Is your Accountant qualified?
In the UK, anybody can call themselves an accountant and offer tax, accounting and business services without any training or regulation.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good people calling themselves accountants that are “qualified” by experience, but would you trust your health to a doctor with no qualifications or regulation? Then why do people continue to trust their business to an “accountant” in this way, when their income from the business is putting the food on the table?
A regulated accountant has gone through rigorous training and passed demanding exams to qualify as a member of one of the main accountancy bodies. Qualified accountants in practice have designatory letters, usually ACA or FCA for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) and ACCA for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. In taxation, the specialist qualification of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) to become a Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) indicates expertise in tax at the highest level; very few firms hold this status.
Other regulatory bodies are the Association of Accounting Technicians and the Association of Tax Technicians.
There are a number of groups to which “accountants” can subscribe that may have regulation within the group. However, members of these groups have not received formal training as mentioned above.
Qualified accountants in practice must hold a practising certificate. In the case of the ICAEW this means that the firm complies with the Practice Assurance Scheme that guarantees a quality standard in all work that they do.
What does regulation guarantee as a minimum?
- The firm is answerable to a governing body – if the client believes they have received poor advice or unethical treatment they can complain to that body.
- Ethical standards – the client can trust compliance with the law.
- The firm carries professional indemnity insurance – this ensures that if the advice given is incorrect the client is protected by an insurance policy.
- Essential, up to date knowledge of the latest accounting, tax and business issues – all partners and staff must undertake continued professional development (CPD) training.
- Trusted advisor status – lenders for mortgages and loans recognise and trust the integrity and standards.
- Advice that adds real value – the training and CPD required ensure that the firm can provide in-depth advice specific to clients’ needs.
- Money Laundering regulations – compliance with these regulations are controlled by the regulatory body rather than HMRC.
Most business owners may go to an unregulated firm because of price; when starting up, costs are often a huge issue. However this can be short-sighted. Getting the right advice at the very start and when you are growing is essential. Whilst a regulated firm will appear to charge slightly higher fees, application of their expansive knowledge gives the client the best advice to help them achieve success, potentially save them tax and help them keep more of their hard-earned profit.
As a firm of Chartered Accountants & Chartered Tax Advisers we are very well placed to provide clients with the right advice; all of our client managers hold recognised accountancy and/or tax qualifications and our initial meeting is always free of charge. Even if you only want a second opinion from a regulated accountant just firstname.lastname@example.org.