PracticeAccounting FirmsIn search of a definitive definition

In search of a definitive definition

Surely it’s long overdue. It’s now time to offer the public the protection they deserve by setting a statutory definition of the term accountant

The argument being that when someone hires an accountant, they know what they
are buying ­ a professional with a recognised qualification, governed by a
properly constituted professional body and regulated by the appropriate
watchdogs.

Last week the Irish government revealed its intention to go down this road
after making similar efforts with professionals such as architects. But you
don’t have to look at architects to see a precedent. Solicitor has long been a
title with statutory protection. Lawyers cannot claim the term for themselves
unless they are properly qualified and regulated, a special status envied by
accountants.

It will come as no surprise then that the moves in Ireland have been welcomed
by the UK professional bodies who perhaps see the development as a means of
persuading the Department of Trade to follow suit. But it seems unlikely that
trade ministers will be so easily swayed. They have already asked for hard
evidence that people are suffering because anyone can call themselves an
accountant.

A close watch on what solutions the Irish come up with should provide a lead,
but on the face of it these problems do not appear to be insurmountable.
Compromises will need to be made, no doubt, but for a government shown to be
interventionist, this should not present an obstacle.

What is perhaps lacking more is a will to push ahead with the work. Ministers
may believe accountants already benefit enough through the reform to liability.
In which case the professional bodies may find themselves bargaining for a
statutory definition.

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