If you make an appointment with a doctor or a dentist you would want to know that they are regulated first and that you can make an official complaint if things go wrong. However, when it comes to financial matters technically anyone can practise as an accountant or bookkeeper in the UK, without qualifications or membership of a professional body.
We at the IAB, along with other professional accountancy and bookkeeping bodies, believe the government should take action to regulate agents to ensure standards across the country and give the public greater confidence in the profession. Around three in four businesses use a tax agent to help deal with business taxes, as well as wealthier individuals, the self-employed and those with more complex tax affairs. Tax agents are third party intermediaries who include accountants, bookkeepers, and tax advisors. However, HMRC does not regulate agents; instead the commercial tax services market is self-regulating. Most tax agents (67%) are members of professional bodies that set standards for the behaviour expected of their members. But for those who aren’t there are wider implications for the whole industry. Figures from HMRC show that almost two thirds of complaints they receive are about the third of agents who are unregulated.
Of course some people may have been doing bookkeeping for years and are experienced but don’t have a professional qualification. If that’s the case, does it really matter? I believe it’s important for trust in the profession that accountants and bookkeepers are regulated.
This isn’t just a problem for taxpayers, who may receive poor advice, but it can lead to tax avoidance and evasion which has am impact on the whole economy.
At the IAB we will continue to campaign for all tax agents, including bookkeepers, to be regulated In the meantime, we’d advise anyone who uses an accountant or bookkeeper to carry out some preliminary checks before engaging them. They should ensure they hold a practice licence with a recognised association or institute, make sure that they hold the correct level of indemnity insurance and that they adhere to the appropriate Anti Money Laundering Regulations
Janet Jack CEO