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Call yourself an accountant? By Simon Sweetman

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29th Aug 2006
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Simon Sweetman considers the implications of giving legal recognition to the term 'accountant'.

There has been great excitement (well, in some circles, anyway) about the announcement from the Republic of Ireland that the government is considering giving a legal meaning to the term "accountant", in order to "enhance consumer protection without imposing undue restraints on trade and competition". UK based accountancy bodies called for the British government to do something similar ' which immediately calls to mind Adam Smith's dictum that people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. Or to put it another way, they would wouldn't they?

Accountants in the western world occupy roughly the same position as priestesses in the classical world or alchemists in the Middle Ages. They are treated as the possessors of mysteries not known to the common man, chief among them perhaps the magic of double entry bookkeeping, first codified by Luca Pacioli in Venice in 1494. At the same time they are of course figures of fun (what's an accountant? Someone who solves a problem you didn't know you had in a way you don't understand). Putting "accountants and jokes" into Google brings up 426,000 entries (about 425,990 of them are, sadly, not funny).

Of course it would be much simpler if there were not so many different ways of being an accountant. HMRC have lately set up an advisory group to look at how they relate to "agents and advisers" (carefully not using the other A word) and this is supposed to improve things ' and specifically not to look at setting standards. Other people do this. In the US anyone can submit a tax return but only persons with some qualifications or experience can negotiate with the IRS.

But is that really the point? My business involves offering tax advice to accountants, and my clients range from small to middling firms of chartered accountants down to unqualified sole practitioners. All of them have one thing in common, and I think from this point of view it is important: they know when they have reached their technical limit and need to call in specialised help. I am also very aware that there are accountants out there ' qualified and unqualified ' who have no more technical knowledge than these and yet will boldly go into the intergalactic spaces of tax law where they don't really know which way is up.

The Inland Revenue historically had a reasonable handle on the performance of most of the local accountants. In my day (many years ago) we knew which firm would appear at the Commissioners hearing with 57 sets of accounts and (hopefully) computations with the ink still wet: we knew who could maintain a technical argument and who would have to resort to flannel or abuse. But many of those local links are now lost, and inspectors (sorry, officers of HMRC) don't see the accounts any more, so they don't know what they look like: instead the computers look at the standard accounts information on the tax return and despite all the stuff about sophisticated risk analysis they don't seem to do that good a job.

What inspectors never saw was the relationship between agent and client (at least until they came to blows at the interview). In the Inland Revenue's mind, of course, they were always thick as thieves, forever plotting strange new ways to avoid tax (or just to whistle the money out of the till before anything got written down). When I escaped from her Majesty, I found that there were many different truths out there, and as many differences as you could think of. And as many plots: I still remember the partner at one firm who decided that he would be better before the Commissioners than his manager (who understood the case). He was wrong.

When it comes to preparing accounts and tax returns for small businesses, it is not technical ability that is important. It is something more like common sense - the ability to cajole people into keeping the sort of records that they are capable of keeping (and so not automatically lobbing a software package at them), at getting them to deliver them to you at something like the right time, at maintaining contact with them so that they come to you if they have a problem instead of just leaving it to the next annual meeting. You have to be able to manage your budget so that you can persuade your clients to pay for enough time to do the job properly, and you have somehow to explain to them that although the tax return doesn't have to go in until 31 January, bringing in the records three days before that is not going to help very much.

The temptation is just to get your head down and get on with what's there. Most sole practitioners that I know have as much work as they can handle at any time (which is why they have problems with enquiries and time limits). In my experience, though, effective performance as an agent for small businesses is about personal rather than accounting skills, and it is also about knowing your limitations.

So I think that HMRC needs to fight very shy of any temptation to start grading agents, because what the customer wants may be a friendly 2 star service rather than 5 stars and an enormous bill: and it may be better for HMRC as well.

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Replies (28)

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By Barnwell Brewin
06th Sep 2006 15:59

Labels
Unfortunately, Ryan, it is generally only accountants who know the difference until something goes wrong.

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By troubleshooters
06th Sep 2006 13:04

Labels
The labels are different Richard -

Chartered Accountant
Certified Accountant
Accountant

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By User deleted
02nd Sep 2006 12:46

(Secret) Agents
Speaking as un unqualified 'accountant', I'm not sure I understand why people want to be termed an accountant anyway. Socially I've been a 'sort-of-accountant' for many years. No clients have ever had a problem with that, and getting new clients has never been a problem. In fact, I could do with some tips at getting rid of a fair few of them. Maybe dropping the 'sort-of' might do the trick.

I've also liked the fact that HMRC call us agents, rather than accountants. So much nicer I'd say.

Anyway, the term accountants is so broad based that it creates a lot of problems. I inherit a few clients from hugely expensive West End firms, who, to put it politely have not earned their money. By the look of some of the work done, there is little chance a qualified accountant went anywhere near their file. I've never worked at a big firm, but would guess a junior or semi-senior with little experience would be given the smaller clients, often with distastrous results.

I have actually had to help a few qualified mates who work for large firms to do their own tax returns. Likewise, I wouldn't attempt taking on a company involved in a takeover, and steer clear of anything involving double taxation or such complications.

So unfortunately, it's very hit or miss for the poor old taxpayer. They should choose an 'accountant' who is cut to their cloth. All the CIS building people I meet have a sole trader accountant, charging £100 pa, and without doubt they get a much better service with them than they would with the large qualified practices, or me, for that fee anyway.

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By rhangus.yahoo.co.uk
07th Sep 2006 10:23

Roger Rabid
Roger is so proud of his little qualifiaction.
You really did make good use of that geography and sandal wearing degree.
He's like one of those annoying moths that dont weem to go away. He's of no use to anyone.
"I worked hard for my education, bla bla bla"
I nice little cull of the top 25% most boring accountants would soon rescue the accountants image and get rid of him staright away.

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By troubleshooters
11th Sep 2006 13:28

Market Forces
If an accountant really doesn't know what they are doing the truth will soon 'out'.

The quality of service experienced by the client is likely to reflect the quality of advice. If the client has no confidence in the accountant they will go elsewhere and tell their friends and the guy in the pub to be wary.

If an accountant does a good job and the Revenue don't 'enquire' him into oblivion (I have seen this happen to a Chartered accountant) then word will get round and he will reap the rewards. Market forces should dictate which practices succeed, not legislation.

I also take great offense to the postings of Roger Rabbit, in this string and many others I have seen. This site, I was led to believe, was a community of support. His postings are ignorant, rude and contribute absolutely nothing. It is people like this that give accountants a bad reputation and I am sure he realises this and therefore hides behind a pseudonym of a dim-witted cartoon bunny. Roger, please have the good manners to tell us your real name and the name of your firm.

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By Barnwell Brewin
05th Sep 2006 10:39

Stand up for the qualifieds.
I don't doubt that there are many experienced, unqualified 'accountants' out there but the fact remains that they don't face the same requirements for CPE, practice assurance or professional ethics that ICAEW and ACCA members face. Neither have they successfully undergone the demands of the examination process. Exams are not perfect but 'qualified by experience' is a far more subjective term, selected by the person to describe themselves. Would we be as comfortable with a 'doctor' qualified by experience.

Most qualified accountants have worked tremendously hard to attain and maintain the qualification and take the responsibilities and role of their professional bodies extremely seriously. Unqualified accountants ask us to accept their experience but fail on the most part to accept the credibility of the qualifieds.

In practice, every time I have a problem with getting information out of a previous accountant, it is with an unqualified who is quite prepared to ignore us and their former client with no fear of retribution.

Why shouldn't those who are largely unregulated and unproven by their peers be labelled differently?

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By dnicoll
29th Aug 2006 13:56

Agreed
Agree with the previous comment and with the thrust of the article. There are times when clients want specialist service, there are times when clients want personal service. And their needs vary considerably - sometimes it is simply someone who speaks their language, who can translate tax speak into English and who can help keep them legal.

I have seen so-called 'unqualified' people giving excellent service and advice, and so-called Fellows of estimable Chartered bodies giving very poor advice and even worse customer service. And vice versa, by the way.

This is why I stopped using designatory letters as a matter of course - because they are actually unnecessary in the performance of my job. Did cause great merriment from one of my clients, whose previous accountant tried the 'but he's not qualified' card on me until I personally pulled out more certificates than they had in their entire firm.

The market does work. Quality will out. And closed shops are always the last resort of the desperate who have nothing valuable to add to what is already out there.

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Tony Margaritelli, ICPA Chairman
By Tony Margaritelli
29th Aug 2006 16:37

Accountants Under Fire
We at the ICPA have been monitoring the Irish situation for some considerable time and we've noted the comments from the ICAEW and the Chair of the ICAS.

Our sponsored website at www.accountantsunderfire.org.uk sets out the case for those accountants in practice today who are, lets not forget, in the majority.

We believe that there are no public interest cases regarding accountants, auditors is another issue, and that Accountants in practice today know exactly way this issue is being promoted.

Tony Margaritelli : Chair ICPA

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By NeilW
29th Aug 2006 18:56

Quite happy with HMRC
I'd be quite happy with HMRC issuing licences to practice. Because let's face it the institutes are really only interested in a closed shop that allow them to fleece the public for substandard work.

Another day, another set of accounts prepared by a Chartered Accountant practice, and another set of errors that no doubt some CA will dismiss as immaterial but will still result in excess tax paid to the Revenue.

If that's the quality the profession aspires to, then we're all in deep trouble. Much like those that have been down the road before us - the Financial Advisors.

Regulation does nothing other than put the price up. What we need is more information for the public and a better way of making those that can't add up pay for their mistakes.

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By User deleted
06th Sep 2006 15:15

"Qualified by experience"
means any one of, or combination of some of, the following:

did not want to qualify
did not attempt to qualify
could not attempt to qualify
failed to qualify
qualified but later excluded from membership

all of which mean:

"Not qualified" or "unqualified"

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By danbywiske
16th Oct 2006 16:08

Qualified or not - its all hit & miss
I have read through the comments with interest and have done a little analysis on the problems we have had when taking on new clients.

Basically, 71% of problem we have found when taking on new clients, relate to clients coming from unqualified accountants.

Seems high doesn't it ... BUT ... based on available statistics, 74% of those practicing as "accountants" are unqualified, which on a purely numerical basis means a higher proportion of problems are coming from qualified accountants.

Of course on the scale of my research just one bad qualified can skew the figures, but they do still indicate that overall there is not a lot of difference regarding problem cases. Of course it can be said that the level of advice from unqualifieds is likely to be poorer, although we had a case where a (new) client had paid £172,000 more tax than they needed to over the previous 3 years before coming to us .... and their previous accountants were a fairly large firm of Chartered Accountants.

And before anyone decides to have a go at me .. I have qualification from several institutes as well as degrees and have worked in practice and industry - the fact is, regardless of ego's, many unqualifieds are just as good as qualifieds - I specialise is advising small businesses (97% of UK businesses are small) and large parts of my training is hardly ever used.

Lets be realistic, these days any idiot with the right software can do accounts - the true measure of a good accountant is one who can help his/her client develop their business and profits, and how many accountants (qualified or unqualified) can truely say they do that?.

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By mallardadvice
30th Aug 2006 00:48

Too much Chest Beating
Yes, everyone who posts a comment here is very proud of their own performance. We wouldn't be selling our services if we wern't.
I take issue with anyone that wants industry recognition to be in any way influenced by HMRC
I only saw one comment which goes somewhere near the main point. The Revenue will grade us all....................and the big 4 will be given a bye, as will the next tier. But its not an even playing field. As small practitioners we are at the sharp end. We clear up the rubbish(nearly typed the vernacular) of the Revenue wanting us to be at the height of our professional standards, but, for example, when they fail to negate a penalty notice because they have changed office twice, and lost the correspondence, and its only a low fee, its us that loses face with the client, not this great moniolith that churns out standard and very threatening demands for cash. Yes the Revenue can be very professional when dealing with UK plc, but at the sharp end, they need to look at their own performance before they judge.

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By User deleted
31st Aug 2006 00:50

book-keepers
Hi all.
Just a quick comment about book-keepers. Should it go the same way? Roger Rabbit says members of the ICPA are IUUUBK (i think). But if someone has not passed their book-keeping examinations (with the IAB for example) should they be entitled to call them self a book-keeper? Why be-little the role of that profession? I have seen some excellant work done by members of the IAB compared to ICAEW & ACCA!
When i first qualified as an accountant, i remember being asked if i could represent a client in a tax enquiry. The revenue line was that anyone "registered with a recognised accounting body" could represet the client. That seems a good place to start. The HMRC should not be the ones to administer it though.
I guess now it is more relaxed due to self-assessment. For the revenue to classify accountants would mean self-assessment would be daft. "You can do it yourself or use an Accountant, but not anyone else!".
Have a nice day.

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By User deleted
29th Aug 2006 16:51

To unqualified "accountants"
Why don't unqualified accountants call themselves bookkeepers (which is what in reality they are) instead of trying to pass themselves off as professionally qualified accountants when they are not? I would ask the ICPA to say where in their membership admission procedure is there any "certification" as it would normally be understood? Their use of this word in the title of the organisation is, to my mind, an attempt to imply (checked, regulated, examined) professionalism in their membership that does not exist.

Might I suggest the ICPA renames itself the IUUUBWI (the Institute of Unqualified Unregulated Unexamined Bookkeepers With Insurance).

Sorry, but if they are too dim or lazy to be able to pass exams, don't want to attempt them (for reasons of cost or study time or otherwise) or are just poor at exam technique, well, tough. Everyone faces exams, some pass, some fail, some choose to attempt exams, some don't.

About time we had a system that distinguished the qualifieds from the unqualifieds that the public could rely on.

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By Pauline7372
29th Aug 2006 17:19

What's wrong with the present system?
We have a system already that indicates competence, common sense etc. The professional bodies test for all these things. It is up to the client to decide whether or not their accountant is appropriately qualified for their purpose - not the Inland Revenue. The first piece of information I pass on to a client about myself is that I'm CIMA qualified - and therefore not a tax specialist. If they need anything other than basic tax advice, I would refer them to a more appropriate professional.
My experience of the Inland Revenue is as varied the people I speak to there. However, until they can get the basic service right - e.g. get 64-8s to the right departments, get the client details available on line, excercise common sense and helpfulness when things (inevitably) do go wrong, they have no right to pass judgement on me - or any other properly qualified professional acting within their known limitations.
There are a lot of excellent non-qualifieds in the market - so why don't they give themselves the benefits of recognition and take an appropriate qualification? Until then, anyone calling themselves an accountant should be required not just to show the letters after their name, but the full title of the qualification. This would identify those who 'qualify' by means of a 'specialist' insurance policy - or by buying a 'degree'.

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By Pauline7372
29th Aug 2006 21:44

Qualification or not.
Neil Wilson has clearly had some bad experience of qualified professionals - but I wonder if he's made the effort to complain to the relevant professional body on behalf of his client(s)? No-one wants poor practitioners in the profession, so why not do something about it? I tried to make a complaint about an 'accountant' with a string of letters after his name - only to find that his 'professional body' (an insurance company) had no complaints procedure for poor service.

As for qualification putting the price up, many of my small clients have turned to me because I do the job they want (rather than the job the accountant wants to do) at a cheaper price (though a higher hourly rate) than the non-qualified accountants who have 'sold' themselves as cheaper/qualified by experience.

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By AnonymousUser
30th Aug 2006 20:42

without substance
Simon actually has made a good point. In our area an Accountant has just finished a 7 year sentence for fraud, he was actually doing business in prison, and is now carrying on after his slight hiccup. HMRC are powerless to do anything about it, but what is really interesting is that his client base of some 1000 clients has hardly diminished. There's nowt so queer as folk.
The moral is for all to see. If you give a client good service then qualification is as worthless as the paper it is written on.

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By geoffemtacs
30th Aug 2006 14:24

Just fun to generalise
Of course all this is pure generalisation. The chances of most punters getting decent service from their accountant is probably 80% from qualified and 70% from n/q's. The chances of them getting (and only paying for) the services they actually need is probably the other way round.

There are areas of expertise that will probably merit the services of someone whose training majors on Auditing, standards and all the delights of the higher end of the trade. But by the same token someone with their head in such clouds doesn't always want to sully their hands with screwed up bus tickets.

I sometimes describe this dichotomy as being akin to the difference between a vehicle main dealership and an ordinary garage. If what you're interested in is a quick oil change, you can take it to the dealership and pay twice as much. You'll get a route via which to complain if you need.

People in need of accouting services should always choose on the basis of personal recommendation rather than letters after the name of someone plucked from Yellow Pages.

I don't think there's any great need for change but if the Revenue want to go through the motions of introducing a scheme then fine, so long as we all get to jump through the same hoops. I'd hate to think that the ability to pass a set of obtruse exams 20 years ago would be rated as in some way relevant to submitting Tax Returns today.

I'll keep an eye out around the exam room for the FCA's scratching their heads about what restrictions to place on DTR.

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Tony Margaritelli, ICPA Chairman
By Tony Margaritelli
31st Aug 2006 08:09

Name Calling a Serious Issue
Whether or not someone has the right to call themselves Accountant is a serious matter with repercussions not just for the individual themself, their staff and their clients but also for local and national economies.

The affect on the profession can already be gauged by some of the name calling by both sides which adds nothing to the debate but doubless gives the individuals concerned some inner warmth.

The Chairman of the Scottish Institute of Chartered Accountants no doubt had a different agenda then simply "tub thumping" when commenting on his "Highly qualified CA's" in relation to other "Unregulated and unqualified cowboys"

so NOT a CA then NOT an ACCOUNTANT.

Now under this definition are you an Accountant or not? and if not, as a member of the Majority should you be concerned? and if a member of another Institute or organisation what are they doing about this issue?

See www.accountantsunderfire.org.uk for information for grown ups.

ICPA members know exactly what we are doing
and why and why this issue is more important than name calling.

Tony Margaritelli - Chair ICPA

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By rhangus.yahoo.co.uk
30th Aug 2006 11:32

Where do I start? The Rest of It
I have to laugh at Ms Kitchen who seems to ooze the pompousness I express in earlier message below. Of course the guy has had bad experience with so called professionals. Eg Solicitors. How do they get away with their fee notes which state every blink they do on your behalf and boy do they make sure it was done on your behalf and some of the others within their profession who simply say fee note for period 1/4/06 to 30/06/06 pick a figure add 300 and multiply by pi.
Eg surgeons who seem to go through the world unchallenged and often don’t realise the best peron to judge what our bodies can handle is ourselves and you must know they are never wrong.
Eg dare I say it accountants. I should really set up a service showing the frailties of all of us qualifieds or not. I think the standard of accounting services given to clients is diabolical and it could partially be described as sloppy and lazy.

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By rhangus.yahoo.co.uk
30th Aug 2006 11:30

Where do I start?
I offer my clients accounting services and I don’t ram down their throats that I am only part qualified. I don’t see the need but I do explain that I am not officially qualified to the 3% or so who ask. I have passed my professional exams but I am not in a rush to have any final bits of experience formalised and confirmed by someone at a large firm who will then get my services cheaply for a while until they say I have met any experience shortfall before I apply for membership to my professional body.
Can someone tell me what the benefits are for me to apply for membership or should I stay unqualified?
Please don’t tell me I can charge more if I am qualified as most of my clients either don’t care or prefer a non qualified as they perceive a better all round deal for themselves as they feel they are not paying top fees yet obtaining a top service.

Exactly what come back is available for a bricklayer or a plumber looking to get his tax return completed?
How does he go about getting compensation for something he knows little about?
Should I have indemnity insurance and exactly what for and in what circs could a client claim against me?

Did I read that if a qualified took over an ex client and started to criticise me for being unqualified they would probably have reason to? I would love that. I would challenge a qualified at a meeting with the client to see who has given the best service and who has ultimately done the best job in terms of legally getting their tax bills down. We could go through exactly who has done what for the client and I tell you I would soon have my client back again.
I find the service out there for both qualified and unqualifieds staggeringly poor.

Do you qualifieds spend enough time asking your clients if they have expenditure elsewhere which could attract tax relief? Putting yourself about a bit is often appreciated by clients and justifies a slightly increased fee. Often they will have business exp hidden away on a credit card or personal bank account which the qualifieds, I find, don’t push their clients to find out about.

I suggest that you should not call people either one or the other when often there are many who are part qualified or even not wanting to join a prof body. Now they could hardly be classed as unqualified now can they, except of course by the pompous few within that group of qualifieds who have good short term memories to pass exams but we know we would not allow them the authority of running a whelk stall.

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By geoffemtacs
29th Aug 2006 12:38

Screaming Good Sense
I try and convey this sort of thing to clients and other people. At certain levels, being an accountant is definitely not rocket science and client psychology is infinitely more useful than knowledge of IFRS, discounted cashflow and double taxation treaties. The key thing is to have an awareness of when you're swimming in uncharted waters.

As a cowboy, the Revenue don't automatically increase their level of suspicion but that's probably because they've seen dodgy figures from both qualified and unqualified and don't place faith in the badge.

I don't have a problem with the Revenue operating some form of quality control. It needn't be a difficult hurdle to obtain a Revenue-acceptable Badge but they should have the capacity to take this away if they find any evidence of shortcomings or dodgy dealings.

The difficulty would be in having the possession or otherwise of such an authority, mean anything. Clients still wouldn't care, any more than they care now about the lack of letters on our letterhead. But in principle a Revenue equivalent of the "authorised by the FSA to give investment advice..." tagline might be worth consideration.

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By baseline
29th Aug 2006 14:04

Symbiosis!
Accountants cannot exist without their clients but a client can exist without an accountant if the law allows it. It’s the latter situation that brings a perceived profession into disrepute, so any legal strengthening of the role is to be welcomed.

“In the Inland Revenue's mind, of course, they were always thick as thieves”. Stereotypes are never to be trusted. HMRC as we all know are heavily into preventing tax avoidance and have diminished the trust between accountant and client because of it.

If clients are guilty of tax evasion then HMRC is guilty of capturing Tax.

If a company is found to have swindled its creditors or the public at large and is legally closed down, is the tax that was captured by HMRC as part of the crime ever given back to the victims of the crime?

No! Is the short answer? When HMRC begin to act like Robin Hood instead of the Sheriff of Nottingham then perhaps the climate of mistrust will improve.

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By spenser
29th Aug 2006 15:03

What's in a name
Aptitude, ability, experience, and empathy with clients in a way that is beneficial to both parties is what defines an accountant. The idea that by being a member of a professionl accounting body(A closd shop of union labour) by itself somehow provides these attributes is laughable. The term accountant should apply to all who provide the services that are associated with use of the name. Members of the professional bodies never refer to themselves as accountants in any event but always qualify the word accountant with the words Chartered, Certified, Management, etc. What difference does the use of the word accountant make to the accountancy bodies if their members always qualify the word by prefixing it? What is needed is a new term for all accountants who deal with the Revenue. Something along the lines of Inland Revenue Approved.

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By jon_griffey
29th Aug 2006 15:49

Unqualified accountants
The problem is the expectation gap. The public generally expect that when they contact a practising accountant that they are dealing with a properly qualified professional with the backup of a professional body should things go wrong. When I take clients from unqualifieds I find that the client is in most cases blissfully unaware and when they find out are frankly horrified. To be fair, some clients will have been fully aware and OK with it. But let's face it, if any one of us found out that our GP or solicitor was unqualified then we would be quite outraged. Why should accountancy - a profession dealing with taxation, which can take 40%+ of your money away be any different?

I do think that protecting the name 'accountant' has practical difficulties. However the term 'tax accountant' is satisfactorily defined in statute. All that is required is to legislate that anybody who acts as a 'tax accountant' as defined shall be required to be a member of a prescribed professional body. Expecting prospective practitioners to attain a qualification like the AAT/ATT is not unreasonable. Let's grandfather in the existing unqualifieds and then sort out the bad apples.

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By acountancy.lindsayandco.n
29th Aug 2006 20:20

qualified accountants
I generally agree with the comments that everyone else have made to date.

I wrote something about this in AccountingWeb some weeks ago.

We all know that qualifications or the lack of them does not necessarily make a person a good or a bad accountant.

However, we are a service industry. WE ONLY EXIST TO SERVICE OTHERS---THE PUBLIC. The public need protecting from themselves. Just as we have laws to protect people on matters like speeding, drink driving. So the public need protection when dealing with third parties in connection with their financial affairs, such as accounts and tax returns. I have for a long time said that no person should be able to provide services to the public without belonging to a recognised professional body. After all you cannot be a registered auditor without being a member of a recognised professional body,and having extensive training acceptable to his or her professional bady.The whole intention is to try and ensure that the person has sufficient knowledge to be competent in carrying out audits.

I would not take the bread out of anyone's mouth and for those who do not belong to any recognised body, I would allow say a year to obtain a recognised qualification like the ATT or AAT. I would restrict use of the word accountant to those people who are members of recognised accounting bodies. I would not like HMRC being able to state whom they will deal with or not deal with, as I do not see how they would have the right knowledge to be able to do this, but I would say they could say they will only deal with persons who are accredited members of recognised accounting bodies. This of course would require legislation.

I actually use my FCA to advantage by pointing out that if there are complaints which cannot be resolved, the client has the right to go to the ICAEW. This of course should be stated in letter of engagement. This I think gives the client more confidence in that they know that I am not on my own as a sole practitioner. I also let clients know that I make use of the Institute's technical services.

What back up could I show if I did not belong to a recognised and prestigious professional body?

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By Pauline7372
31st Aug 2006 14:00

So - what's the difference?
There are good and bad accountants both qualified and not officially qualified. And I'd be surprised to find an accountant of any ilk that has never made an honest mistake. If the client is happy with the lack of qualification I still say it's their decision, and not one for the HMRC to make.

The important point, I think, is that the client should be aware of the existence or not of a 'back-up' in the form of a professional body and/or insurance company. If there really is nothing in a name, why do so many go to such lengths - and expense - to find something (anything!) that will provide letters - usually including F,C and/or A - after their name? It can only be to suggest a non-existent qualification. For example, I seriously question the motives of both the insurance company and the accountant where an inflated price for insurance includes the right to uses such 'designatory letters'.

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By draukett
01st Sep 2006 10:50

Mouse Trap
Legalise the term 'accountant'!. What do we think the government will do afterwards?. Maybe 'accountants' will start to be made responsible for client errors (and lies!) incorporated in tax returns. The unrepresented taxpayer is already treated more favourably than the represented taxpayer. If the 'advisers' are in a 'special' category then there will be an inevitable and increasing transfer of direct accountability to the government from the taxpayer to the adviser for the administration of the tax system. On the other hand, taxpayers are unpaid servants of the govenment tax machine and so can be excused certain responsibilities whereas advisers are paid (even if by the taxpayer)and so must accept greater accountability (and fines!).
Is this a can of worms we really want to open?

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