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Reprimanded accountant overturns HMRC dispute disciplinary

8th Jan 2019

Chartered Accountant John Barton has successfully appealed an ICAEW disciplinary where he was reprimanded for his handling of a client’s dispute with HMRC's tax credit office.

Barton sustained a reprimand from the Institute in late 2017 and was ordered to pay a £2,650 fine and costs of £17,588.50. However, after the appeal committee overturned that result, the ICAEW now must pay him the £24,740 costs of the appeal.

The appeal panel found Barton’s confrontational approach and position of non-cooperation with HMRC’s tax credit office had “left a lot to be desired” and was inefficient. It added that Barton had written a large number of “wholly unnecessary letters” with a high proportion of those letters being offensive and aggressive.

However, the committee decided that Barton’s accusations of bad faith and duplicity against the tax credit office were mitigated by the tax credit office’s own deficient handling of the issue.

The appeal panel also had other misgivings, such as Barton not informing his client that he was entitled to tax credits when he was abroad or that the reinstatement of the client’s tax credits could have been achieved earlier. But none of this was enough to violate the stringent rules of whether a member had brought the profession into disrepute.

In the second complaint, Barton was accused of telling his client that if they paid their fees in full he would recover the majority of them from HMRC under the redress scheme. However, he failed to inform the client that if he was unable to recover the full amount, the client would be liable.

However, the investigation committee conceded that this complaint could not survive in isolation.  

Barton succeeded in both appeals and the costs were subsequently ordered in his favour too. The panel remarked that without counsel it was unlikely that he’d have prospered on the appeal.  

Chris Cope, director of Accountants National Complaint Services Limited, comments: 

It needs to be emphasised that Mr Barton was acquitted and has no disciplinary record. Is it fair, therefore, that he has to contend with the stigma of publicity? Barton acted in person before the disciplinary committee. It was only later that he instructed me to appeal the finding and order, both of which were set aside by the appeal committee. On my advice, Mr Barton was represented by experienced counsel. Incidentally, not only did the Institute lose its costs before the disciplinary committee, but it had to bear its own costs of the appeal.

You can find out more about Chris Cope and the Accountants National Complaint Service by visiting their website here.



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