New call for professional accountancy standards

Calls have been renewed for the Government to make membership of a recognised professional body mandatory for anyone offering paid-for tax accountancy services.

As the new tax year begins, new research published this week has highlighted that many people are unaware that formal qualifications are not required for anyone offering paid-for tax advice, leading to a renewed call for the government action.

The survey, by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) revealed that of over 1,000 people who had used an accountant or tax adviser, working for either them or their business, found that almost six out of ten people (59 per cent) were unaware that anyone can trade as an accountant or tax adviser without any professional or formal qualifications.

However, almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of those surveyed also said that accountants and tax advisers should have formal qualifications.

Other findings from the research included:

  • Sixty four per cent of people thought accountants and tax advisers have played an essential role advising on the latest financial issues in relation to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and Brexit.
  • Fifty seven per cent said it should be compulsory for anyone offering paid-for tax or accountancy services to be a member of a recognised professional body.
  • Fifty nine per cent said accountants and tax advisers should undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to ensure their technical skills and industry knowledge are up to date.

Adam Harper, director of professional standards & policy, AAT, said:  “It’s good to see that most people recognise the importance of having a good accountant, particularly during these challenging times for many individuals and small businesses.

“However, as this survey shows, the fact that so few people are unaware that unregulated accountants are able to practice increases the risk of non-compliance with tax obligations and leaves consumers potentially open to financial risks if they use an unregulated adviser.

“Unregulated accountants make up a third of the accountancy sector, yet two-thirds of agent-related complaints to HMRC are about unregulated advisers.

“Mandatory membership of a recognised professional body for anyone providing paid-for tax and accountancy services would address this by providing reassurance to clients that they will have protection if anything goes wrong and that their accountant’s technical knowledge is up to date.

“As we enter a critical stage of the UK’s economic recovery, we are calling on the government to introduce this to boost consumer confidence and the reputation of the accountancy profession.”