Malcolm Ellison often paid his ICAEW subscriptions late, but this tardiness eventually resulted in the cancellation of practising certificate. Things escalated when this cancellation went unnoticed.
Ellison continued practising without a practising certificate for a further 21 months. It wasn’t until the ICAEW reviewed Ellison’s profile in 2016 that the Institute realised his certificate had lapsed in July 2014.
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When the ICAEW raised the matter, Ellison responded that he was unaware he had breached the ICAEW’s rules. “I do not believe I have not paid fees demanded,” he said in a response in April 2016.
Ellison said the confusion started when the finance department informed him that he had overpaid his fees and that his balance would be carried forward. “I queried this as it seemed a ‘suspicious’ communication but I was told it was in order,” he remembered.
Filling the gaps missing from Ellison’s version, the investigation committee unearthed financial records which showed Ellison’s late paying ways and pieced together the reason why Ellison wrongly assumed he had overpaid.
The amount due for 2014, which included the practising certificate fee, was £349, but Ellison only paid the low rate membership fee of £45. He followed this up in June 2014 with a further £100, which would still not cover the practising certificate and Practice Assurance fees.
With the ICAEW’s finance department feeling shortchanged, it contacted the part-time practitioner a number of times to clarify his position - namely, if he still required his practising certificate.
Coming up against radio silence, the finance team took it up themselves to cancel Ellison’s practising certificate without notifying him. And this is where the confusion originated around Ellison believing he was in credit because he received £100 in credit and an invoice of £50 for the low rate membership subscription.
The disciplinary tribunal accepted that the allocation of late payments had caused considerable confusion and fuelled his practising certificate misunderstandings.
However, the tribunal could not overlook Ellison continuing to engage in practice after the ICAEW informed him in August 2016 that he was breaching regulations.
Since Ellison undertook high-risk work such as bookkeeping, VAT, payroll, accounts and tax for a client base that grew from approximately 31 clients in 2014 to 53 clients in 2017, the tribunal decided on exclusion as the appropriate sentence.
Ellison was also instructed to pay costs of £4,002 and a £1,000 fine.
For further information on the Accountants National Complaint Services Limited, phone Chris Cope on 01769 581581 or visit their website.