To legislate or not to legislate

I read with interest the news article ‘Move to round up cowboy accountants’ (page 2, 16 August) and I wholly support the Montrose firms who are attempting to have the word ‘accountancy’ recognised as a legal term with restricted use.

I am amazed (not) at the attitude of ACCA and ICAS. ACCA thinks it will be a restriction on competition if only qualified accountants can hold themselves out to be called accountants. I would suspect the public at large would consider the term ‘accountant’ to be synonymous with the holding of a recognised accountancy qualification. Are non-qualified accountants who hold themselves out to be accountants therefore not deceiving the public and thereby restricting competition at present?

ICAS believes we use so many descriptions for ourselves that it would be very difficult to legislate to restrict effectively their use. I believe this is nonsense. We are talking about the public and unqualified accountants.

If a taxi driver needs his tax return prepared he will want an ‘accountant’ and may look up ‘accountant’ in yellow pages. An unqualified accountant will be ‘xyz accountants’ for example. Clearly people will be able to circumvent such simple legislation but I suspect simple legislation would go a great way towards helping the public and qualified accountants alike.

As for competent non-qualified accountants, then they may be encouraged to sit exams to reflect their competence.

Related reading