Professional bodies complain about ‘unfair’ unregulated agents

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Unregulated tax agents have created an “extraordinarily unfair” environment that breeds practitioners who are “probably not as concerned with PCRT rules”, argues accountancy's professional bodies in a new research paper. 

The longstanding debate around unregulated tax agent and supervision became the focal point of new research from HMRC, which explored the role of professional bodies, and “excessive” regulation for small practices.

In HMRC's research, senior officials from 15 professional bodies of a variety of sizes felt that the system of self-regulation of professional bodies was working well, but the conversation naturally turned to bringing agents who are not members of professional bodies under some form of supervision.

Concern about non-members

Some professional bodies thought that by sweeping the unregulated into some sort of supervision you’d get a better overall standard. This concern is supported by the report’s findings that only 67% of tax agents are members of professional bodies and follow standards such as Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation (PCRT). 

Some of the professional bodies pointed out that non-members don't have the same level of expenses or CPD requirements. 

“It is, you know, extraordinarily unfair," said one senior official in the report. "We’ve been looking for years and years for something to be done to level up the playing field and to create a quality tax profession.” 

And one professional body official believed practitioners might not want to be supervised because of a “rebellious streak” or because they wanted to “stay under the radar” – perhaps due to a previous disciplinary.  

Although the professional bodies accepted that the remaining 33% are not necessarily “bad tax agent[s] or a bad accountant[s]” because they are not a member of a professional body, recognising that these practitioners may have learned their skills in a private firm or are ex-HMRC staff. 

Regulating the unregulated

While the professional bodies didn’t agree with a “one size fits all” approach to regulating tax agents due to the diverse nature of the profession, there were still calls for at least some “proper assessment... of agents operating outside the system”.

However, there was no clear consensus on how to achieve this. A couple of professional bodies suggested mandating that anyone providing tax services should be a member of a specified group of bodies and others felt tax advice should be a “closed shop” for members of a professional body.

The underlying problem, several suggested, was that being an accountant is not a protected term in the UK, and what is needed is a legally protected title to distinguish a qualified advisor from somebody who wasn’t.  

Excessive supervision

The research report also explored the professional bodies’ relationship with HMRC, in which some described a sense of mistrust driven in part by smaller agents being blamed for the £9bn tax gap. “It might be right that they are blaming it on [agents], but it seems quite a nebulous way of doing things for me to blame it on them and then say, ‘Right, we need you do work with [us on] making tax digital’,” remarked one interviewee.

The impact of greater supervision became a bone of contention for the smaller professional bodies. “[Agents] are supervised and regulated to the point where it is having an adverse effect on them running their business,” noted one senior officer from a small professional body about the raft of regulations including AML and GDPR.

Confirming a criticism flagged in the recent OPBAS report, one senior officer from a small professional body feared that as a result of ramping up regulation, some members could resign their membership and continue to practice without the safeguards of supervision.  

“‘It doesn't take a genius to sort of think... I pay £200 a year subscription to you, I already pay you £130 to be supervised by Money Laundering, you're now asking me for another £100 [to be supervised by OPBAS]. You know what, I'm just going to resign my membership and then you've lost somebody who does have to comply with PII, CPD and money laundering, just to go off into the ether.”

The role of professional bodies

Elsewhere, some professional bodies expressed concern about how the advent of the Office of Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) has created a two-tier regulatory system and that HMRC is not included in this AML supervision.

With the aim of understanding the role of professional bodies, HMRC discovered common aspects in all 15 participating in the research. The professional bodies all spoke about how they represent members’ interests, protect the public, upheld professional standards through codes of conduct and ethics, as well as enhancing member’s professional knowledge.

There was also a discussion on how they adhere to professional standards. Nine out of ten professional bodies conduct practice reviews on a routine or risk basis of 5%-8% of their practice members per year.  

The professional bodies also discussed the role of the disciplinary process and its publication in the local press plays as a deterrent. But again, the professional bodies raised concern that these sanctioned members could still operate without being a member of a professional body.

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.

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10th Jun 2019 14:55

Bet this generates some interesting debate!

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10th Jun 2019 15:29

Putting aside the fact that many (tax qualified) unregulated advisors are lot better than regulated advisors, if a client wants to use an unregulated advisor with all the potential downside risks that entails then surely that is their choice.

As for qualifications, if anything I see more tax overpaid than underpaid as a result of so-called advice from non-qualified tax advisors, so I think that's a bit of a red herring.

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to Justin Bryant
11th Jun 2019 10:16

Justin Bryant wrote:

Putting aside the fact that many (tax qualified) unregulated advisors are lot better than regulated advisors, if a client wants to use an unregulated advisor with all the potential downside risks that entails then surely that is their choice.

Absolutely agree, but in my experience, the clients don't realise that their "accountant" isn't regulated/qualified via a proper professional/regulatory body. Some people use logos to pretend they're members of a body, others are members of trade bodies which aren't regulators and have dubious entry requirements, so firms use words to make people believe they're regulated when they're not, etc. I have no problem with unqualified/unregulated advisors but I do have a problem with the lack of openness and transparency.

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10th Jun 2019 15:14

Burn them I say, the exam dodging layabouts!

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10th Jun 2019 17:11

I do find it odd that you are allowed to essentially collect taxes on behalf of the government with zero qualifications or experience and very light regulation.

However 5 minutes on here soon shows up the fact that shiny certs mean zip.

Indeed mine cert didn't really help train me how to do taxes. Far from it. It was mainly how to audit stuff such that the partner would pat you on the head. I know several CA's who are either past it, never got there in the first place, or just let the junior spit out the work unchecked

Overall competence would be a lovely thing to be able to check, but as ever no-one wants to submit to being checked. Or pay for the privilege of being checked.

Like many things, I don't think anyone would design the current system, but I don't see how you would change it either.

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10th Jun 2019 16:23

To be the dissenting voice, I'm unqualified. I worked for HMRC for 20 years, and have worked in private practice (mostly regulated practices) for 18 years. I've seen soem horrendous stuff from qualifieds, and have had to correct advice given by qualifieds.

I follow PCRT with a passion, and maintain my CPD.

Who has the right to determine that being a member of a PB that cares more about the subs than the members would make me any better.

And note that it's usually qualified practitioners coming up with questionable schemes to avoid tax.

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to SteLacca
11th Jun 2019 13:34

SteLacca wrote:

To be the dissenting voice, I'm unqualified. I worked for HMRC for 20 years, and have worked in private practice (mostly regulated practices) for 18 years. I've seen soem horrendous stuff from qualifieds, and have had to correct advice given by qualifieds.

I follow PCRT with a passion, and maintain my CPD.

Who has the right to determine that being a member of a PB that cares more about the subs than the members would make me any better.

And note that it's usually qualified practitioners coming up with questionable schemes to avoid tax.

And here was me thinking you were proudly showing off your letters in your username, but alas no! The truth is out you absolute scoundrel!

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to MissAccounting
11th Jun 2019 13:52

Nah - it was an abbreviation for the name of the company where I work (until it changed a couple of years ago - but by then I was stuck with the name).

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10th Jun 2019 16:45

In my view the increased fees involved by Making Tax Digital for AML licences are just a blunder.

I've had 2 separate meetings with people who have decided not to pay the extra whack, but would like me to file stuff on their behalf for a fee. I declined these exciting opportunities, but no doubt someone will say yes to this.

How that is a step forward for HMRC escapes me.

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10th Jun 2019 18:16

Sorry problems with posting

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10th Jun 2019 17:52

If Agents aren't going to be monitored then there is no point in actually preparing a set of accounts.

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10352999/filing-history

Clearly these are incorrect and I can find 100's of others on CH. (Unfortunately these are an unregulated accountant). At least in a professional body there is some accountability and I can be fined for submitting this.

If Companies House and HMRC don't care and there is no backstop regulator then the only time the director will come to grief is an enquiry, when they will discover their accountant is just Joe Bloggs off the street and ironically there is no accountability. Joe Bloggs shrugs their shoulders.

The real question though is, if this is the standard of accounting what is the point in preparing a set of accounts at all?

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to peterdell
11th Jun 2019 10:46

Just when you thought they'd dumbed accounts down to the lowest common denominator to avoid people spotting crap being filed at companies house.

Unfortunately companies house, HMRC and the insolvency service do not care if it's rubbish so long as it doesn't create work for them.

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to The Black Knight
12th Jun 2019 12:01

So long as it's filed on time and they can't raise a penalty they aren't interested.

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11th Jun 2019 10:22

I agree that there are incompetent qualified accountants, but it's up to Companies House, HMRC and the accountancy bodies to deal with that. Something that they're failing miserably to do.

We need better regulation/supervision of ALL practising accountants and tax agents.

There are so many blatant examples of poor workmanship, as said above, huge numbers clearly visible on Companies House. What do HMRC do when they come across shoddy work during an enquiry - do they report to the professional body or put a "flag" on the tax agent's record? If not, why not? Is it not about time that the professional bodies start to check work done by their members and not just do the "box ticking" of checking LofEs are up to date and AML is being done - how about proper file checks?

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11th Jun 2019 10:32

you've got to keep paying someone or you lose your qualifications.
You get nothing but grief for having a qualification that it took years of study to get.
It's not as if you get paid more either anymore.
The world assumes you are rich because of your title.

If you are thinking of a career in accountancy DON'T

The successful will be those that flout the rules anyway as there's no enforcement for the seriously errant.

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By NH
11th Jun 2019 10:33

What about the DIY Director that decides he can do his own accounts and tax, and for that matter his own book-keeping and VAT which he is perfectly entitled to do under the current system however incompetent he might be.
Surely the most obvious first step is for HMRC/Co Hse to only allow someone who at least has AML supervision to file accounts and returns.
Then the second step (again pretty obvious) would be for HMRC to routinely inspect the work of those that they supervise for AML purposes as the professional bodies periodically are supposed to do to their members.

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By DJKL
to NH
11th Jun 2019 15:13

In what world are HMRC in any way qualified to check the work of accountants?

I might have given them some credit for understanding their debits and credits thirty years ago but these days you will possibly wait a long time to come across the technically gifted in their ranks.

So, any checks would likely be that x bit of paper was in the accounts working papers/tax file rather than that x bit of paper was a proper reconciliation, and how would they decide what detail ought to be kept e.g. when should all repairs be analysed, when should it be repair items over say £500, what analysis of legal and professional fees is appropriate etc etc.

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11th Jun 2019 10:35

Unregulated accountants will simply submit everything as though they are the client, therefore using the client's logins (probably setting up those login details themselves so client might not even have access) and unless HMRC/CH does some digging to work out where the tax returns etc. have been submitted from, how will anyone stop this?
Avoids AML, agent accounts for MTD, membership fees etc. and the dodgy ones will continue to rip off unsuspecting clients while the honest ones will charge smaller fees which keeps the clients away from the big firms who charge a lot more for not necessarily any better work.
It's a tricky situation so good luck to them trying to sort it all out!

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to matttaxnpayroll
11th Jun 2019 22:55

Sorry no

As ex HMRC I am "unqualified" as in no certificates and no letters.

I have PI and AML registration with HMRC. I have my agent accounts with them and am all set for MTD for VAT on proper software

I can put together a correct set of accounts and accurate tax returns (as evidenced by a clear full enquiry just completed). So my work has been checked by HMRC and found to be good.

If you suddenly take all us unquals out of the system you would not be able to cope.

I do not pretend to be chartered and I have a friendly local contact who helps out when the letters matter (such as the odd mortgage application).

Let's live and let live there are bad and good in both camps.

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to coolmanwithbeard
12th Jun 2019 10:45

coolmanwithbeard wrote:

Sorry no

As ex HMRC I am "unqualified" as in no certificates and no letters.

No letters, this way to join the queue for burger flipping training at McDonalds please.

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By cbp99
11th Jun 2019 10:35

Surprise:
"senior officials from 15 professional bodies of a variety of sizes felt that the system of self-regulation of professional bodies was working well"

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By KH
11th Jun 2019 10:36

I think the professional bodies have got it right. It is quite unfair that a load of dirty unwashed tossers should be allowed to prepare accounts and tax assessments when the squeaky clean upper class prats can do a much better job for a truly monstrous fee whilst also putting you at risk of falling foul of some crazy-minded aggressive tax-avoidance scheme that is likely to be outlawed before you even make any of the supposed tax savings .... but then I did qualify whilst working with the then-largest international firm of accountants housed in Cheapside back in the first few years of the heady seventies when foiling the government's strict monetary-transfer embargo against Rhodesia was nothing more than an an expensive "free" extra for those ultra large finance companies with mining assets all over southern Africa ... .......... ........................ "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" ... or "bring on the new boss .... same as the old one"

Yes, and I am far too long-winded, but I've had it up to here with regulation and red tape.........

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11th Jun 2019 10:40

There is only one answer to this, the term 'accountant and tax advisor' should be legally protected requiring everyone to be qualified and regulated. If the government wants to ensure it is collecting the correct amount of tax as much as possible this has to be a step in the right direction. The general public (in particular smaller clients) are always surprised when I tell them that accountants don't need to be qualified or regulated. They don't know! This cannot be a good thing and in the public's interest.

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to indomitable
11th Jun 2019 10:56

Presumably it can not then be the "qualified" accountants that come up with all the illegal/immoral tax schemes or audit all the big companies that are going bust with vastly over inflated balance sheets ! .
No !

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11th Jun 2019 10:50

The very essence of the problem is adequately demonstrated by the huge diversity of the comments may by the contributors viz. there is no proper answer to incompetence no matter who is incompetent and qualifications themselves are not a guarantee of enhanced performance in the field. The greatest problem which I encounter, on a regular basis, is that a large number of bookkeepers acquire a piece of tax software add "tax consultant" to their listed attributes, and blunder their way through the tax maze without having a clue about the underlying legislation. Stopping that practice is not an easy prospect.

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11th Jun 2019 11:14

Actually, I don't think Kantar Public, who compiled this report for HMRC, came to any clear conclusion on the role of agents outside professional bodies, even if their tone and approach suggests they wanted to.

From the executive summary:

"Of greater concern are practising agents that are not members of any professional body. Agents working in
the private or public sector are assumed to be supervised by their employer; agents in practice that are not
members of a professional body may be doing exemplary work. But it is recognised that agents do make
errors, and it is currently very difficult for professional bodies to identify the most common tax errors that are being made and the types of agents making them. The professional bodies are keen to work with HMRC to
address this"

This paragraph literally makes no sense. Each sentence is a non-sequitor. It is definitively not the role of any professional body to "identify the most common tax errors" of non-member agents. I would assume, I am afraid, that this is an attempt to blur the lines between professional bodies and regulators. That spells danger for the profession.

In any industry, if a professional body qualifies, regulates and accredits its members, there is a systemic problem. No matter its original, presumably noble intentions, the system that persists the professional body is self-serving and thus the rules it proceeds by will gradually veer in favour of the club and its members, and bear less and less relation to the actual job of the accountant. As soon as you're in the club, you are invested in, incentivised to and indeed potentially required to continue to promote the supremacy of the club. It is not a surprise that anyone in the club wants everyone to join the club!

As an example, the ACCA rulebook is a whopping 548 pages. Including (taken at random) this beauty:

115.3 A professional accountant shall behave with courtesy and consideration towards all with whom the professional accountant comes into contact in a professional capacity

It might be reasonable, to a normally well-adjusted human being, to be discourteous in response to discourteousness. But es ist verboten! This seems a most hand-wringing form of corporate political correctness. Why anyone would opt for such regulation is beyond me, but each to their own and I understand that many may see the genuine benefit to them of joining a professional body. But is hugely expensive for the small practice in time and money to comply with all this legislation, even if they wanted to. To require it would be beyond "extraordinarily unfair". It would be a small-practice killer.

Besides, we shouldn't forget that a client can self-assess with zero regulation and zero accounting knowledge or skills. Unless HMRC can identify that unregulated professionals are disproportionately the cause of problems in the tax system, vs those who are members of a professional body, this is simply an unsurprising finding that the professional bodies want more members and more power.

No thanks.

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By trecar
11th Jun 2019 11:16

I have a client who has just received a letter from a firm of accountants stuffed full of qualifieds informing him that he has likely overpaid SDLT on the purchase of his new home. It was addressed to the occupant. I hardly think that is a good advert for the profession where a statement can be made without any evidence whatsoever implying that other professionals have been deficient in their duty. By the way I checked and they were wrong, or have they got some magic scheme that goes back and alters circumstances to allow for a bit of a dodgy avoidance setup.

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By johnt27
11th Jun 2019 11:19

"But again, the professional bodies raised concern that these sanctioned members could still operate without being a member of a professional body."

I know of a few instances where this has happened in my locality.

In fact, one such, has just had a big splash in the local press bemoaning how terrible it's been restoring their reputation after being removed from a PB for fraud. Their time bar on being a director (because of the fraud) has just passed and they have been appointed MD of the firm they have been consulting to (which miraculously started at a similar time to being struck off) whilst they paid their dues to society.

If this were to happen in say the medical profession - the only places to seek to trade after being struck off tend to be evangelical groups in the USA.

As others have said there are good and bad accountants, whether qualified or not.

If the market worked more effectively and standards could be improved that would be better for everyone involved - improving respect and value. If regulation through PB's or legal protection is required then pathways should be made for QBE practitioners to enable them to participate in the market and not lose out.

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11th Jun 2019 11:24

My solution would be to only have regulated accountants/advisors be able to submit accounts and returns to HMRC and Companies House......Basically scrap the self-assessment system

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By SXGuy
11th Jun 2019 12:20

It always angers me when I read how qualified accountants get moody over non qualified.

It was your choice to get a qualification, no one has stopped you from dropping your letters and going at it without any.

Would the quality of work suddenly drop because you no longer had those lovely letters beside your name?

There are all sorts of reasons as to why an agent may not hold a qualification or may not continue to be supervised by a professional body, its not a once senario fits all and you know it.

Really what it comes down to, is being p'd off because youve spent all that money and continue to do so, while someone else isnt.

But, as i say, its still your choice either way, as it is theirs!

Im not against having some sort of regulation for every agent, they dont need to have qualifications, just be able to pass supervision, hell it might even reduce costs, why bother paying out all that money to a body who cares less about anything other than sub fees, when you could be getting the same regulation and supervision regardless.

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By Bill H
11th Jun 2019 12:48

I never qualified but worked for many large and small
CA's since the early seventies. I have also had my own clientele for 30 odd years and am now 67 and still expanding my practice. I feel that the knowledge I have is vastly more experienced than any qualified I have worked with. I don't care what 'professional' bodies think as you only have to look at the huge [***] ups large firms have made Equitable Life and the like for example. Once I have recovered from the 'burning by some clever dick or miss dick' I will rise up and provide good inexpensive advice! I might be a '[***]' but I had a life in my younger days whilst these exam lovers missed out and for what?

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11th Jun 2019 12:27

Well lets look at the so called qualified and supposedly regulated audit partners in the Big 4 and top 10 others who haven't bothered to read FRS 102 before the sign off accounts with incorrect capital treatment. When chllenged stating they don't want argue with "me" about it [No as somebody who actually understands both the correct accountancy treatment and the engineering technical reasons for it, if I was them, I wouldn't want to argue with me either! Noting that when I approached the FRC (because these 'so sure of themselves' partners would not) the FRC agreed I was correct. Did these partners then acknowledge to their multiple clients that they were wrong? Of course they didn't. Or lets consider the "qualified and regulated" Partner in the 'Big 7' who lies to his clients that it is "impossible" to do what I have had agreed for 30 other claims with HMRC for 15 plus years and actually has to pretend part of the CIRD doesn't exist to support his misrepresentations. These allegedly 'regulated' persons are costing their clients millions in adverse treatment. So I agree with several above, the worst mistakes I see are by 'qualified' stuffed shirts who haven't bothered reading a regulation change since they got above Senior Manager. Note I was a Director in the Big 4 and beat 'qualifieds' on the Accountancy and Tax Sections of the Director section to do so. Many of them aren't just resting on their laurels, they never really earned them in the first place.

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11th Jun 2019 12:43

None qualified tax practitioners are laughing, they have no Accounting body rules to comply with, they are never going to get dragged in front of a disciplinary body and possible get fined thousands.

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By tedbuck
11th Jun 2019 13:05

Pathetic! The over-regulation by the professional bodies is a bigger problem. When you need their help it often isn't forthcoming and one has to wonder whether their regulation is worth the paper it's printed on. Wasn't there a Company called Carillion or something that rang a bell where the heavily regulated auditors made a bit of a hash of things. Oh they were or will be punished for it but the cost of regulation makes doing the job a bit difficult. Auditing is more a case of completing the paperwork according to the book and ticking the right boxes rather than thinking about what is going on. It shouldn't be but human nature is what it is.
Tax compliance is just a nightmare with HMRC and HMG not knowing what they are doing and what the effects of what they do will be. This makes life difficult enough without the added burden of more and more regulation so to suggest that even more people should be buried in paperwork providing employment for jobsworths to go around making a nuisance of themselves doesn't attract me personally.
Yes, we occasionally come across agents who aren't as good as they might be but not all of them are unqualified and we also come across good unqualified agents so they are just like the rest of us.
The last thing we need is a new pile of regulation because it will certainly make more work for those of us who are regulated as there will be fallout from it as there always is.

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11th Jun 2019 14:09

The agents to really worry about are the ones that do not submit tax returns. They put together what the client wants and then submits the return using the clients logins. There is no real way of stopping this.

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By maasrw
11th Jun 2019 14:12

As a lifelong Chartered accountant and Chartered Tax Advisor I have no problem with competing with good unqualified advisors. I also know that there are qualified advisors that I would not trust to deal with my affairs. Accordingly this perennial argument is pointless. No government is going to put a lot of good advisors out of business to suit the demands of professional bodies.

The professional bodies have it in their own hands. They should get together and launch an advertising campaign that says
- this is the benefits of using a qualified advisor
- anyone with any of the following initials after his or her name is a qualified advisor.

I suggested this many years ago to the then President of the ICAEW, but his response was, "Our members wouldn't want us to promote other professional bodies".

it is that parochialism that is the problem, not that there should be more people regulated.

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to maasrw
11th Jun 2019 17:09

maasrw wrote:

No government is going to put a lot of good advisors out of business to suit the demands of professional bodies

It's not unheard of for governments to screw up large numbers of people in a trade or profession.

Slightly different, but there are a lot of ex-plumbers who were effectively put out of business when the Corgi rules came in - plenty of self employed one man plumbers who'd been doing gas work perfectly safely for years only to find they had to go back to the classroom if they wanted to continue. Many couldn't afford to and ended up having to give up their gas work.

Just look at IFAs - that was once a pretty open market which is now heavily regulated and requires practitioners to pass competency exams - not sure why that can't be done to accountancy/tax profession.

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By sash100
to maasrw
11th Jun 2019 23:21

All this time I don't think one client has asked me if I was qualified or not which I find surprising. Therefore I assume unqualified accountants do not get asked too ?

Yes agree with you if accountant doesn't get protected which it is in many countries then at least inform the public of the benefits of a qualified accountant

There are some very good unqualified accountants mainly on accounting web who have far much knowledge as me so kudos to them. However, what is letting them down and causing concern is a larger contingent both in UK and increasingly overseas that just setup in five minutes, start advertising to file accounts and corporation tax return at rock bottom prices plus promising lower their taxes (through some illicit means)

Client is happy they get a cheap return and lower taxes. HMRC will never find out as chances of an inquiry is remote and the country suffers as lower tax revenue.

There is always going to be qualified accountants that bring down the good name of the profession but this is a minority compared to the cowboys out there causing chaos.

Ye

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By DJKL
to sash100
12th Jun 2019 15:32

Well maybe the profession has changed but back in the 1990s when I did work full time in practice, and therefore saw at first hand more acquired new clients than these days , the firm where I then worked (ICAS) picked up plenty of work from other qualified firms (ICAS/ACCA) that was pretty poor quality.

A fair bit I read on Accounting Web, posted by those who apparently are qualified,does not give me that much reassurance that matters have changed very much; frankly there are a fair few poor quality specimens in both corners of the box.

(For clarity I am not qualified but was ICAS trained)

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12th Jun 2019 16:54

As one of those unregulated agents that the bodies appear to be terrified of, here is my experience. I was in HM Customs & Excise from 1975 to 1980 employed mainly on VAT compliance visits and some customs work. I left to set up as a VAT advisor but many clients asked if I could sort out their tax as well so I ended up as a GP of the tax world. I am mainly self taught. I was lucky that in Customs I had a senior officer who would say "What does the Act say?" and this is the mantra I worked to. After 20 years of practice where I had no real benchmark to compare myself to the qualified accountants, apart from being on very good terms with the tax inspectors in the local office. I sold up and took on a pub. We left the pub in 2006 and I got a job with a Chartered Accountant in Redruth. I learnt that my knowledge and standards were as good as my boss's, indeed I sorted out most of the VAT queries. I then had to relocate to North East England, where I got a job with another Chartered Accountant. I was appalled at the standard of accounts produced, as long as we could get some figures out and the bill paid that was all that mattered. I was told that HMRC wasn't interested in prepayments and accruals (the accounts fee always went in as an accrual!) or indeed debtors and creditors. 12 months later the boss told me he couldn't afford to keep me on and dismissed me. I prepared a list of errors including the omission of a £32000 dividend from a client's return (found when he moved elsewhere), VAT underdeclarations under FR scheme of £8k+ and £10k + where the colleague who did the VAT returns was told to divide the errors by 4 and add them to subsequent returns. (Obv the £10k should have been reported to HMRC) . I never used the information. He has clients who paid by standing order who had overpaid, so he was borrowing client monies. Then I heard that he was getting a visit from the ICAEW. I was amazed to hear he got a clean bill of health!!! Then we acquired a client from a large firm of accountants. My wife did the first VAT return, but when I checked it I realised that the client was partially exempt. No adjustments had been made to returns filed by the previous accountant (ICAEW) so I asked if they had done De Minimis calculations to be told that "the client hadn't requested it". So excuse me if I do not regard a qualification in a high regard. After that I worked with an excellent ACCA for 6 years. Several "qualified" staff didn't last 6 months. And clients would come having clearly been badly advised by other qualified accountants. Rant not really over but enough. cont p94..

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to Ralph-gab
20th Jun 2019 11:13

............clearly a fellow reader of Private Eye......

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to Ralph-gab
20th Jun 2019 11:13

............clearly a fellow reader of Private Eye......

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13th Jun 2019 10:45

Qualified, unqualified? Who cares?

We all know that you just click a button on your MTD compliant software and hey presto your tax return is done. Simples.

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13th Jun 2019 13:16

I am not a member of any professional body. I have been an Accountant for about 50 years, learnt my trade as I went along, did some studying. I was until recently employed as a Finance Director, but was made redundant as company was sold on, and then decided I would retire. I run a small bookkeeping business with half a dozen clients, but in all honesty with the cost of software, AML etc it is becoming difficult to keep going I cannot afford to join a professional body and to be honest cannot see the point of it for me. I read up on any new regulations every year before I start the frenzy of doing self assessments or corp tax. With AML now being increased and MTD it is just about putting me out of business anyway.

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13th Jun 2019 15:29

Bit rich for accountancy bodies to be complaining about unregulated tax agents.

If they really want a crackdown, then surely only CTA qualifieds should be doing tax?

Better ask for all those accountants to stop doing tax until they are qualified!!

As for all the various fees we now have to pay, maybe it's time for the Institutes to start scaling them based on the member's (or firm's) turnover, so small sole practitioners don't have to fork out £500+ whilst a partner earning 20 times as much pays the same fee.

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14th Jun 2019 11:12

For me it does not matter if you are qualified or un-qualified but whether one can do the job properly.

The institutes have raised a valid question, that is that there is no one to answer too if the work by an un-represented is incorrect. In addition if that person does not have on-going professional development (CPD) how can he/she be fully aware of changes?

This is the real problem.

Yes it would be nice to have accountants and tax advisers as restricted but it would not sort the problem.

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By paddy55
14th Jun 2019 13:08

What is often overlooked is that unregulated unqualified tax agents are often preferred by taxpayers for obvious reasons.

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