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Is it time for a GAC?

One body to rule them all...

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Hi all,

Given the recent discussions about cowboys, incompetence, inexperience and the whole spectrum of adjectives, plus their opposites, perhaps this is an apt time to throw this idea into the discussions.

Opticians cannot practice ophthalmology without being members of the GOC, ditto for doctors and the GMC, pharmacists and the GPhC, and others (GOsC, GDC, etc).

Perhaps it is time for an overarching Accountancy Council (or a GATAC for Accountancy, Tax & Audit?) whose remit would be to regulate the professionals, students & practices in the UK, work to protect public interest impacted by the profession, improve and approve standards of education leading to registration, authorise fitness to practice & train, etc.

GPhC maintains registers of pharmacies, pharmacists & technicians, GDC for dentists & nurses, so no reason why the same body couldn't cater for auditors/tax advisors/accountants departmentally under one umbrella.

Various other member organisations exist for medical professionals, such as MDU, BMA, RPS, AOP, to name a few, each of which provide varying levels/combinations of CPD, insurance, networking, other.

Perhaps I dare not suggest this be the destination of the existing accountancy bodies - just thinking out loud without necessarily having thought in any level of detail.

Do fellow AWebbers think there is mileage in something like this, or is it too fantastical/impractical?

Replies (16)

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By tom123
08th Jul 2020 14:13

Can't see the government appetite for this - they would view it as restraint of trade.

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Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
08th Jul 2020 14:47

I would split audit out, I believe in Europe it is a very distinct profession.

My concern would be the main Chartered institutes do not seem that great at keeping smaller practitioners re the SME sector that happy, why would an overarching body be closer to them, I do not believe it would, to me it would be even more distant.

Besides, it is a problem that will cure itself, you are all going to be replaced by bots anyway.

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By Paul Crowley
08th Jul 2020 14:52

Only works if the trade is adequately defined. Bookkeepers who file tax returns?

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Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
08th Jul 2020 15:18

Also, does it involve a group of FCAs, a Fellowship so to speak?

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By SteveHa
08th Jul 2020 15:21

Not to be pedantic, but the MDU has gone - it's now the MPS.

But to answer your question, I would have no objection to this, though I dare say many who are already members of PBs may take umbridge at yet another cost for no benefit.

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By Tim Vane
08th Jul 2020 15:55

Aha a closed shop; how very 1970s. Massive step backward alert.

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By alialdabawi
08th Jul 2020 16:32

Thanks for replies on an open-ended topic.
Not necessarily thought through - plus this is all conjecture at this stage, but to respond to a couple of points made, my thoughts are:

@tom123 government are merely one stakeholder, many more exist and if something like this were to replace current (disjointed?) PBs, each stakeholder would have to have some level of buy-in to the concept to begin with

@DJKL keeping smaller independents happy may be one remit (arguably none of the independent pharmacies currently have nothing good to say about the GPhC), but the principle is that the whole profession - and by extension every practitioner - is governed by one body

@Paul Crowley @ SteveHa Conceptually speaking only one body should have the authority to issue a practice licence, replacing the current system of various PBs with different licence granting requirements/regulation/fee structures/compliance sets. Would also make the point about tax-return-filing bookkeepers redundant as they would need to obtain a licence first

To reiterate, just my unaudited 2p worth, and there is vastly more to all this than a forum discussion can achieve

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By Richard Grant
09th Jul 2020 07:29

Another quango, I'm sure the government would love it and happily throw the odd billion at it, when Labour get in next time maybe they could politicise it as well. What could possibly go wrong?

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By Rgab1947
14th Jul 2020 10:15

Considering its the big accounting firms contineously getting caught with sloppy work and who are supposed to be well regulated (sic) cant see the point.

And then one super body. I see the bureacrats salivating at the mouth but as we know incompetance there rules supreme.

And being cynical, is this just a way to get rid of (horrors of horrors) all those pesky unregistered "accountants" who keep taking business away from us "professionals"

Obviously against it and yes I am registered and qualified.

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By pauljohnston
14th Jul 2020 10:38

A real shame as to the number of negative posts. Such an idea has legs. We are all tarred by poor practitioners regulated or not There is no reason why such regulation would not create tiers of competence that Bookeepers doing tax returns is fine for personal tax returns for employment/self employment but if they want to do trusts or companies of CGT /chargeable gains then a higher level would be needed.

We now have an over reaching body for Money Laundering why not for accountancy and audit. This should mean that there is a slimming down or merging of similar bodies

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Replying to pauljohnston:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
14th Jul 2020 11:04

I do personally think audit and broad accountancy/tax etc need two distinct bodies, they are very different skills, similar re insolvency, but I would worry about further fragmentation.

I have concerns re just one body whilst at the same time the skillset within training is diverging. The training for say ICAEW seems to have become narrower, someone spending their entire training in say tax these days maybe is not qualified by experience to prepare accounts? Whilst such niches always were there at least one had (certainly via ICAS) the training diary that detailed experience by activity and what was supposed to get submitted was a reflection of a broad rounded experience; not sure this now applies.

Because of this niche training I would be concerned having one regulatory body covering everything, what one will likely end up will be the term accountant no longer applying to a broad set of skills but instead one will have accountant(finance) accountant (tax) accountant (accounts) etc, the cramming of the facets into crude pigeonholes created by this one overarching body will imho hasten the death of the general practitioner, and I believe there ought to be a place for the broad non specialist within the field (But of course I would say that ,would I not, being myself an unqualified jack of all trades master of none)

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By Alonicus
14th Jul 2020 11:04

Having a single accountancy body has the advantages that (after a period of initial confusion) clients would no longer be confused by the alphabet spaghetti of initials accountants currently use, which with appropriate due diligence would enable them to know they were working with a regulated professional. A single body would also enable there to be common standards and practices on policies like engagement letters, disengagement, ethical standards etc.

I agree with separating audit out ! Although the knowledge is practically the same, there is a perception that the two disciplines are too closely in bed with each other.

The biggest downsides I can see are that there would be no competition to keep subscription costs down. If being an accountant meant membership was compulsory (either by legislation or because no-one would hire someone who wasn't a member), then it would become sole arbiter of whether someone could work and use the qualifications that take so much time and money to gain. That's fine if it weeds out true bad apples who cannot be redeemed, but if it became politicised (as so many organisations are now), it could reduce someone to flipping burgers at Macdonalds for not adhering to the "correct"opinions on subjects unrelated to accountancy.

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By paddy55
14th Jul 2020 13:31

The government will not legislate unless the change is in the public interest. The obvious solution is registration of accountants. But the difficulty is in a) defining what accounting is and b) enforcing it. Australia has gone some way in achieving this. Only registered tax agents may lodge Tax Returns. The qualifications to be a registered Tax Agent are much the same, exam-wise and experience-wise, as to be admitted as an accountant to an accountancy body. In fact, the registering body will accept an accountancy degree or member of an accountancy body as sufficient qualification. As most accountants cannot practise without being registered tax agents, the result is that only qualified accountants can practise. There are separate registrations for company auditors and for company liquidators. However, until recently, there was no impediment to an accountant employing as many unqualified accountants as he pleased once he had obtained his practising qualification. This is now being stamped out by requiring all Tax Agents to use a mobile phone with fingerprint facilities. Each person who contacts the Tax Office e.g. by filing a Tax Return must verify his identity with a fingerprint.Therefore, in practice, all staff will have to be fingerprinted and registered with the Tax Office. No doubt, in time, to be so registered, one will have to have accountancy qualifications.

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By alialdabawi
15th Jul 2020 10:12

Some interesting points arising.
@DJKL There is no reason why one body cannot register professionals in different tranches of the profession - all doctors need membership of the GMC to practice, be they GPs, renal specialists, cardiologists or any other speciality. What the medical sector does have, is specialist colleges (RC for GPs, surgeons, physicians, etc) - perhaps a model suitable for tax (or broken down further for different types of taxes), accountancy, audit, payroll(?).
Above example links into the point made regarding competition for subscriptions @Alonicus. We have in accountancy what we have today, which perhaps leads some to some looking for the quickest application/cheapest fees. If we had all 'routes to qualification', leading to the same subscription as a gateway to practising accountancy, the 'race to the bottom' which I frequently see mentioned on this forum would quickly be turned on it's head, as an achievement to work toward.

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Replying to alialdabawi:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
15th Jul 2020 10:38

Of course they can, but you likely then get more and more restrictions re what each type of accountant may professionally do and types of work they may undertake.

Accountancy was always a broad training, with lots of facets, this imho is already narrowing and for clients I am not sure this is a good thing.

Killing the generalists at the expense of the specialists is already endemic in the legal profession and the larger accountancy practices, I am really not sure the public is really best served if smaller practices also become curtailed regarding the services they may offer to their clients.

Back in the dark ages 1980s/1990s I did audit work (including solicitors accounts rules/financial services/travel agents ABTA/ pension schemes/internal audit), tax compliance and planning, vat advice, business plans and fund raising with lenders, company secretarial, assisted clients selecting software, investment business (life and pensions) and was first reserve re payroll, and this was within a two partner six staff office, the only thing we did not do was insolvency (though I even did a bit of that during my apprenticeship)

As one who consumes a lot of legal services from a fair array of firms I have first hand experience using the bigger players as to how their services grow legs, moving bank now needing the property team re say first registration of titles, the banking team reviewing facility letters and non property securities etc, and the legal fees escalating as each department dips its beak.

I believe a move away from the generalist to niche qualifications/registrations is a recipe for clients paying larger and larger fees.

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Morph
By kevinringer
15th Jul 2020 13:02

I'm all in favour of a single body for accountants. But it won't happen because each PB wants to be the one that takes over. Maybe they should all be scrapped and a new body formed.

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