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Are accountancy qualifications still worth it?

13th Jul 2015
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“It’s not what I gained, it’s what I didn’t have to do,” says Paul ScholesThe experienced accountant and long-time member of AccountingWEB tells Francois Badenhorst about why he gave up his ACCA membership.

AccountingWEB member Paul Scholes is one many visiting the site who have turned their backs on formal accountancy qualifications.

Scholes followed the normal trajectory into accounting. He qualified in 1977 with the ICAEW, but for reasons of business practicality shifted to the ACCA in 1990. He says in the early days of his career, membership of a regulatory body yielded significant professional benefit.

“When I first started as an accountant, I could liquidate companies, I could handle personal bankruptcies, and I could audit and give investment advice,” explains Scholes. “All those things were the preserve of qualified accountants when I qualified, so it gave you a lot of benefits in terms of work I could do that unqualified accountants couldn’t.”

The privileged status of qualified accountants changed somewhat when insolvency, bankruptcy and investment advice became separate disciplines. The change coincided with Scholes’s decision not to pursue those services any longer while continuing to act as an auditor.

As his clientele shifted more to small owner-managed businesses, Scholes says he “ended up with one weird little audit”.

“I was having to jump through all these different little audit hoops and regulation just for one business. So I asked the client to go somewhere else and I gave up my audit registration.”

Now completely disengaged from regulated activities, Scholes found himself in a professional quandary. “It occurred to me a year later as I was doing my return for the ACCA, I’m paying them £600 a year and not really directly getting anything from them at all.

“I just dropped it,” he says. Since 2013, Scholes has been, so to say, letterless.

According to Scholes, it hasn’t affected his business: 98% of his clients are referrals, people who’ve already been sold on his professional merits. These clients, in Scholes’s words, “couldn’t give a monkey’s that I’ve not got letters after my name”.

Professionally not much has changed. “I still do CPD, I still keep up to date. I still have professional indemnity insurance. I still have a continuity of practice agreement with another firm of accountants in case I die or go insane. I’m keeping up to date with logical business practices,” he says.

He’s convinced he made the right choice, but warns that it’s a personal decision all practitioners should weigh carefully. For Scholes, it comes down to professional and economic benefit: “Do they get clients coming from the regulatory body’s website? Do they get clients who searched on Google for ‘qualified accountant’?” he asks.

“If they’re getting business in this way or they are doing regulated work like audits, then keep going”.

And for those starting out professionally, Scholes recommends using every bit of ammunition they can. It’s a sentiment new sole practitioner Alex Falcon-Huerta echoed when speaking to AccountingWEB recently. “I value my experience and my qualification equally. You get a lot more insight by being qualified than just having the experience,” she said.

But even for the inexperienced accountant, Scholes counsels against just inattentively renewing membership. “If in a year or two’s time and you’ve got new business in and you ask them, ‘does it matter if I’m a member of the ACCA?’ and the client says ‘What’s the ACCA?’, then obviously it hasn’t made a difference at all.”

Scholes’s views revive the long-running debates about the status of the term accountancy and the accompanying professional qualifications. A lack of a regulatory body means no professional discipline, leaving the courts as the only way to win recompense against an errant accountant. Scholes is aware of this criticism, but argues accountancy is already unregulated.

“There’s still, weirdly, an idea among the public that if you call yourself an accountant then you must be regulated,” he says.

“I’ve spoken to members of my family and they’ve said ‘surely all accountants have to be qualified don’t they?’ I don’t think it makes much of a difference to the public anyway, as they’ve got the wrong perception.”

What do you make of Paul’s stance? Would you give up your membership? 

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Replies (113)

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
10th Jul 2015 13:23

My experienced opened more doors

than my exams ever did. In my FD days I worked for 2 small companies that both became very successful and grew to medium sized businesses whilst I was in big seat so to speak. My association with successful companies is what is opening doors for me, not exams I passed 20 years ago.

Association membership benefits only really apply to those working in top 20 firms or PLC companies.

ACCA should hook up with AAT or ATT and provide a better package to sole trader practices with an offering more in line with ICPA provide its members as the £600 you pay them actually provides you some usable benefits.

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By dropoutguy
10th Jul 2015 13:23

ACCA

Certainly wouldn't join them if I wasn't already a member.  They are of no value to the member in a small practice in the UK.

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By stevomuzo
10th Jul 2015 13:24

Qualification?

Hi Guys - not wishing to upset the applecart here so please don't throw hateful comments!

I am a Finance Director of 27 years standing. I run a company with £2.5m turnover. I do not have any financial qualifications at all, I learnt from scratch from being 19 years of age - no college, no mentor. I have taken the company through 3 scales of austerity and we have come out the other end thankfully! My FCA qualified accountant advised me to start a business advisory company as he'd never met anyone before that could shed such good advice. Accountancy is about numbers, it isn't about having a good business head!

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Replying to Joe Soap:
Morph
By kevinringer
10th Jul 2015 13:30

I agree

stevomuzo wrote:

Accountancy is about numbers, it isn't about having a good business head!

I agree. Clients often assume we can give good business advice but that is not the aim of accounting qualifications. Clients value business advice more than compliance etc but business advice is something we learn when in practice and not beforehand.

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boxfile
By spilly
10th Jul 2015 13:30

Good language

stevemuzo - I sincerely hope your number skills are better than your English ones.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By SJH-ADVDIPMA
10th Jul 2015 13:47

Pedantic patrol.

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By Darryl Gibson
10th Jul 2015 13:36

Accountants qualifications

The problem with the profession is that anyone can set up and call themselves an accountant. If the ICAEW and the ACCA, etc. were to get some legislation in place to make all accountants have a qualification whether practicing or employed,  then there wouldn't be a problem and the profession and certain people calling themselves accountants when they really aren't .

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By johncharles
10th Jul 2015 13:42

I am earning more

now I am no longer an FCCA. I have kept my AAT and feel that is enough. I am coming up to drawing my OAP anyway and just want enough to enjoy life completely stress free without paying the ACCA their fee or having to file a CPD report. For the clients I have I do keep up to date but feel the bureaucracy is something I could do without. In the last four weeks, after recovering from a very bad bout of sciatica. I have completed about 12 accounts and tax returns and have earned myself nearly £10,000 in fee income, with little costs as I work from home, and feel I have done away with stress that has probably caused my to suffer from several illnesses. Not everybody's cup of tea but it works for me.

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By SJH-ADVDIPMA
10th Jul 2015 13:45

genuine
I think if membership conferred true upto date competence it would be valuable. I think in order to remain a member an exam from the syllabus must be taken each year.

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By rfandaltd
10th Jul 2015 13:50

The general consensus seems to be most UK practising qualifieds are caught between a rock and a hard place.

For exorbitant annual fees the main bodies offer negligible benefit to UK practising members, being largely or only interested in pathetic squabbling over which brand is best and biggest and focusing on gaining overseas membership. We are the tail. We definitely don't wag the dog.

As stated before above, the benefits of belonging to a recognised body are diminishing each year. 

Reasons to stay are slim, but still just about tipped in favour. Unfortunately I can't see the situation improving. The bodies can't or won't speak for, or protect the qualified section of the profession as a whole. They are self interested in maximising membership income which would be extremely limited from just UK members. Hence do they really care that much about us? 

One reason to stay is a client told me they want to leave my firm because we are too straight. He wants a dodgy accountant so is going to an unqualified. Can't pretend I'm sorry he's going. Let's leave aside here the argument over who should be allowed to describe themselves as accountants. 

Competition is fierce. There's still just enough benefit in being recognised as qualified by those of the general public that understand the difference between qualified and unqualified to remain with a body. I'll be sorry to lapse my letters if they ever go as they took so much to gain. I may keep them until I stop practising, but if there comes a time membership cost outweighs benefit I'll consider giving them up. 

Recognised bodies take heed. Stop taking UK qualifieds for granted. At present the letters are just about worth the fees. Once those letters lose enough value your membership will be just another unnecessary cost to ditch.

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By stolaves64
10th Jul 2015 13:53

Accountancy qualifications
I must admit this is really refreshing. I've always had a problem with the elitism of the profession and what Paul Scholes is doing is a breath of fresh air. I've had dealings with many a qualified accountant that have simply not impressed. Just because you've passed a few exams doesn't automatically mean you're necessarily any good in your chosen field. Experience is everything and letters don't make an accountant.

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By geoffwolf
10th Jul 2015 14:15

When I was in practice before I retired I certainly needed the qualification even though I had a  relatively small practice. If I were still working I would now be applying for a probate licence. Admittedly most of the client work could have been done without being qualified but the ones like charities and property companies were not all audit exempt. Those represented good fees  and from the answers Paul Scholes gives on Aweb I am surprised to find that he no longer needs his qualification.

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By The Minion
10th Jul 2015 14:18

OK i will say it

@stolaves64

 

Maybe this is the accountant in me but...

 

letters do make an 

A
C
C
O
U
N
T
A
N
T

:)

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By nickja
10th Jul 2015 14:45

I find it very telling that.......

....there are no comments on this thread from ANY of the accountancy bodies.

I too cling to my FCA for sentimental reasons but I've grown cynical enough to understand that their primary concerns exclude those they were formed to represent; a bit like the EU really.

 

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Morph
By kevinringer
10th Jul 2015 14:54

Workers' revolution

Those at the helm of ACCA won't want to merge because they'll lose their jobs (because the new merged board will have fewer places than the two original boards). Same for ICAEW and all the remainder. So perhaps we, the proletariat, need to form a seventh body and switch our membership to it?

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By Nebs
10th Jul 2015 15:42

What of the future

I feel sure that the time will come, sooner rather than later, that you will not be allowed to call yourself an accountant unless you have some relevant letters after your name. When this happens, will those who have left the fold be allowed back in, or will they need to start again?

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Replying to bdotadot:
Morph
By kevinringer
10th Jul 2015 15:50

Can't come soon enough

Nebs wrote:

I feel sure that the time will come, sooner rather than later, that you will not be allowed to call yourself an accountant unless you have some relevant letters after your name. When this happens, will those who have left the fold be allowed back in, or will they need to start again?

But given the number of (sometimes half hearted) failed attempts I can't see it happening. And as time passes there is a risk that the non-chartered bodies will become powerful enough to block it.

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
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By chatman
10th Jul 2015 15:55

Everyone might as well become chartered

kevinringer wrote:
 there is a risk that the non-chartered bodies will become powerful enough to block it.

Why bother? It would be easier for them to just apply to call themselves Chartered.

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
By jphilcox
13th Jul 2015 12:15

Protecting the designation "accountant"

There was a lively thread on this topic on the ICAEW's LinkedIn forum a while back.  Bottom line, it would need government legislation to place "accountant" in the same bucket as "doctor", "lawyer" etc and make qualification/membership mandatory.  This has been brought up several times with ministers in the past and the feedback has always been that this is not going to happen as it is not seen as being in the public interest.  That fact that no-one (HMRC?) are complaining about unqualified accountants is an interesting datapoint for those on this discussion thread who consider qualification and membership to be essential.

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Replying to bdotadot:
By Tim Vane
10th Jul 2015 16:37

Never happen

Nebs wrote:

I feel sure that the time will come, sooner rather than later, that you will not be allowed to call yourself an accountant unless you have some relevant letters after your name.

It won't happen, but if it did then that's exactly the way to go if you want to eventually kill the local UK accountant off once and for all. Once you force out the local unqualified bucket shops, the asian & eastern european mass-market outsourcing firms will take over the bottom third of the market in months, undercutting everybody else and accelerating the race to the bottom. The rather healthy number of small firms will be killed off and the mid-market will feel the squeeze and have to lower standards and prices. We live in a global economy, and the only thing keeping outsourcers at bay is that the small firm can compete on price but provide good local service. Many can only do this by cutting out the cost of regulation and hoop-jumping that membership brings.

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By The Minion
10th Jul 2015 16:53

I think you are being over optimistic there Tim

For years now accountants have made their living as translators of whatever bunch of legislation is in place at the time.

 

Everything is getting simpler and less regulated (well from a processing point of view anyway), because of this and the movement in tech it will as you say gravitate to the lowest cost option. The lowest cost option is not however the asian/eastern european etc companies, the lowest cost is get the clients to do the entries which then flow straight through toi teh final accounts and any submissions to HMRC/CH etc.

 

We aren't that far away from businesses having to produce monthly statements of the taxable income and submitting online. 

 

Taxable Income used to be really complicated what with all the smoke and mirrors that were around with what could or couldn't be claimed, the changes in rental deductions in the budget only show that things are going one way. Less claims means more fair tax treatment (NOT MY WORDS) means easier forms means less work (if any) putting it together for submission.

 

the KPMG offering may not seem that much of a threat now because "People will never do it right and they will lose money". What people seem to miss is that it is all about rules, those who play (by them) stay the ones who dont can go away. That just leaves the profitable cases in the KPMG fold (or equivalent) and the dregs for everyone else...

 

Last one out switch the light off please :(

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By raybackler
10th Jul 2015 23:12

Great debate!

I am an FCMA and like Paul Scholes, have been qualified for many years, but each year I agonise over whether to renew my membership.  My institute does nothing much for me, except cover me for Money Laundering Supervision (one online exam in five years, soon to be tightened up by inspection visits from 2017 onwards), provide a quarterly Members in Practice newsletter (content irrelevant as all of the technical issues it raises have had to be addressed long before they make it into the newsletter) and an extra fee for the privilege.

OK they also issue a practicing certificate, monitor my CPD and ask for annual details like Professional Indemnity Insurance, for the annual extra fee.  In reality much of this extra stuff is automated via the website and no reduction is given for the services we members in practice don't use.

What the accountancy profession needs is an amalgamation of all of the institutes and a louder voice with government.  The term accountant should be protected and will never be whilst argument from the profession is weak or non-existent.  Solicitors are protected in this way.  Many aspects of accountancy have been undermined to the detriment of clients and it is they who need protecting from rogue traders, of which there are many.

 

 

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By marks
11th Jul 2015 00:20

interesting debate

As always the merits of whether you should keep your professional qualification has pros and cons on both sides and it is down to each individual to decide if the annual fees and practising certificate is worth the cost.

I have a small practice in Central Scotland that have been working through for the last 2 and a half years.  I am CA qualified.  However in the 2 and a half years out of the 180 clients that I have I have only been asked about my qualifications on TWO occasions.

For most small businesses the general public's perception is they assume that as you are an "accountant" you must surely be qualified.

There are a number of unqualified firms near me who we have taken clients from and when I say to the client "you do know that your previous accountant isnt a qualified accountant" they just look at you in amazement and say something like "but I though all accountants are qualified".  That is the general public's perception, they just dont know.

For this reason all accounting bodies should lobby so that the only people who can call themselves an "accountant" is if you are a member of one of the chartered bodies.  This however I suspect will never happen as it would be politically unpopular as overnight would make I suspect about 25% - 33% of the practising firms unemployed. 

As with all walks of life you will get good and bad qualified/unqualified accountants.  Being a chartered accountant doesnt put you in the position of being able to advise your clients correctly.  This only comes with experience.  If I had set up my practice when I qualified at 25 I would probably been looked at by most of my clients at the prospective meeting with them thinking "does this guy have the skills and knowledge that i need".   I am therefore thankful that I took another 12 years or so in practice to gain the necessary experience so I can now advise clients (though your learning never ends and there is always something that comes up on a regular basis that you havent dealt with and need to think about how to deal with).

Personally I wont be giving up my qualification for the following reasons

1. I worked hard to get my CA qualification

2. I am proud to call myself a CA (when people ask what i do for a living i say i am a chartered accountant rather than just an accountant).

3. I always say to potential clients that we are a CA firm and if they dont go with ourselves would always recommend going with a chartered firm over a non chartered firm.

4. The cost of losing a client if we arent able to sign of a mortgage application would more than outweigh the cost of the annual fees (we have had about half a dozen of these forms in the last few months) 

But as said whether you give up your qualification is a personal matter and I wouldnt down cry anyone who does for their own personal reasons.

Do we get much from ICAS that actually helps a small practising firm on a day to day basis?  Probably not, this is why we are also members of ICPA which although it gets a bit of bad press on here from a few qualified given it is just a trade body it actually has genuine benefits to our firm that more than outweighs the annual fee. 

 

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By ver1tate
11th Jul 2015 00:31

Qualifications

When one of my clients went bankrupt some years ago, a member of one of the bodies mentioned was appointed to handle it. I must say that right from the outset I was not impressed by the way he conducted it, But I would say that the £600 he spent annually was well worth it for him as his body shielded him from all manner of justified criticisms, even after he was reminded that he was acting on behalf of the creditors, not the debtor and his wife.

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By qad999
11th Jul 2015 00:56

everyone misses the point

.. the point is that professional training and membership  aims to create a minimum standard with redress for the public and accountability....albeit such a system will never be perfect...with a  cowboy you just have the courts and no guarantee that they even have PI insurance, or indeed any sort of training to carry out the work you engage them to do..

 

its Ok for unqualified people to say they carry PI and keep themselves up to date  .. but there is no check to ensure that is true.. all we hear on this forum is tedious anecdotal tales (unsubstantiatied ) how crap this or that ACA or ACCA was .. well I have huge numbers of fcking  unbelievably bad stories about accounting cowboys where the public suffered .... if you want me to relate them to you ?

 

for all its faults professional training still  provides a basic knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, that is absolutely essential.... just look at some of the posts on this forum by people in practice  who have little understanding of the basics

 

I just dont believe the wingers who complain about paying a few hundred £'s, dealing with a  fairly simple external review every now and then . and filling in a simple form each year that takes about 30 minutes ?

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By paddy55
11th Jul 2015 04:06

Qualified accountants

Might it not solve the problem if accounting firms advertised as a matter of course "no unqualified accountants".

 

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By wilcoskip
11th Jul 2015 08:52

Qualifications are worth it....

....but ongoing membership (of ICAEW in my case) wasn't.

I get much more out of ICPA/IFA/ACPA than I ever die out of ICAEW.  Same checks on my insurance (except that it's included with my subscription), CPD etc.  And never had a problem with a mortgage reference.

Twice in my professional life have potential clients queried my qualifications/membership.  If you know what you're talking about, it tends to shine through in the way you speak and act.

WS.

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By jrussell.reesrussell
11th Jul 2015 09:22

giving up status

This is exactly the question I currently am asking of ICAEW - what commercial benefit do I get as a result of the fees and associated costs I pay them. I have two audit regulated firms plus one unregulated firm. The annual returns alone take me about 1 day per firm, I had audit visits for both of my firms which conservatively took 4-5 days of my time and 2 days for a manager. I have passed my probate exams but the regulatory cost is making me doubt the value in developing this area.

My biggest problem as a small practitioner is from low cost competition which my burden of compliance cost both cash and time makes it impossible. Yes most of my business comes from recommendations but surely I should see something because people are deciding to choose a qualified accountancy practice. The problem is our Institutes do nothing to promote us but put barriers in the way and heap ever increasing costs and regulation on us. Not even the business bank manager is aware that anyone can call themselves an accountant - look at some of the franchises where the operators has little or no training.

My compliance costs are not much less than the fees I earn on regulated matters and whilst I couldn't save all of them I could save a lot.

I'm proud of my qualification but it is time our Institutes were proud too and got off their high horse and did something to promote the individual member if not there may not be a profession left.

 

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By David Eccles
11th Jul 2015 10:20

Qualifications
Have given up my membership about six years ago, I have not looked back.
Professional bodies never did anything for me, but liked to take my money and dictate how to run your practice.
I have excellent relationships with banks and get a steady stream of work.
My staff are all QBE and are excellent. We attend reqular courses and use top software throughout the practice.
So why give money to membership bodies.
I look forward to many more years of business growth, which is on target for 2015 growth.
I sold a practice on 2009 to a Chartered Practice in the Midlands, and was taker back by the snobbery that was within the practice, I also attended meetings with clients that had been transferred in the sale, they used to get dumped in a meeting room, the new staff would come running in deal with queries and show you the door.
I give a value for money, honest fees and a quality and friendly service.

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By SJH-ADVDIPMA
12th Jul 2015 16:04

lost touch
These are death throws, accountancy is far removed from other professions such as medical professionals. Society doesn't accept it as a profession that requires protection against who can practice. So at best membership is a marketing advantage.

Once your comfortable you know what your doing and your associates and employers have confidence in you, jettison the extra cost and agro.

A medical professional legally couldn't do the same.

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By agburton
11th Jul 2015 18:13

Experience of HMRC AML

This debate must make some - including me - think seriously about following Paul. It would be interesting to hear  from him or others about how AML  registration/monitoring  BY HMRC has worked in practice (no pun intended!) for them.

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Chris M
By mr. mischief
12th Jul 2015 07:52

ICAEW big re-entry charge!

I qualified ICAEW in 1991 and went into industry.  Due to a muck-up by my employer in 1997 or so they did not pay my subs. that year, unbeknown to me.  Getting a letter for subs. plus re-joining fee in 1998, I asked myself if I could really justify the cost to either myself or my employer, for near zero benefits.

In 2009 I set up my practice and decided to see how much it would cost to re-join.  £1,600 was the answer, with a very lengthy application process lasting 3 to 6 months.  For near zero benefits.

I have 140 clients currently, many of them won from local Chartered Accountants.  So far none have returned whence they came from.  The ethics of ICAEW are in my view very poor, having utterly failed to properly discipline the Big 4 partners who mucked up bank audits so badly in the lead up to the crash.  If auditing has any real value at all, surely spotting the massive hole in bank balance sheets was the time to stand up and be counted?

I am with ICPA which - unlike the big boys - understands the real issues of sole traders, has members who actually log in to the HMRC site so can make comments to them based on real experience.  It provides a whole host of benefits to members, so I can easily justify the £700 or so annual cost.

I guess if ICAEW were to offer re-joining at a sensible cost I would do it and then be a member of both.  I suspect Hell will be freezing over first.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By brown-yuk
12th Jul 2015 20:36

ICAEW Re-entry charge

My earlier comment referred to resigning not getting chucked out!

 

If you were not in practice I think it would be easy to rejoin and I have heard of reduced/waived charges.

 

Any competent professional body will monitor boards like this so I invite the ICAEW viewer to comment - if only to prove they are not the aloof out of touch people some allege.

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Morph
By kevinringer
12th Jul 2015 09:31

ICPA

Most posters seems to have a good opinion of the ICPA. I'm not a member. Anyone had a bad experience?

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By marks
12th Jul 2015 15:24

unlikely to get a bad comment

kevinringer wrote:

Most posters seems to have a good opinion of the ICPA. I'm not a member. Anyone had a bad experience?

I have never seen a bad comment about ICPA and expect that you wouldnt get one as what they offer their members is far better than any of the recognised professional bodies.

ICPA give a whole host of practical benefits that I use as a small practitioner and therefore justifies the annual cost.  If they didnt do this then I wouldnt be a member as not interested in calling myself a "certified accountant".

All that ICAS gives is the ability to call myself a CA together with a whole lot of red tape.  

 

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By tom123
12th Jul 2015 10:49

How about those in employment?

Interesting views on this thread. Most, I imagine, come from those who are securely in self employment with no anticipation of having to work for someone else.

I (ACMA) have always worked for an 'employer', so to speak. Notwithstanding a handful of private clients I have, I don't really see that changing anytime soon.

Personally, I can't see me giving up the qualification - indeed I really must try and put a fellowship application together.

 

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By A mum and an accountant
12th Jul 2015 22:32

This is really interesting. I'm FCCA and it took me almost a year to get my practicing certificate just because of trying to get all my paperwork signed. However, I'm working more as a subcontractor rather than looking for clients so I have just recently started to question all the subscription fee. I guess for me, by being a subcontractor having the qualification looks good to get more subcontract work but apart from that I can't see much benefits from it. However, I have worked hard to get the qualification so that's another reason why I find it hard to give up.

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By Kevin Lee
13th Jul 2015 05:24

membership

I must agree with rfandaltd views

associations must do some rationalisation and  review why long outstanding members are leaving ( like what we do when our senior staff leaves). Areas to ponder-

its relevance to the members recognising that the needs of its member varies depending on their particular stage in the profession

values & services must be given to its members meeting  what they need 

I am sure members gave up their hard earned membership with some degree of sadness but then the associations must be able to keep them and stop the loss of such members even to the point of lowering their membership fees.

 

Kevin Lee

 

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By The Black Knight
13th Jul 2015 10:24

arguments for and against

For:

personal ego and status

the public have no clue whatsever

 

Against:

Having to know what you are doing, a skill largely unwanted.

P. I .cover - if you don't have any you won't be sued.

Professional rules.

Disciplinary process - bit of a wet weekend but it's there

Ridiculous membership fees for which no benefit is obtained.

You don't actually need the qualifications to call yourself an accountant.

less hastle you can give less and charge more if no one expects that standard.

 

It's about time the professional bodies gave some thing back to their members.

Is it just a freudian fear thing that stops me I wonder.

 

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By johnjenkins
13th Jul 2015 10:30

It must be near

guy fawkes night (light the blue paper and stand well back). The rant between quals and unquals will always go on. I can't help but thinking, Paul, that you have used the training of a qualification, then used that qualification to set up your business and then dumped them when things don't suite you. That, of course, is your choice. Let me pose a question. If there hadn't been training for qualifications would you have had the nice business with choices that you have now? Do you not feel that perhaps you should be putting something back, like helping others to achieve a high standard? Maybe you are.

I would advocate, in this day and age, AAT then ATT. That should give every Accountant all the theory they need to then learn the hard facts of life. Theory is only a quarter osf the story.

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Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
13th Jul 2015 11:44

Sing if you're proud to be a cowboy

What always annoys me when people refer to us unlettered accountants as Cowboys is that they let women off the hook.

Thanks to everyone for a great debate.  When Francois approached me for a chat I had no idea it was far this sort of article but I'm so glad it's turned out like this as it hopefully has raised the profile of the topic and, maybe, just maybe, the reg bodies will take note.

Hope it's OK to add a few extra thoughts:

The comparison to doctors & lawyers is often made, but it's telling that they never include "Accountants" when moaning about their professional lot.  What most of us do is nothing like what they do and this becomes more true as the years pass and our clients (patients) are able to do far more of what we used to see as our protected mysterious province.  I would no sooner try to create a legal contract as I would try and remove my own appendix.

For the same reason (what we do is not that special) I can't see how any government would ever be able to draw up a definition of "Accountant" for the purpose of regulating-out the Cowboys.  It has been tried and, from memory, it only took a few hours before someone commented "this is silly".

Having an emotional attachment to your letters is understandable, I sweated blood to get mine and it was the reason why I continued to donate my annual fees to the ICAEW for 3 years following my switch to the ACCA, and why I paid the ACCA two more years after giving up my Audit registration.

This personal relationship with your annual certificate is one thing but where I think it becomes unhealthy, and generates prejudice and hubris, is when the attachment is akin to my Mother's with the British Empire (see the cover and page 18-on of this)

I could write a book in response to qad999's comments but his/her views are really valuable in seeing where the profession has come from and so, as the views match those of many other contributors I hope s/he doesn't mind me quoting some:

"for all its faults professional training still  provides a basic knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, that is absolutely essential".  

I completely agree, it is the reason why employers still default to recruiting "qualified" staff. As others have said, the letters mean far more in an employed situation, but I could say that, in the majority of cases, employers are just being lazy or know no better.  Would you find your next CFO from the list of the latest exam successes?

Surely it is right that a prospective client wants someone who is qualified to do the work they want done, regardless of how the accountant gained that knowledge & experience.

For the unregulated activities, we are now no different to any other trade. We do our apprenticeship and training in order to get us on the first rung of our chosen career, but, paying £X00 to the body that provided you with your qualification, for the rest of your working life when they have little, if any, direct involvement with that life is, surely, questionable, if not bizarre.

Whilst I don't believe it's what they should be for, I'm more prepared to accept that people believe they pay the bodies for protection from Cowboys, a closed shop mentality, "you don't get me I'm part of the Association" (apologies to The Strawbs).

"with a  cowboy [the only alternative to lettered?] you just have the courts and no guarantee that they even have PI insurance, or indeed any sort of training to carry out the work you engage them to do"

But then: "I just dont believe the wingers who complain about paying a few hundred £'s, dealing with a  fairly simple external review every now and then . and filling in a simple form each year that takes about 30 minutes ?" I couldn't have made the point better myself, how does a fairly simple external review every now and then and an annual 30 minute form, guarantee that someone with letters after their name is better qualified to act for the client than I am? 

My last two monitoring visits were in 2003 and 2009, the latter being 5 years after I'd gone out on my own as a sole practitioner/auditor.  The auditing side of the visit is obviously necessary but, as evidenced by so many cockups, it's needed far more frequently, but the day spent covering everything else I had done for my clients in 5 years and, presumably would do in the next 5 years, was a joke.  Still I got my Quality Assured kite mark that I could shove in the face of all the Cowboys, only to find nobody knew what it meant and, it seems, the ACCA have just accepted it was silly and have withdrawn it.

My gripe is with the bodies, not the members, like Sage & the Cloud, they have taken their eye off the ball and faff about in attempted self justification hoping nobody will notice as they try to bring themselves into 2015 (at least Sage have had the thingies to admit it and are doing something about it).

 

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Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
13th Jul 2015 11:33

@johnjenkins

5 years of training with a firm of accountants (not an accounting body) followed by nearly 40 years of using my own efforts, are you serious?

I'll leave others more "qualified" than me or you to judge whether I have put anything back.

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Chris M
By mr. mischief
13th Jul 2015 13:16

On Cowboys

When it comes to Cowboys, look up on this site, or Google "Accountant struck off Lake District" or similar.  Struck off but only after a 6 month suspended sentance and £10k fine.

The biggest cowboy in my local town was ICAEW Chartered.  The biggest before him was ICAEW Chartered, left for Spain before his activities caught up with him - 10 years or so back.

 

 

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Replying to DJKL:
Morph
By kevinringer
13th Jul 2015 13:34

Cowboys and girls and vegetarians

mr. mischief wrote:

When it comes to Cowboys, look up on this site, or Google "Accountant struck off Lake District" or similar.  Struck off but only after a 6 month suspended sentance and £10k fine.

The biggest cowboy in my local town was ICAEW Chartered.  The biggest before him was ICAEW Chartered, left for Spain before his activities caught up with him - 10 years or so back.

 

 

Perhaps the C in ICAEW stands for Cowboy (or Cowgirl). We mustn't exclude vegetarians either.

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Replying to DJKL:
avatar
By The Black Knight
13th Jul 2015 14:56

this one ?

mr. mischief wrote:

When it comes to Cowboys, look up on this site, or Google "Accountant struck off Lake District" or similar.  Struck off but only after a 6 month suspended sentance and £10k fine.

The biggest cowboy in my local town was ICAEW Chartered.  The biggest before him was ICAEW Chartered, left for Spain before his activities caught up with him - 10 years or so back.

 

 

Accountant conman told to repay £200,000 by Carlisle court

A 62-year-old ex-accountant who conned his customers out of £230,000 has six months to pay it back or face longer in jail.

John Michael Prescott

John Michael Prescott, who is serving a four-year jail term for fraud and theft, was caught after a woman from Windermere called police when he defrauded her out of £100,000.

Officers found out that despite being struck off by the Institute of Chartered Accountants and being made bankrupt, Prescott, from Lancashire, continued working as a financial adviser and duped victims into handing over money in Cumbria and across the UK.

He was sentenced to four years imprisonment at Carlisle Crown

 

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Morph
By kevinringer
13th Jul 2015 13:20

Conservative manifesto

Can anyone explain how the Government can justify the dividend tax increase when the Conservative Manifesto 2015 page 9 states "commit to no increases in VAT, National Insurance or Income Tax"?

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
By Tim Vane
13th Jul 2015 17:36

Simply because...

kevinringer wrote:

Can anyone explain how the Government can justify the dividend tax increase when the Conservative Manifesto 2015 page 9 states "commit to no increases in VAT, National Insurance or Income Tax"?

...removing a notional tax credit is not an increase in VAT, nor NI, nor Income Tax. In the same way that it isn't an increase in cucumbers.

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By The Minion
13th Jul 2015 13:38

@kevinringer

At a guess it is a reduction in an exemption or a reduction in a notional tax credit, therefore not an increase as such (unless of course you are not a politician and a normal person, in which case the bottom line tax payment just got bigger so that is an increase)

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avatar
By David Gordon FCCA
13th Jul 2015 13:48

Being a villain

 

 Being a villain or incompetent, is a personal choice.

It has nothing to do with qualifications. All qualifications do is, enable you to be a learned villain with sharper teeth.

In my x decades in the profession I have, thank God, only come up against two genuinely evil pieces of work.  The problem was and is, real accountancy type /financial villains do not walk about with warning labels on their foreheads.

 The pleasant thing about our profession is, I have found, that 99.999% of my colleagues over the years whether "Qualified" or "Unqualfied" just want to get on with their job, and do care about their clients.

 Unfortunately, HMRC, and increasingly the professional organisations, are taking the default position that everybody is out to be a crook. Principally because such a default position help them avoid dealing with the awkward truth- this is, they are increasingly unfit for purpose.

 I know the following is an extreme example, but:

In my history lessons I learned that one of the causes of the Russian revolution was that the Russian civil service garnered such a bad name for itself, so that no honest person would work for it, With consequential cumulative breakdown of administration.

I ask have we taken our first step on that path? Perhaps it is time to start working for devolution for accountants in public practice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chris M
By mr. mischief
14th Jul 2015 09:58

I forgot about Prescott!

There follows the one I meant.  The harsh fact for the ICAEW is that the majority of dodgy accountants publically identified in my locality have been ICAEW qualified, holding a Chartered Accountant practising certificate.  In my opinion, from the cosy and incestuous relationships at the top to the little guys down the bottom, the ICAEW, like FIFA, is fundamentally a body which is founded on the ethical equivalent of quicksand.

Cumbrian accountant fined £10,000 for making false VAT claim

A well-respected chartered accountant’s 40-year career is in ‘tatters’ after he admitted trying to make false VAT claim for more than £10,000.

John Belford narrowly escaped going to jail when he appeared before a judge at Carlisle Crown Court.

Instead Belford was given a 12-week prison sentence which was suspended for 18 months and he was fined £10,000.

The 63-year-old, of Low Road Close in Cockermouth, was also disqualified from being a company director for five years.

The sentence was imposed by Judge Peter Davies after the court heard how Belford had pleaded guilty earlier to attempting to deceive VAT authorities by making a false claim.

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