The campaign to secure protection of the description ‘accountant’ by the CCAB
bodies could be misguided.
What concerns me is that the proponents may not have thought through the
consequences if the campaign were successful.
At the ICAEW’s national practitioner forum last week we debated various
questions as regards the future of general practitioners.
One perceived threat is the facility for qualified people to describe
themselves as ‘accountants’. Indeed, some ICAEW members have chosen to continue
acting as accountants despite resigning from the institute as they don’t
perceive that membership provides sufficient ongoing benefits.
I have an alternative view borne of many discussions with the public. Most
non-accountants assume that all accountants are tax advisers.
Why does anyone, other than company directors, typically appoint an
accountant? Does the client really care about their accounts or are they more
interested in obtaining help and advice with their tax?
Private investors, the retired and many other clients do not even have
accounts in the conventional sense. Yet the majority of such taxpayers turn to
accountants for help.
With apologies to the Chartered Institute of Taxation (of which I am proud to
be a fellow), the concept of a ‘tax adviser’ as distinct from an ‘accountant’
has yet to enter the public consciousness.
Even if only qualified accountants could describe themselves as such, it is
inconceivable that they would be solely able to provide tax return completion
services and tax advice. This would mean that chartered tax advisers would be
precluded from practicing their profession. That’s a fanciful idea and there is
equally no prospect of CTAs agreeing to be described as accountants.
Instead, the public would quickly become much more familiar with the
distinction between an accountant and a tax adviser than is presently the case.
And given the choice between a specialist in preparing accounts and one
specialised in advising on tax, which would they choose to appoint?
Attempts to distinguish qualified and unqualified accountants will increase
awareness of the difference between accountants and tax advisers. And if that
happens I fear that qualified accountants would lose more than they gain.
Mark Lee is the founder of
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