Advisers bullish despite Brexit concerns

OPINION IS SPLIT as to whether the UK’s decision to leave the European Union will prove a disaster for the UK accountancy profession, according to an Accountancy Age Twitter poll. However, senior tax professionals have played down Brexit’s significance on the profession.

A snapshot poll taken on 24 June via Accountancy Age’s Twitter account asked its audience whether they think Brexit will improve or harm the UK accountancy sector.

Out of the 171 people who voted, 45% of the poll believed that Brexit will prove a disaster to the profession, while just 13% think that UK accountants will be better off following the UK’s historic breakaway from the EU.

A third of the poll voted that they were unsure of what the future will look like for the accountancy sector, but senior accountancy professionals have called for calm during this time of uncertainty.

Tax is ‘front and centre’

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the ACCA, predicts that certain aspects of the profession will be under the microscope as the UK looks to plot its next steps.

“I think tax is going to be front and centre of the political debate and discussion around where the UK goes from here,” said Chowdhury. “We just need to be cautious, careful and take our time about what happens next.”

UK can ‘adopt a distinctive approach’

Stephen Herring, head of taxation at the IoD, firmly believes that Brexit will not thwart the UK accountancy sector, and may present an opportunity to the UK when it comes to international tax projects.

“The same issues and opportunities that were there for the accountancy profession a month ago are still here now.

“If you look at the tax part of the profession, I think it means the UK can adopt a more distinctive approach to the BEPS project and can ‘pick and mix’ the best things out of BEPS. It may have more scope to flex our position on how BEPS will affect UK businesses.

“As each week goes past it will become evident that the same issues that faced pre-Brexit will continue to face us. There are no cliff edges here.”

‘Business life will go on’

George Bull, senior tax partner at RSM, believes that the UK’s thirst for things such as tax advice will “carry on and accountants will continue to meet the needs of clients”.

“Looking ahead, I would say that while a proportion of activity from accounting firms correlate with the size and buoyancy of the UK economy, business life will go on. Once we get into a more stable situation, the balance of services will be different.

“Firms know how to react to times of crisis. I would say at the moment the accounting profession in the UK is in better shape than ever.

“I’m not downplaying the difficulty of this period, but bearing what happened during the financial crisis, the changes were astounding and the profession survived and coped extremely well. There is no reason that the same won’t happen again,” continued Bull.

On 23 June, the nation saw its highest turnout at a UK-wide vote since 1992, with a 70% turnout rate, as the UK witnessed more than 30 million people voting to decide on the UKs European future.

The Leave campaign received 52% of the referendum, compared to 48% received by the Remain campaign, despite calls from the prime minister, leading politicians and tax experts for the UK to stay within the European Union.

Stephen Herring will be speaking on the EU panel at Financial Director’s CFO Agenda.

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