Should membership of a prof body be compulsory?

Consultation on raising standards for tax advisors

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https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/raising-standards-in-the-tax...

HMRC seeking to bring us all up to scratch (whatever that might mean).  It would appear that their 'preffered' approach (whatever that might mean) is mandatory membership of a 'professional body' (whatever that might mean).  For the record HMRC appear to be suggesting that 'tax advice firm' should include accountants, bookkeepers, tax advisors/consultants, payroll professionals and others.  So basically most of us, if we provide services to the general public rather than just to an employer.

Personally i'm all for it.  Not because i dont value the many competent QBE practitioners, so calm down you lot.  More because i think the barrier to providing accountancy and taxation services is too low (as in there isnt one - and there should be).   I'd also argue that advisors who are not members of a professional body make up the majority of the dodgy/rogue/incompetent part of the industry.  This appears to be supported by HMRC who state that taxpayers with 'non-affiliated' advisors are not only more likely to be non-compliant than those with affiliated agents, but they are actually more likely to be non-compliant than taxpayers who dont even HAVE an angent!  Having said that there is a rather curious category of 'unknown affiliation' which might skew the figures significantly if allocated to one of the other pots.  HMRC define this as a practitioner where they cannot determine whether they are a member of a professional body or not (perhaps lesser known or overseas bodies?)

There's a questionnaire and a link to reply and given how often this crops up on here, I'd suggest filling it in - even if you dont agree with me and would prefer to keep the accountancy market like the wild west.

 

Replies (39)

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Replying to David Ex:
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By Mr_awol
07th Mar 2024 17:35

Thanks David - i did a scroll down for threads (as the search button isnt very good) and thought I'd checked adequately, but missed the other thread entirely

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Replying to Mr_awol:
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By David Ex
07th Mar 2024 17:46

Mr_awol wrote:

Thanks David - i did a scroll down for threads (as the search button isnt very good) and thought I'd checked adequately, but missed the other thread entirely

It happens! The search function isn’t really useful ….

I’m sure the topic will run and run.

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By Dougscott
07th Mar 2024 17:06

What like how you don't get dodgy solicitors? I don't think regulation without teeth will get rid of all the problems but it will certainly increase costs for many small guys like myself who only have a handful of clients and are mainly qualified by experience. I mean have the MLR Regs actually caught more criminals and fraudsters - if you report anything to Action Fraud nothing seems to happen.

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By Paul Crowley
07th Mar 2024 17:54

No point
The most dodgy schemes are being developed and sold by regulated PB members, backed up by rent a bent barristers ltd

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By Moonbeam
07th Mar 2024 17:59

It's true there are plenty of dodgy accountants. Sadly many of these people boast membership of the main accountancy bodies.
The only way to sort that out would be to insist everyone was a member of said bodies, and that the bodies carried out more regular due diligence checks, thus whacking up their fees, as it all costs money.
And the resulting fees would be too much for most small accountancy firms to bear.
However, in the long run, I predict this is what will happen, and businesses will have to pay much more in accountancy fees as a result.
I'd like to see HMRC up its game at the same time and give the same professional service to agents and taxpayers as many of us give our clients. Some hope there!

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By DJKL
07th Mar 2024 18:13

I see no issue providing some form of grandfathering, but regulation has to be outwith HMRC/HMG's sphere, a body apart not in sway to HMRC and their doubtful Gold,Silver and Bronze (Sounds like a carwash)

I also see issues with existing bodies sweeping in QBE's etc, I doubt they will, so likely something new is needed.

I also am not keen that those who have made a living at this for years should be prevented from continuing (for one thing a lot of clients will not be able to pay the possible fees increases for another someone's current living ought not be extinguished at a whim)

Personally I am past it impacting me, I now just take office bearer roles as an employee and doubt in a couple of years will even do any active debits and credits but instead just sit in odd meetings drinking coffee and imparting my waning wisdom.

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By Postingcomments
07th Mar 2024 18:26

Maybe the answer for the non-quals is for one of them to set up a "professional body". Like that Tony Spaghetti guy did.

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Replying to Postingcomments:
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By Paul Crowley
07th Mar 2024 18:32

There already exists a few bodies that accept QBE

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
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By Postingcomments
08th Mar 2024 09:06

Any proper ones? Or just comedy ones?

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Replying to Postingcomments:
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By FactChecker
07th Mar 2024 19:02

Or they could just accept NVQ as a membership criteria ... Non Verified Qualification.

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Replying to FactChecker:
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By Postingcomments
08th Mar 2024 09:08

QBE. NVQ

All these euphemisms for "not qualified". If non-quals reallocated the time they spend defending their (lack of) status, they would have the time to sit the exams. If a person has been doing the job for a while, they are a bit of a breeze. I say that as someone who sat some tax exams late in my career - I already knew most of the material.

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Replying to Postingcomments:
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By Roland195
08th Mar 2024 09:13

I wouldn't pass my driving test if I re-sat tomorrow let alone my professional exams - the material covered had little in common with the job I was doing at the time let alone what I do know.

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Replying to Postingcomments:
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By Sandnickel
08th Mar 2024 10:13

Given that it's not just exams you need to take in order to qualify, it's not quite that simple. Being part of a professional body is sometimes not achievable by someone already years into practice.

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Replying to Postingcomments:
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By Beancounting
08th Mar 2024 12:56

Does that organisation no longer exist? Come to think of it I have not had a mailshot from them for ages.

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By Sandnickel
08th Mar 2024 06:22

If I trusted the professional bodies to have their members interests at heart then I would agree with the proposal.

However, experience would suggest that they would view it as a pure money making exercise under the guise of professional standards.

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Replying to Sandnickel:
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By spilly
08th Mar 2024 11:08

I’ve not renewed my ACCA membership this year as I’m utterly fed up of giving them money for the last 30-odd years for virtually nothing in return.
OK, I’ve now had to register with HMRC for MLR, but everything else is the same apart from me not being able to stick some letters after my name now.

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By Steve Holloway
08th Mar 2024 10:32

What are we talking about:
Is the accountant insured if it all goes wrong?
Do they have to complete appropriate CPD to keep up do date?
Do they have nominated cover if they get ill or die on the job?

If you can answer yes to those, then who gives a hoot about what exams you took 30 years ago? They do, however, seem to be a reasonable minimum that the public might expect of a professional.

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Replying to Steve Holloway:
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By Mr_awol
08th Mar 2024 11:43

I'd agree that the exams 30-odd years ago are now (largely) irrelevant. I dont generally think QBEs are 'worse' than those who are members of a professional body 'just because they didnt sit some exams'. Their employment history/training is probably a much better indicator of their abilities. A newly qualified person without experience (let us say moving from industry and starting to do tax returns as some sort of side hussle) is likely to have only a basic understanding, whereas someone who never sat an exam but who was an apprentice, then had ten years of on-the-job training is likely to be pretty good (assuming their employer/trainer/mentor is of course).

However regulation does help to ensure that advisors have some 'skin in the game'. Why dont we drink drive? For me there are three reasons - i dont want to kill myself/others, i dont want to crash and have expensive repairs, and i dont want to lose my driving licence. Currently unregulated advisors arent the ones who are going to get hurt (and with the low level of compliance checks their clients probably wont either), they arent likely to lose money and they wont get fined or banned.

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Replying to Mr_awol:
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By FactChecker
08th Mar 2024 19:34

All true ... although your analogy doesn't work (as indeed it fails in practice) when you descend into the quagmire of not just unqualified/unregulated - but active 'bad actors' who don't give a toss for ANY consequences.
Bit like those pillocks who drive a stolen car without a driving-licence (let alone obviously insurance), who are 'punished' by receiving a driving-ban for 2 years - which really upsets them I'm sure!

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By bernard michael
09th Mar 2024 09:43

Just curious
Under what legislation/authority could HMRC impose such restrictions??

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By DJKL
11th Mar 2024 10:30

It would legislation introduced be HMG not HMRC- no different from regulation that exists re IFAs etc.

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By Matrix
09th Mar 2024 10:04

Yes to protect the public. Or just make it mandatory to advise the unsuspecting taxpayer of qualifications/supervision so they can make up their own mind.

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Replying to Matrix:
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By FactChecker
09th Mar 2024 13:10

The problem (and I don't have an alternative simple solution) is that your sensible 2nd suggestion would also ... clearly indicate the subset of advisers / agents towards whom those intent on malfeasance should make a beeline (i.e. those without any suitable qualifications or supervision)!

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
09th Mar 2024 18:11

We've just started-a-courting a client whose previous accountant for the past 15 years was that ubiquitous character, the bloke in the pub. At the end of which relationship his pool-playin' pub-pal has chucked in the towel on his non-registered practice, leaving us to to pick up the mess: not VAT registered (t/o >£85k for the past few years - and that's just the starting course!)

From which I've drawn the conclusion that such rogue QBE "accountants" are being gradually squeezed out of it. Except for which I have a suspicion that there are many more filling their shoes at the wider end of the funnel.

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By SteveHa
10th Mar 2024 17:17

As a QBE practitioner who would be unlikely to be caught by any change of regs (I'm employed, and the practice is ACCA regulated), I would rather see a competency test across the board (QBE and members of a PB).

That might eliminate all of the bad actors, rather than keeping some of the worst offenders for the biggest schemes in place.

And TBH, HMRC are advising the public, and so the same requirements should apply to them.

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By FactChecker
10th Mar 2024 19:45

100% ... practical, fair and more likely (than other proposals) to improve quality and hopefully integrity throughout the sector.

But my biggest endorsement is for your last sentence ... a point I've been making to HMRC for the best part of 15 years (after they disbanded Working Together, diluted Agent Strategy, reduced numbers in SDST and generally 'let go' those with extensive knowledge/experience).
At one point, early in the Harra regime in 2018, it became a bit of a standing joke whenever I opened my mouth ... 'here he goes again - who let him in? - please escort this person to the exit'!

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By DJKL
11th Mar 2024 10:58

Given the breadth of work accountants do how do you devise such a test, or do you have different subject papers and that determines the areas where you may then subsequently practice?

I now know a little about a lot of subjects, so:

Accounting up to FRS102 likely muddle through in an open book exam (would need a vast amount of work on IFRS etc to get up to speed- sorry , effectively learn from scratch, at my last exams we still had SSAPs!!!!!!)

Tax okay but patchy in broad areas though would certainly fail reorganisations /reconstructions plus foreign etc

Know very little re NI

IHT only okay to a degree (Basics)

Vat is pretty much the basics, doubt I could pass a more exacting exam re vat

Companies House work- well can still complete most basic forms, write Minutes (At one point we did a lot of writing up Stat Books) but these days not sure about much above changing reg office/directors/confirmation and recording shareholdings in stat books .

Hot to trot on cashflows and business modelling (well certainly with property),
still reasonably hot on writing loan application proposals, always had a good success rate.

Was decent at business finance, discounting etc, or a nice algebraic proof of a Modigliani and Miller theory (Got a merit in this)but now rusty (age does that) so would certainly need a refresher.

Stats (also a merit) and Maths have certainly seen better days, Economics tad outdated (Anything post Chigago school forget it) and lots of memory lapses re AP to C and IS/LM etc

Law- well not too bad understanding Scottish Conveyancing (But CAs did not need this) , still remember a bit of my Uni contract, delict, company law, insolvency law, partnership law- afraid agency, sales of goods and insurance law all now distant memories (though still have in bookcase my 83/84 statutes), so frankly given in 1985 I was not great at Law I certainly will be no better now.

The catch is lots of us do the basics that occupy 95% of SME practice, but once you get into exam setting, with all the bits you never use in real life, life is a tad more difficult.

Frankly without a lot of work I would fail most of these at exam standard and given my age and that my memory is no longer like a sponge, as it was in my 20s , my future looks bleak- suspect I am now akin to Boxer in Animal Farm.

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Replying to DJKL:
By SteveHa
11th Mar 2024 11:43

Competence includes knowing your limitations. A valid response to something you know little about would be to seek advice from someone more knowledgeable.

The cowboys (an expression I hate, since I routinely wear a Stetson or similar, and my car registration includes "TEX" in it) would likely suggest something damning, such as they would "muddle through".

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By FactChecker
11th Mar 2024 15:43

And that's what 'experience' really means.
Not just 'knowledge' (so the answers are known and/or obtained quickly) as is often assumed is meant ... but the ability to spot when you're getting insufficient info or indeed that you just saw your comfort zone slide by.

Either way it's exactly what exams DON'T check ... and precisely why being allowed to practice requires experiential learning (not just passing of exams).
BUT that doesn't invalidate exams ... it simply positions them correctly as the foundation (aka stepping-stone) that allows you to gain experience without too great a danger for your clients/patients/etc.

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By tom123
11th Mar 2024 08:19

I vote for Food Hygiene style stickers on the office doors..

I quite like my local Chinese takeaway - and try not to get too distracted by the four star rating rather than the five..

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Replying to tom123:
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By DJKL
11th Mar 2024 11:02

If you want to never eat carry outs again just work as a commercial property agent visiting lots of premises behind the scenes.

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Replying to tom123:
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By FactChecker
11th Mar 2024 15:33

You're getting better odds (of not getting anything other than what you ordered) from your takeaway than HMRC are happy to accept as the rating of their 'quality' in providing support to their 'customers'!

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By Self-Employed and Happy
12th Mar 2024 11:56

I don't think it should but I do think the name Accountant should be protected and only to be used when the principle of the business is holding a Practising Certificate with ICAEW / ACCA

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Replying to Self-Employed and Happy:
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By DJKL
12th Mar 2024 12:04

Sorry- ICAS only, you newbies have not been in the game long enough.

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Replying to Self-Employed and Happy:
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By bernard michael
12th Mar 2024 14:33

Self-Employed and Happy wrote:

I don't think it should but I do think the name Accountant should be protected and only to be used when the principle of the business is holding a Practising Certificate with ICAEW / ACCA

What is the alternative.....perhaps Purveyor of the Dark Arts

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Replying to Self-Employed and Happy:
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By DJKL
12th Mar 2024 16:23

Not sure you intended that the founding aim of the firm was to hold such a certificate, it seems a narrow business purpose to merely have such a bit of paper, I think you intended principal.

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By bernard michael
13th Mar 2024 09:34

If the total number of advisors good bad or average is reduced by those who for whatever reason are not in a professional body there will be a massive demand for those that remain. The pressure on HMRC will increase inordinately

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By DJKL
13th Mar 2024 10:55

Yep- the members of the prof bodies will no doubt end up taking on the assumed men/women with spurs as their employees to meet demand, fees across the board will increase, the bottom end will more and more DIY and HMRC will likely get delivered even lower quality dross than they do now.

Am I glad I will not have to negotiate through this marketplace, I will sit in my garden, watch the birds and insects, smoke a cigar and think of you all getting more **** shovelled on you by HMG.

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