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Unqualified practitioner complaints

Trading standards and HMRC aside, Is there an organisation that helps with poor service issues?

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Apart from approaching trading standards and HMRC is there an organisation that will take on a complaint against an unqualified accountant. 
 

As a non practising qualified accountant I have been approached by a third party for advice on who do they make a complaint on the basis of poor tax advice and accountancy service. The practitioner is unqualified and it is suggested from their website that they are tax agents for many clients.

I would welcome any suggestions and advice that anyone who may have encountered a similar experience. Many thanks in advance.

Replies (25)

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By JoF
12th Feb 2020 11:40

How do you know they are unqualified as opposed to just not having a prof body?

This is covered quite a bit on here, mostly the advice is to stay out of it and suggest they speak to a solicitor.

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Bramble
By Chris.Mann
12th Feb 2020 11:57

I'd check my professional indemnity policy, prior to offering this type of advice. Sounds a touch off piste, if you're looking for an opinion.

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By Tim Vane
12th Feb 2020 12:23

Caveat emptor

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By lincolnartist
12th Feb 2020 13:06

You’re only getting one side of the story from the client. I’d stay clear

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By WhichTyler
12th Feb 2020 13:12

If the aim is to be compensated for a demonstrable loss, they need to make a claim against the accountant directly. This may end up getting settled by the accountants insurer. They would be well advised to take legal advice if the loss is significant.

They could report to trading standards, but this sounds more like a contractual dispute rather than a scam or public safety issues that TSOs are most concerned with.

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By penelope pitstop
12th Feb 2020 14:10

Don't get involved. Not your problem.

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Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
12th Feb 2020 14:34

Tricky thing.

Putting into writing something incorrect , based on your "client", or whatever they are, not being fully frank with you could lead you into trouble from this other practice.

In addition if your advice to this "client" itself proves poor you could also have them making complaints about you.

Given it is likely you would be hard pressed to demonstrate to your own institute that the area of advice offered was appropriate to your own training /competence seems very high risk low reward.

I think the other advice re taking a body swerve is spot on.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By JoF
12th Feb 2020 14:41

[quote=]

''In addition if your advice to this "client" itself proves poor you could also have them making complaints about you.

Given it is likely you would be hard pressed to demonstrate to your own institute that the area of advice offered was appropriate to your own training /competence seems very high risk low reward.''

Plus, given OP is not a practising Accountant, could be very expensive -assuming no PII in place to profer said advice in the first instance.

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By Tax Dragon
12th Feb 2020 14:54

The third party has sought advice about a practising non-qualified accountant from a non-practising qualified one. (I feel an "allegedly" belongs somewhere in that sentence.)

As a non-practising, non-qualified non-lawyer, I feel perfectly, erm, 'qualified' to offer my services.

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David Winch
By David Winch
12th Feb 2020 16:22

The short answer to the question in your first sentence is "No". I am assuming that by "unqualified" you mean not a member of any professional body.

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By justsotax
12th Feb 2020 16:17

wonder how much 'fact' checking has gone into establishing said poor tax advice/accountancy service.....I should add being 'unqualified' (or that they are tax agents for many others) provides no such evidence...…

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Replying to justsotax:
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By Keith Woods
13th Feb 2020 11:42

To provide further details, my nephews son started a business based on an idea, he is now 24 and been trading successfully for three years.

He approached an accountant in his small shire town to set up his company, deal with his accounts, corp tax, PAYE and SA. All fees are paid on monthly Dd in advance of Service used.

The issue is no work has been done on tax / accounts etc with penalties being imposed. Numerous calls go unreturned and no response to emails. My great nephew has visited the trading premises and left message with the young girl on reception who tries to deal with the issues unsuccessfully.

The accountant does not appear as a member on any professional body and three have confirmed that he was not previously a member either.

The “accountant” trades under a no name brand and a search at the company register highlights that his company has changed names on 5 occasions since 2012. In 2019 his company was days away from being struck off after notice appearing in the Gazzette. The said company is also months late in the submission of its accounts as well.

The Director has previous appointments were the company had been struck off.

I think it’s fair to say that the individual is not a qualified accountant, and when I contacted the office I left my details with the receptionist and no one has returned my call or emailed me.

For comments to say have you done such and such is not helpful and only high lights the lack of due care that some have raised.

Yes there is a need for unqualified accountants and there are some very good ones in practice. It’s just a shame that there is a poor response from those who earn a living in the profession when one rotten apple who offers very poor service is beyond the reach of a providing recourse to a young businessman who will never use another accountant unless they are a professional member.

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Replying to Keith Woods:
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By Tax Dragon
14th Feb 2020 08:59

The only possible redress is under the law and the people your great nephew should speak to are (qualified, established, reputable) solicitors. Don't take it out on us. We're not the ones at fault

This has been going on for three years?! As justin says, your GN needs to take responsibility for his own inaction.

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Replying to Keith Woods:
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By justsotax
14th Feb 2020 09:17

on that basis first step is find a new accountant - one qualified or who has been recommended....

Depending upon the penalties - it may be appropriate for the new accountant to prepare appeals - although it will be based upon the circumstances but assuming your GN has provided all info in good time to said agent (with proof of posting/email etc) then the HMRC may provide a sympathetic hearing.

I don't have the facts so can't say whether this guy is a charlatan or not....but as with any profession there are good and bad - the qualification merely proves they passed an exam and have completed the practical side....and that is not to downgrade any qualification, but I would argue that bad service has no relationship with someone's qualifications.....

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Replying to justsotax:
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By Keith Woods
14th Feb 2020 09:49

What you fail to grasp is that a qualified practitioner has an ultimate regulator, his professional body, for which a complaint can be made.

My original question was is there a mechanism in which a lay member of the public can take a complaint against an unqualified accountant? This was phrased in such away to avoid answers “contact his professional body” for which we already knew that answer having carried out the reasearch.

It seems that the majority of answers failed to read the question properly!

Perhaps it is this fact that so many answers took a defensive approach in their status as an unqualified practitioner.

I’m sure that it is in the best interests of all to weed out all those who claim to be an accountant who offer poor service but it is more important where no ultimate point of redress is available to the lay person.

We do not even know if the accountant has PI cover in which to make a claim against him.

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Replying to Keith Woods:
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By Tax Dragon
14th Feb 2020 09:57

Why is the ability to claim linked to whether there is insurance? If there's a claim, there's a claim. If.

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Replying to Keith Woods:
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By justsotax
14th Feb 2020 10:06

Quite the contrary - the very first response advises taking legal advice....as do others.

As I am sure you do as a 'qualified' accountant, its always important to establish the facts n order to provide an appropriate response. You may be surprised but in practice, you will often find what the client says and the truth can look very different...hence the hesitation to jump all over this agent.

In the end it really depends upon your GNs losses, and his/your wish to see justice done vs the time this is going to take......sometimes moving on is the best option....

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Replying to Keith Woods:
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By JoF
14th Feb 2020 10:09

No, what you have failed to grasp is the difference between qualified and being a member of a professional body.

You can be fully qualified, be a great Accountant and have resigned membership because you feel that you are not getting anything from a prof body - some of the great responders on this forum have done just that.

You can be fully qualified and be a carp Accountant and resigned membership.

You can be fully qualified and be a carp Accountant and be a member of a prof body.

But not being a member of anything doesnt mean you dont have re-dress. I think the answers you have had have all been to protect you from giving advice that might bite you but so I suggest it is you who has not read the information given correctly and are the one taking an overly defensive position.

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Replying to JoF:
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By justsotax
14th Feb 2020 10:28

take legal action....erm that's the advice.....(from me...from others....)

But if your real beef is that an unqualified can operate as an accountant then say so....but that wasn't your question....

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By Justin Bryant
13th Feb 2020 10:43

If there was adequate redress available against cowboys advisers there would be little incentive to use a proper one would there?

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By brumsub
14th Feb 2020 11:41

There is some information missing… so perhaps Nephew to inform current accountant company threat of legal action if not prepared by certain date (prompt?). If no joy, inform accountant to cease to act with sufficient details of the case – all by recorded delivery.
Request monies back if no work has been done – unlikely? Does Nephew have money for another accountant’s fees if not forthcoming? Where are the records? You will need to get them back. So, in no order:

• Find another (reliable) accountant
• Bring the affairs up to date
• Quantify losses, including penalties
• Contemporaneously, see if Citizens Advice Bureau will provide advice
• Small Claims Court for all quantified losses – must be below £10K?
• Keep notes of all correspondence, visits, dates, etc as part of any claim.
• If accountant does prepare the accounts/tax returns, claim for the penalties/interest from him.

At the end of the day, your Nephew is responsible for his tax affairs and 2-3 years seems to be have been a long time to redress the situation. But, for a new businessman who may not appreciate the regulatory side of things, it is understandable that he has relied on his accountant.

Best of luck!

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By David Gordon FCCA
14th Feb 2020 12:00

If the client is prepared to instruct you in a proper professional manner including you have explained costs to the client; There is no reason not to take him or her on. Prudence suggests a small but reasonable payment up front.
My definition of a satisfactory client is: One who pays appropriate fees on time.
Regarding"unqualified" accountants;
Your client may take him on in the small claims court for a sum which the client can afford to fund. Using the terms of the Provision of Services and Goods Act.
My experience of a couple of these cases is that such clients mostly consider discretion is the better part of valour. The accountant may know more about the client than he or she would want known in court
Beware!
The fact that you are not in practice, and are not being remunerated does not protect you.
Many years ago an FCA friend of mine was censured for giving unpaid friendly advice to an ancient relative. Free advice has the ability to cause pain.

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David Ross
By davidross
14th Feb 2020 15:17

Assuming that losses are under £10,000, then tell the client to take his accountant to the Small Claims Court. Any solicitor will ask for £1000 up front to open a file and the fees are not reclaimable so you start off a loser. Plus they rub their hands at a sniff of 'litigation' - £100s an hour plus VAT.

Remember that if the other side lawyers up, their fees will be irrecoverable from the client under the same Small Claims rule.

The claim should be easy to frame if it is a matter of late filing penalties and most of the process is paperwork. If there is a 'trial' it will be in a Judge's office - no wigs and gowns. Any half competent person should be able to state their case.

As soon as the accountant receives the claim, if they have PI insurance they must inform their insurer or not be able to claim. The insurer may want to cut its losses and offer a settlement.

The client has a responsibility to mitigate his losses so must not wait around letting things get any worse. So fire the accountant and move on to someone better.

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By David Gordon FCCA
17th Feb 2020 12:32

davidross
Your note is excellent.
Please however note one caveat:
PI insurer must be informed as soon as the insured practitioner sniffs the likelihood of a possibility of a claim
Waiting until a claim is received is too late.
It matters not if the claim never materialises. The insurer will not hold it against you.
The crucial point is; The insurer is advised immediately it seems that there is a possibility of a chance of a claim.
I have in my career over fifty two years been through three PI matters. Thank Heaven none of them resulted in a £cost to me, or increase in my premiums. Please, the above rule is absolute.

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By David Gordon FCCA
17th Feb 2020 12:32

davidross
Your note is excellent.
Please however note one caveat:
PI insurer must be informed as soon as the insured practitioner sniffs the likelihood of a possibility of a claim
Waiting until a claim is received is too late.
It matters not if the claim never materialises. The insurer will not hold it against you.
The crucial point is; The insurer is advised immediately it seems that there is a possibility of a chance of a claim.
I have in my career over fifty two years been through three PI matters. Thank Heaven none of them resulted in a £cost to me, or increase in my premiums. Please, the above rule is absolute.

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