.htm

 

I was also under the impression that a firm could not use the HMRC logo etc as a marketing tool.  This link seems to confirm this?

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Replying to DJKL:
By johngroganjga
16th May 2014 13:26

Qualified

ccassociates wrote:

Not being chartered does not equate to not being qualified, I am qualified, and our website does not say that I am qualified by ICPA but by AAT, in fact I am an FMAAT and former Inland Revenue, I have 40 years experience in this business on both sides of the fence.

I don't want to seem pedantic, and I mean no disrespect to members of the AAT, but members of the AAT are qualified as accountant technicians, not as accountants.  It may suit some of them to argue that there is no difference, but their professional body is careful to say that its members are accounting technicians not accountants.

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