Smaller firms fear loss of trainees over audit threshold hike

‘What worries me are the effects on students’ training in small and medium sizedpractices,’ according to John Malthouse, director of Liverpool-based Malthouse & Co. and English ICA council member.

‘Trainees need a wide range of experience and skills. Audit is going to polarisetowards the larger firms,’he added.

However, he was not entirely despondent about the increase in the audit threshold. ‘From a commercial point of view, it won’t make a lot of difference.’Audit work is no longer key to accountancy practices. But, it isstill a retrograde step on the part of the government.’

Other practitioners were more welcoming.Nobel Hanlon, senior partner at MacIntyre & Co, said: ‘We welcome the initiativeto lift the audit threshold, since we now depend on many other commercialservices as an extra to auditing, we do not feel threatened by the measure.’

As for training students, Hanlon said there would always be a place in trainingaccountants in small and medium-sized firms.

The Scots ICA, however, said it had already anticipated concerns of smaller practices about the issue.

‘We recognise that the new initiative will hit small practitioners harder thanthe larger firms, but the institute foresaw this might happen,’ said ElissaSoave, lecturer and secretary to the student education committee at the institute.

The institute has removed the arbitrary training requisite of 43 days auditexperience from the training programme for the qualification.

Soave said: ‘Audit remains a core part of our syllabus. We still recognise theimportance of audit competencies, but we have made provisions for students to beable to get that experience elsewhere and still train with small practitioners.’

Brian Chiplin, executive director of education and training at the English ICA, conceded that the concernsof small firm trainees were understandable and said the institute would keep it underreview.

But, he insists that small practitioners will not be cut off from the trainingprocess of students, citing the institute’s new exam regime to belaunched in September as an example of the requirements being made to counterany loss of audit work.

‘The new qualification will lay more emphasis on business and advisory skillsthat are more relevant the changing world of business,’ said Chiplin.

Byers raises the audit threshold

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