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the profession | Focus

realised that their old accountant was not qualified. The consequence of such activity by unqualified ‘accountants’ is to tarnish the good name of the legitimate profession, complained some members.

Missing paperwork… and people Ian Critten FCCA, who trades in Cambridge as Ian Critten Accountancy, explains: ‘Over the last 18 months I have taken over several clients from unqualified accountants. The problems were not so much with the technical work they have done. It is more about them not handing over the books and records. Some unqualifieds have just gone missing. I have had one or two clients over the last 18 months who said their accountant isn’t in business any more or isn’t answering their phone. ‘Someone who had used an unqualified phoned me because the bank would not accept the figures from an


accountants. That annoys me because I work hard and play by the rules and make the necessary payments. ‘I don’t think all unqualified accountants are bad. There are some good ones doing a good job. But some are making more money than qualifieds because they don’t pay insurance or professional fees. We have to write to unqualified accountants when we take over one of their clients; probably 80% of the time we do not get a reply. There is certain data they hold that we need and we might have to go to HMRC for it. ‘There is no one we can complain to. If they were ACCAregistered accountants we could complain to ACCA and ask them to intervene. We recently had a problem with a firm of chartered accountants and ACCA drafted a letter for us and that sorted out the problem. ‘We have a client that HMRC is prosecuting for fraud, which is very, very serious. He had an unqualified acting for him. Some of the things coming out are scary. If he was qualified he would lose his professional membership. But this guy can just walk away without any recourse.’ ACCA and the other chartered accountancy bodies provide support to members and ensure standards are met. These standards are not only about quality but also ensure members have arrangements with other practitioners if they die or are otherwise unable to continue to practise. Equally, bookkeepers and accounting technicians belonging to the relevant recognised professional

▌▌▌’Some of the things coming out are scary. If he was qualified he would lose his professional membership’

unqualified accountant for a bank loan. They were astonished when I said I needed to redo the work. They had paid £200 to £300 to the existing accountant and I would need £1,000 to do it – and I realised immediately that I would not be able to agree the figures [provided by the unqualified]. People don’t realise there is a cost penalty for going for the cheapest prices. ‘We certainly know the Revenue We are championing the benefits targets the accounts of people of using qualified accountants to who use unqualifieds. For a lot of the general public and the business people it doesn’t affect the tax they community. We have been pay, but for some it means they doing that over the last miss out on tax advice on capital few years. gains and inheritance tax. I have an We have a code arrangement with another chartered of ethics and we accountant to take over clients if regulate as a my plane crashes and I don’t come professional body. back from holiday. One of the If something missing unqualified accountants goes wrong, had died and then all the office there is recourse papers got dumped by the landlord. for the client. There is a lack of backup.’ The other issues Russell Geary FCCA, who trades in are competence Derbyshire as RDG Accounting, says: and quality. The ‘I have had very bad experiences with unqualified unqualifieds. Some of them flout accountant is not the principles of professionalism. required to be up But they charge the same as to date on the qualifieds and they call themselves


Badge of integrity technical side of being an accountant. It’s about risk. We are saying that you are taking a risk if you are using an unqualified accountant. Members tell us that they are being asked if they are qualified. Not across the board, but it does happen, so we know that it is an issue. We want to work together with members to put the message across. Members can use the ACCA logo and the brand to say they are ACCAqualified. They have that badge of integrity. Sarah Hathaway, head, ACCA UK

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