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Who are the unaffiliated tax agents?

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What has HMRC learnt about tax agents who don’t belong to a professional body, and are they really the threat to the tax system that some appear to believe?

11th Jan 2022
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HMRC seems intent on waging war against what it refers to as “unaffiliated tax agents”, which are those not holding what it deems to be appropriate qualifications.

Some might wonder why and whether a qualification gained decades in the past really make a difference, especially tax specialists trained in their discipline during a past life at HMRC.

The answer from the powers that be might well be that some of the most egregious behaviour is perpetrated by those who are not bound by professional ethical guidelines.

HMRC commissioned Kantar to carry out research which culminated in a report entitled:  Understanding the characteristics of unaffiliated tax agents.

Respondents

Without wishing to throw doubt on the value of this exercise, the 301 people surveyed as part of this research do not immediately seem like the perceived HMRC target, ie those likely to be involved in large-scale tax avoidance or evasion arrangements.

  • Over 80% have turnover under £85,000 and only 4% exceeding £500,000.
  • Over 40% describe themselves as bookkeepers, just beating the number of accountants
  • Only 8% described themselves as tax advisers or VAT consultants.
  • 70% are sole traders.

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Replies (61)

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By GHarr497688
11th Jan 2022 17:57

Oh my! I am not affiliated to any body apart from HMRC AML body however I have full PII. In my time I have seen Chartered Accountants make the most basic of errors , when I worked for a large Firm I realised their work was full of errors , I have clients leave for one of the big boys knowing the work is wrong and yet the new Accountant have passed it all. How anyone can say that just because you are qualified means you are Law abiding and knowledgeable just doesn't make any sense at all.

Thanks (41)
Replying to GHarr497688:
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By HMRC Escapee
12th Jan 2022 12:43

I am in the same position with just a small number of clients to boost income post HMRC redundancy. I hold PII and pay the AML 'tax' , the latter providing no benefit to my business. HMRC should firstly consider their own 'stone riddled green house'.

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Replying to GHarr497688:
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By AS44NG
17th Jan 2022 20:41

I'm with you on this. Some of the best accountants I have worked with have had no qualifications. Some of the worst were fully qualified ACCAs (3 immediately spring to mind).

Letters after your name does not necessarily guarantee a quality of service provided.

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Replying to GHarr497688:
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By norstar
19th Jan 2022 09:59

What I don't understand is that no one would advance this argument about Doctors.

You wouldn't contemplate going for a procedure with someone who told you they didn't bother doing the exams because "plenty of regulated Doctors are terrible".

We rightly embrace the idea that people we trust our health to should be regulated to ensure standards are high and that we have comeback if it goes wrong. Yes there are still some bad ones and I don't doubt there would be some great Doctors who didn't get themselves regulated, but I'd rather not take the chance.

So why different with our finances?

Forget the idea that lots of regulated/unregulated* (delete where applicable) accountants are terrible. The fact is that people out there are trusting their finances and more to Accountants and shouldn't have to roll the dice and hope you're one of the good ones. Many have no idea if their guy is doing it right or not and take lack of HMRC action as some sort of ratification of the work.

Everyone in this industry should be regulated and required to pass some standard of qualification to protect the public interest. If you're as good as you say you are (which I am sure you are), you won't have a problem!

That said, I totally agree that the regulatory bodies also need to change their monitoring. I have been harassed to within an inch of my life by the ACCA over largely irrelevant audit, AML, CPD reviews but no-one has ever picked up one of my normal files and checked my tax work for example. I don't believe the ACCA is fit for purpose and I'm sure the ICAEW isn't much different.

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Replying to norstar:
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By johnjenkins
19th Jan 2022 11:52

Your point is flawed by "forget the idea that lots of Accountants are terrible". Proof of the pudding is always in the eating. It's the same in any industry or profession. You get good solicitors, barristers, judges and rubbish ones. As you quite rightly say the regulatory bodies are at fault. As long as the paperwork is in the right order-jobby done.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
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By RayM55
19th Jan 2022 13:15

The difference is that clients of unregulated tax advisers have no effective comeback or complaints procedure.

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the sea otter
By memyself-eye
11th Jan 2022 18:01

I was unaffiliated (just googled it - two F's - how appropriate- one 'L')

Thank God I've quit this, what is rapidly becoming, tosh

Now, how do I get my narrowboat bow thruster motor fixed?

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Replying to memyself-eye:
Routemaster image
By tom123
12th Jan 2022 07:39

I think we need pictures of this boat!

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Replying to tom123:
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
12th Jan 2022 14:21

If I post a picture my probation officer will find out!

So keep it between us.......

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Replying to memyself-eye:
Pile of Stones
By Beach Accountancy
12th Jan 2022 21:16

I'd love a thruster on my cruiser - at the moment I just have to hope I don't hit anything.

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By Hugo Fair
11th Jan 2022 19:06

As stated, the 'research' seems to have been an almost entirely flawed exercise. Just one basic example (as it's so central to HMRC's avowed concerns) - the topic of 'those providing tax services'.
During the recent consultation it became obvious that HMRC don't even have an agreed definition of what this covers ... for instance, explaining how to operate CJRS and then report on it?

But (cracked record coming up here) everybody 'knows' - in the absence of any quantifiable sources for the claimed 'tax gap' - that the majority of tax not being collected falls into two camps:
1. Taxpayers who operate either entirely outside the system or who are happy to create wholly fictitious 'accounts & returns' ... neither type being users of mainstream book-keeping or accountancy agent services.
2. The exact reverse constituency (or are they?) of those who can afford to use the 'best' (or at least most expensive) specialist advisers ... who are already very much 'affiliated' and capable of demonstrating compliance with all professional standards - whilst selling their services as the people who can help you pay 'less tax' (I'm being generous with the terminology).

So in the first group HMRC have no-one to chase or 'regularise', whereas in the second group they are already fully in bed with them ... to the extent that it harms the overall tax take.
And as a result they throw their weight around (and threaten to do more so) in the remaining arena - which is mostly populated by the honest and compliant (taxpayers and agents alike)!

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
12th Jan 2022 09:54

I agree Hugo, the biggest area of non-compliance must be people who don't engage in the first place with the tax system or file completely bogus books.

Given HMRC simply don't do any tax investigations of small limited companies, or many sole traders for that matter they are unlikely to find them.

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By Paul Crowley
11th Jan 2022 20:30

The people who say yes to taking part in a survey on behalf of HMRC would probably not be the type that HMRC have problems with.
The low take up on PII insurance was surprisingly honest

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By SXGuy
12th Jan 2022 07:41

So they saught to look for unaffiliated accountants who were the problem, and didn't find any who were, so decided they had asked the wrong people?

Right OK. Is that like trying to fit a square block in a round hole and then blaming the hole for being round? I don't know.

What I do know, is its time we stopped bashing people simply because they see that the fees don't justify the letters on their name.

Can we get back to actually working now?

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By RayM55
12th Jan 2022 09:26

If you are practicing as an accountant or a tax adviser you should be a member of a professional body. Standards matter and unaffiliated means beyond scrutiny. In time, if the low standards of work continue, it is inevitable that the Government will eventually do something and if that happens you will be impacted adversely even if you maintain the highest possible standards.

And if you blame fee cost as a way of justifying non-membership you are just having a laugh. CIOT fees after tax relief are around £250.

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Replying to RayM55:
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By frankdavid
12th Jan 2022 09:53

i was an ICAEW member for 43 years before resigning but continuing for a further 5/6 years in practice as I wound down to retiremnt. I was paying fees of about £600 for no perceived benefit, I continued PII insrance and still pay for run off cover, I kept up to date with CPD. I had one compliance visit about 15 yras ago which lasted a day and focused on my systems and proceedures with only a quick glance at one file, what a waste of time that was. I dont think being a member of ICAEW did me or my cliemts any good but I did feel towards the end that they could do me more harm than good

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Replying to frankdavid:
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By RayM55
12th Jan 2022 10:33

Understood but there is a qualitative difference between your situation and someone who just practices with no qualified background at all. And I suppose after so many years it is often natural to see the world differently from when you are younger, join the club!

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Replying to frankdavid:
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By RayM55
12th Jan 2022 10:33

Understood but there is a qualitative difference between your situation and someone who just practices with no qualified background at all. And I suppose after so many years it is often natural to see the world differently from when you are younger, join the club!

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Replying to frankdavid:
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By Mister O
12th Jan 2022 17:56

I was part of this survey and in exactly the same situation as you. 30 years in practice under the ICAS banner during which time, ironically, there were a few years I was actively and successfully involved in the promotion of tax avoidance strategies, such as EBTs. And it became apparent during the survey that this is still HMRC's whole focus. They believe unregulated accountants without PII are responsible. Yet I haven't been near such a thing since I gave up my ridiculously expensive (and pointless) ICAS membership, and my equally expensive PII insurance. Yet now I am considered a risk to HMRC. Hilarious!

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Replying to RayM55:
By SteveHa
12th Jan 2022 10:45

I am, personally, unaffiliated and QBE (although 20 years of that experience was in HMRC, with 21 years in practice). Apart from a brief period 11 years ago, all of my work since HMRC has been in regulated practice (the last being ICAEW, and in my current role, ACCA).

My role is primarily advisory rather than compliance. I am a member of a team of 6 in the tax department, with the remainder concentrating on compliance rather than advisory. Colleagues in the tax department are either ATT or CIOT.

Does this make me one of HMRC's threats, or am I considered safe as houses?

Who the hell knows.

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By RayM55
12th Jan 2022 13:13

I expect you are “safe”. The issue is not individuals like you, it’s others. I have always seen “regulated advisers” as: those who are members of professional bodies, those who are employees of regulated firms, and those in HMRC. But the professional standards issue is both real and optical, no doubt the position is not as bad as the rhetoric would suggest but there are still far too many incompetents and bad eggs able to claim to give tax advice.

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Replying to RayM55:
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By Self-Employed and Happy
13th Jan 2022 12:07

£250??

We are a two person band, both ACCA Qualified, with a good (hopefully) 25 years of work ahead of us.

Two memberships plus one practising certificate comes in at just over £1,000, other than access to a tiny bit of "free" verifiable CPD we feel we "get" nothing from them at all, in fact they were absolutely useless during the height of the pandemic, we basically used a lot of the ICAEW help sheets / guidelines regarding furlough examples.

The fact we are likely to give them more in following years as we get 2 x practising certificates doesn't sit well at all (in case the other croaks it / gets ill then the other can carry on in practice).

We are looking in the next year or two transferring over to ICEAW as we feel they offer slightly more support.

I can definitely see why people who were previously qualified don't feel they want to pay it, for us however we see the "Chartered" element as a selling differentiator between us and other very small outfits who are not as highly qualified (if at all).

Having worked in the larger (not huge but top 50) firms locally we know that offices are only as good as their staff regardless of qualifications, however; it does stand to reason that someone qualified will "likely" have a higher base level of knowledge when compared to the majority of others, we actually do use this as a selling tool, not in any way shape or form to belittle / put a downer on others but simply to show that we are confident of providing the highest level of assurance.

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By norstar
12th Jan 2022 09:27

There will be bad apples on both sides, however as a regulated firm I can categorically say that the vast majority of the awful cases I come across have been with unregulated accountants. I don't care how many non-affiliated practitioners scream at me - it's my experience. The last 3 I have encountered failed to provide any handover info. One claimed SEISS grants for a ltd company and blackmailed the client for fees, one left the client with £775 of CH penalties and the other put through salary for two years but failed to open a PAYE scheme for the client (and more besides). As they are unaffiliated, there's little we can do to extract the info.

The fact is that if someone isn't regulated and no-one is checking their standards, then it seems obvious to me that there's a greater chance the individual could go rogue and/or fail to carry out sufficient CPD etc.

In the past ten years my firm has undergone about 10 different ACCA checks. AML, employer, Audit, CPD etc. All fine. If I tried to act like any of the last 3 accountants I took clients on from, the client could have the ACCA compel me to act properly.

I see no reason why the industry shouldn't be completely regulated in the same way as lawyers etc. Sorry.

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Replying to norstar:
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By Ralph-gab
12th Jan 2022 12:29

As an un affiliated accountant I can cite equal examples of errors from supervised accountants. We took one client from a medium sized ICAEW firm. When we filed the first VAT return it was obvious that the client was partially exempt. Looking at previous returns no input tax restriction had been made, so we asked the old accountants (who had prepared the returns for the client) if De-minimis checks had been carried out to be told "No. The client didn't request it" !
We have recently taken a client from a ICAEW firm with several offices in the NE. They showed the purchase of a B&B business costing £340,000 as premises on the balance sheet, when it was £200,000 for the premises, £100,000 for Goodwill and £40,000 for the furnishings and equipment. They hadn't made any CA claim. Nobody asked the right question! I also worked for a Chartered Accountant for 12 months. Errors included leaving £30,000 dividend off a return, (discovered when the client went elsewhere) and VAT underdeclarations of £8000 and over £10,000 discovered when we did the annual accounts.Our office had filed the returns and the Principal's solution; don't tell the client and add a quarter of the underdec to the next 4 returns. Obviously the £10k should have been notified to Customs. When I left I took a list of large errors with me. He got a clean bill of health from a subsequent ICAEW inspection, so it was obviously worthless.

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Replying to Ralph-gab:
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By norstar
12th Jan 2022 13:25

Yes but the point you're missing is that a client who subsequently discovers loss has some comeback. Reporting them to the relevant authority would result in sanctions and if you had trouble obtaining handover info from said Chartered, you would be able to complain and they would be compelled to cooperate. No such guarantees with non-regs.

Also, whilst I accept that there will be crap accountants in all guises, it's less likely to be the case if a practitioner has to undertake CPD as opposed to not having to do any at all because they're not checked by anyone - ever. Yes - that won't legislate for systems failure or not supervising juniors and/or applying that knowledge, but it's another layer of safety.

Believe me I know terrible ACCA and ICAEW accountants, but the systems reduce the numbers and likelihood as opposed to individuals who say don't make the grade or get through exams, so just set up in their kitchen and do what the hell they like...

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Replying to norstar:
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By Mister O
17th Jan 2022 20:29

But HMRC think if they can force these firms to take out PII, then all will be well. However, they may already have PII and there's nothing you can do anyway if they don't lodge a claim!

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By lh3f9764bg1g
12th Jan 2022 09:36

Did anybody notice KPMG's recent admissions regarding Carillion? How could anybody actually think that the main problems arising from this occupation are caused by non-affiliated practitoners? I mean . . . . . . how many examples of pathetic levels of competence, disturbing conflicts of interest and the merry-go-round (we'll do this and you do that and then we will swap roles) of sharing out the engagements do you need? How on earth can the regulators not take appropriate action and disbar the miscreants? They can't even make the penalties relate to the exorbitant fees that were charged.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
12th Jan 2022 09:49

What is interesting about this survey, is not what they did, but what they didnt do, and also what the ICAEW doesn't do in its practice visits.

Actually check any output.

I am constantly surprises ICAEW want to know the the nth degree what my risk matrix is for MLR, but don't give a stuff if my accounts add up.

By definition if you are the most risky type of accountant, those who think they know what they are doing, but dont, will answer "all is well" in a survey. But if you roll up your sleeves and check out some balance sheets and tax compliance you might well find a different story. Of course this would take skilled team of 10 people+ a year or more to do for 300 firms so it would be a a major bit of work.

The worst books we every get are from (a) larger firms who leave it to the junior [there may or may not be a nominally qualified person in the building, but is irrelevant], (b) the well past retirement age old boy, and (c) bookkeeper who dabbles in tax. And in that order.

The "larger firm done by the junior" tend not to add up (other than with a good old mystery balance sheet account) and be wrong in 100 different ways
The "old boy" tend to be largely out of date and missing recent changes, but sound computationally.
The "bookkeeper overreaching" tends to be computationally sound, but missed tax issues all over the place.

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By wob
12th Jan 2022 09:48

This is a very strange piece of research - in my area (R&D tax credits) there has been a lot of sabre rattling of late from HMRC about the quality of agents, but looking at this report they don't appear to have spoken to a single R&D specialist! The report doesn't actually define what they mean by an "Agent", so maybe they just took the narrow definition of someone registered to submit returns via the agent gateway and missed all the advisors who rely on a client's accountant to actually submit.

I see 4% of respondents quoted AccountingWeb as a source to resolve tax queries - not sure if that's scary or reassuring!

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Replying to wob:
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By Self-Employed and Happy
12th Jan 2022 10:19

RE- The Accounting Web part.

That could in all honesty include people who were directed via Accounting Web to the correct part of the HMRC Guidelines, whilst everyone should only be taking on clients that they are comfortable they can fully service with advice they already hold there will always be the odd thing that requires looking up, even if only for re-affirming your belief than anything else.

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Replying to wob:
By SteveHa
12th Jan 2022 10:48

My personal "go to" source for technical guidance is the legislation and tax cases. No argument then that the information is correct.

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By psimonparsons
12th Jan 2022 10:04

One of the major tax collection vehicles is Payroll. Although their is the CIPP, they do not govern or supervise for AML purposes. So a large swathe of employers in the UK is likely to have an unaffiliated 'tax agent', whatever that means helping them with their payroll. Is there actually a problem with that. What problem is actually being tackled.

Or will the crooks have such high credentials that they would not be captured by any measure anyway!

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By AndyC555
12th Jan 2022 10:29

ex-Fully trained (FT) Inspector of Taxes with 10 years at HMIT (as was) before leaving to work outside. A total of 35 years doing nothing but tax but no, I'm not a member of a professional body nor do I have any 'recognised professional qualifications'. But I do have an old certificate signed by members of the Board Of Inland Revenue from when I passed the (2 stage, 3 year course) HMRC internal exams (70% pass mark required). Will that do?

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By Homeworker
12th Jan 2022 11:10

"especially tax specialists trained in their discipline during a past life at HMRC".

Although I am ATT qualified I would say that I was a TOHG in the Inland Revenue (as it was in those days) for 11 years but only realised after I joined a firm of accountants in the 80's just how little I really knew about tax. In the Revenue we were presented with a finished product and had no idea about the work that went in to the preparation of a tax return. Only those dealing with investigation work would have had a better insight and I suspect that is even more the case nowadays.
It was a steep learning curve and my firm sent me on training courses from which I gained my professional qualifications. I didn't manage the step up to ATII as I found the exam setup too challenging in my late 30s but learned from then on by experience with three different sized firms, learning the most, ironically, from the smallest firm where I had the greatest exposure to different taxes, including IHT. I set up my own practice in 1996, having also taken an accounting course at night school in my own time.
Everyone's route through their profession is different and some may be far better qualified by experience than others. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take a professional qualification but doubt that it made any real difference to my career and I have never been audited or had a compliance visit (don't send anyone now please! I am retiring)
I have certainly come across qualified accountants who know a good deal less about tax than I do. The crooks are just as likely to be affiliated as not, though they may be found out more quickly.

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Replying to Homeworker:
By SteveHa
12th Jan 2022 11:14

I seconded for the compliance manager during my time in HMRC. Even that didn't get us the same level of sophistication that exists in the real world.

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By Nebs
12th Jan 2022 11:12

Great. But will they be carrying out the same exercise on HMRC - the firm that amend perfectly good tax returns to make them wrong, send confidential letters to the wrong place, amend tax codes with outdated information, take over a xxxx* to reply to letters (* = insert time period of your choice).

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Replying to Nebs:
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By ArronfHarrison
14th Jan 2022 13:07

Came here to say this.

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By Sue Murby
12th Jan 2022 11:22

I failed one paper in Part 2 of the ACAEW exams back in the early 80's. It was called Elements of Financial Decisions and was based upon the work of Professor Bryan Carsberg. I managed to understand it when the topics were explained but most of it went over my head. It had no bearing on the work that I was doing.

I subsequently went to work for one of the top 3 firms. In the late 70s this firm had "merged" ie taken over about 4 other firms. The reason for the mergers in each case was because of major errors. Several years later my old firm was also "merged" with another firm and I think that the reason was erroneous audit reports.

So, I am part qualified and have had my small practice for about 40 years. Some of my clients have been with me since inception and I regularly get more clients from recommendations. I have only been involved in 2 HMRC enquiries - one for a client who was working via an agency who claimed that some of her remuneration was dividends. The other, more recently, was a client whose tax return and accounts prepared and submitted by a previous advisor were questioned.

Back in the 90's I took over a small practice of an accountant who'd died suddenly and his widow was short of money. This man was an ACA. As I worked through the clients I found falsifications and huge estimates. As I explained to the clients when preparing their accounts that I would not include large estimates without backup, one by one they left me.Some remained, all professional people and only left when they finally retired, usually in their 70s, or died.

So my experience has been that even the largest firms do not always behave ethically.

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By johnjenkins
12th Jan 2022 12:14

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the agents that don't submit using their name but submit in the client's name.

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By 68fw
12th Jan 2022 12:46

Recently hit 60 (young hearts believe me, a dubious badge of honour...) having operated as an 'unaffiliated' accountant in public practice for well over forty years being trained by my late father who was also an 'unaffiliated' accountant in public practice for fifty plus years. My daughter is presently one exam away from her ACCA qualification - bless her.

I found this article (refreshingly) sympathetic towards those of us who are merely qualified by experience and toil to earn a modest living.

Perhaps HMRC should be reminded that the top four/top ten qualified accountancy firms own a truly appalling record of convictions and fines for professional negligence and ppoor standards; as usual the 'public private partnership' enjoy all the benefits of the 'revolving door' as contracted consultants assisting the very formulation of tax law and then go on to advise their high net worth private clients... it has the nasty whiff of something very foul indeed, but hey, lets' distract and beat-up on some poor unqualified book-keeper - they're always good for a kicking...

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By Michael C Feltham
12th Jan 2022 12:53

Not this hoary chestnut again!

The last time, Government as against as it was then the IR, were gung ho to try and prevent non-qualified, non-affiliated practitioners from practising.
Aided and abetted by by ICAEW and ICA Scotland.
Their big problem was, the Human Rights Act: even after Brexit, the HRA still applies and for Government to try and prevent people from earning a living would invite a flood of claims. And quite rightly too>

Of course, much of this was driven by CCAB; the chartered bodies "Trade Union": whose input to Government is a sort of "To Go To" source. However, CCAB is dominated by the Top Ten Chartered bodies. Now, after CIMA resigned in disgust, it represents only ICAEW and Scotland and the ACCA.

The track record of the top ten is, shall we say, awash with major disputes and law suites, KPMG being the latest black sheep reference Carillion.

Interestingly, an analysis of public practitioners shows that a vast majority who are members of ICAEW and ACCA are sole practitioners, serving the SME business community: not PLCs. Annual fees are now outrageous! In terms of what is offered

Some years back, I was Chair of the executive council of one of the non-CCAB bodies and spent many hours and many meetings, trying to meld the non-CCAB bodies together to form a representative equivalent to CCAB in order to present the smaller practitioners views and existence to Government. I enjoyed much support at the time, from the then Secretary General of the FRC (Financial Reporting Council), Chris Wobshall; who even most kindly, offered his offices to host an inaugural meeting. This enjoyed, sadly, little success.

Personally, I have no problem with non-affiliated practitioners: live and let live.

That said, I do believe ALL ought properly to have PI.

AML? This is, as always, Government shifting its own responsibility onto others and yet another costly burden of compliance.

Until and unless any client allows advisers TOTAL access to their financial affairs, not just business but personal and private, then in reality, it remains a wholly pointless and useless burden.

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By tedbuck
12th Jan 2022 12:58

A very interesting discussion with many good points raised but underlying it is surely the inability of HMRC itself to do its job properly.

HMRC ignores the thousands of small taxpayers whose accounts are fairly obviously wrong. They say it isn't worth the cost to pursue them so they and their friends and colleagues continue to back pocket part of their earnings, and claim benefits because they are strapped for cash.

HMRC think they are unimportant - too little to bother about. But if I were HMRC and saw a sole trader with an income of £15,000 a year whose postcode and address suggested he lived in a £600,000 house I would think there just might be a point in asking a question or two.

Trouble is though too many computers and not enough trained staff so it isn't going to get better and MTD certainly won't help as it will convince HMRC that all is well because it is digital.

It wouldn't bother me but we are paying their taxes for them - the dodgers that is - and so do our many clients on smallish incomes which isn't really very fair - we are also paying the salaries of the HMRC people who sit back and watch it happen and do nothing 'because it isn't cost effective' which translates into 'we can't be bothered as it means work'.

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Replying to tedbuck:
By SteveHa
12th Jan 2022 13:33

tedbuck wrote:

HMRC think they are unimportant - too little to bother about. But if I were HMRC and saw a sole trader with an income of £15,000 a year whose postcode and address suggested he lived in a £600,000 house I would think there just might be a point in asking a question or two.

Trouble is though too many computers and not enough trained staff so it isn't going to get better and MTD certainly won't help as it will convince HMRC that all is well because it is digital.

And therein lies a big part of the problem. As I have alluded to in a previous reply, even those in technical roles within HMRC (and I counted myself as one of them) have no idea how much they don't know. What I have learned in the 21 years since I left HMRC is an order of magnitude more than I learned whilst I was with them, and not just on the technicalities, but on the practicalities as well.

And, of course, the deskilling that has taken place in HMRC since I left has only made the problems worse. Call them, and if you don't fit into their "script" they have no idea. Different HMRC departments not only don't, but are actively prevented from talking to each other.

Those here who were former HMRC (and there seem to be more than I thought, ranging from the highest clerical grade (TOHG as was) to senior Inspectors) can't have failed to notice the decline that has occurred in HMRC with a perspective only affordable to those who have been on both sides of the fence, and it can only get worse.

It strikes me that the old adage, "Physician, heal thyself" is something that should be shouted to HMRC on a daily basis.

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By Justin Bryant
12th Jan 2022 17:55

KPMG notwithstanding, the fact is that in large firms you more or less need a conspiracy to defraud the Revenue as there are lots of people involved in accounts and tax return preparation work, so all else being equal it's probably more likely (although I cannot prove it) that such fraud will occur in very small or one-man band firms, who of course are more likely on average to be unregulated.

Also, the fact that large firms internally review their work means there is less likely to be errors in a taxpayer's favour.

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
12th Jan 2022 18:52

I would not say what you have just said, out loud.

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Replying to memyself-eye:
By SteveHa
12th Jan 2022 19:36

I think he just did

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By lh3f9764bg1g
13th Jan 2022 10:18

I think one should simply look at the facts . . . . . look at the number of times and the extent of "mistakes" by the big four over, say, the last ten years and add up the monies lost to HMG, customers, employees and shareholders and you'll find the amounts involved are colossal and would, in fact, have had a considerable affect on GDP, funds available to the Exchequer and individual businesses' & individual's finances. Affiliation, it seems to me, protects nobody except the big four and I suppose that's what it is supposed to do in the first place. As for society - well, I don't see how the concept of affiliation has been a positive at all. Not given the incredible amounts that have been "lost" and the lack of consequence for the buttered fingered affiliates involved. For goodness sake - wouldn't it be a good idea to try to deal with the problems caused by those parties who have been found to have made "errors" leading to losses of billions of pounds before worrying about the bit players?

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Replying to lh3f9764bg1g:
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By johnjenkins
13th Jan 2022 11:17

Unfortunately over the years values have been eroded. This is now seen as a very wide "them and us" scenario. MTD has shown HMRC's complete lack of understanding of the small business world.
It is time that Rishi (or whoever, if he becomes PM) took notice of what we are warning about and took action. Get rid of QU, get rid of IR35, get rid of HMRC's involvement in employment status. That would be a start to getting a proper rapport going between "us and them". Listening to the big boys will only widen the gap.

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Replying to memyself-eye:
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By Justin Bryant
13th Jan 2022 13:15

Why? What I said is totally obvious to anyone with half a brain cell n'est-ce pas?

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
17th Jan 2022 16:04

Justin, my observation would be they pay lip service re reviews, plant the work at the least experienced member of staff's door, as they are cheap, flick through the review with initials all over the shop to show you looked at it, because if you want that next promotion you need to bring your caseload in on budget.

The rot set in during the 1990s and whilst I have little direct experience working for a larger firm in the 90s I did get to observe what some did as auditors or when we inherited their previous clients.

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