You may think that all firms like M&S Accountancy & Taxation are thoroughly professional, regulated members of an official institute. However, while we are most definitely all those things, there is no register of bona fide tax advisers and accountants and while the major professional bodies have their codes of conduct for accountants there is no requirement for anyone to be so and in fact anyone can set up and run a business offering what appears to be broadly similar services to us. Moreover, unregulated accountants are not even required to hold professional indemnity insurance, so if they make a mess of things and are not covered then it’s difficult to get any financial redress.
Consequently, the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is campaigning for a change so that anyone who offers paid-for tax advice has to be a member of an accepted professional body. The AAT has recently conducted a survey, under the auspices of YouGov, which showed that 78% of the 103 MPs surveyed want to introduce compulsory membership of a professional body “for anyone offering paid-for tax and accountancy services.” 75% of Conservative MPs agreed with this, as did 85% of their Labour counterparts, with 6% of MPs disagreeing.
A previous survey by AAT (at the start of the new tax year) found that “most people who had used an accountant or tax adviser thought it should be compulsory for anyone offering paid-for tax advice to be a member of a relevant professional body.” That survey also found that 60% of respondents did not know that no formal qualifications are required to practise as an accountant or tax adviser offering paid-for tax advice.
The message here is simple. If you need an accountant or tax adviser, do your homework. Make sure they are properly qualified and meet the codes of conduct required by the professional bodies. Or better still, just cut to the chase and give us a call!
Vivian Linstrom, M&S Accountancy and Taxation