Qualified v unqualified
I worked in a couple of ACCA Practices, a couple of ICAEW Practices and an unqualified practice (and also my own practice which is ACCA).
One ACCA practice (i.e. not mine) the least said the better.
The unqualified practice, the standards there were very high. All jobs were properly monitored throughout the practice.Every job was reviewed by the same partner, to ensure consistency.
The ICAEW practice was also registered for audits. Every job type had its own 'pack' that had to be completed in full. Even if a lot of the pack had to be completed as N/A the paperwork still had to be on the file.
My view is that there are good and bad unqualified accountants. If you find a good one, their charges are usually comparable to a qualified firm and the service is also comparable. However, the bad ones are usually book-keepers that think they can prepare accounts and the tax returns to go with them and I have seen balance sheets that do not balance etc.
However, I have also seen so called 'qualified' accountants who cannot complete a tax return properly as they have relied upon the software to get it right. These tend to be those who have worked in large firms/organisations and have specialised in certain areas and then can no longer remember how to do the basic work.
With this in mind I cannot see how the basic punter can choose the 'right' accountant let alone what the 'right' price is.