PracticeAccounting FirmsPut bodies under one umbrella

Put bodies under one umbrella

There are some 16,000 accountants listed in yellow pages. Of those, around 6,000 do not appear to be members of one or other of the bodies of accountants incorporated under a royal charter.

It is wrong that there are thousands of people offering their services as accountants without any sort of regulation, which includes a requirement for continuing professional education and professional indemnity insurance.

But it’sunlikely that any government will legislate away the right of such a large number of people to earn their living. So would it not be better if these unregulated accountants or accounting practitioners came under a profession-wide – initially voluntary – regulatory mechanism?

Models from other professions demonstrate that people of differing skills can be accommodated in a profession-wide regulatory mechanism. In the legal world, there are barristers, solicitors and licensed conveyancers.

The same applies to engineering and architecture.

A similar three-tier structure already exists in the accountancy profession.

There are chartered accountants of the different streams. ACCA has the authorised public accountants and around 1,600 accounting technicians offer their services as ‘accountants’, even though the qualification was intended for employees engaged in accountancy work, not practitioners.

But what about the large number of ‘chartered’ students who fall at the final hurdle? Other than re-taking the exams, there is nowhere for these people to go.

They are superior to accounting technicians, but cannot become chartered accountants. Let us call them ‘incorporated accountants’.

We should bring back a Society of Incorporated Accountants, regulated by the senior, chartered bodies to accommodate these non-chartered practitioners. If we include time-barreds, failed finalists and affiliates, this would create a body with thousands of members.

There would then be a case for excluding those that can’t withstand a reasonable regulatory regime, from engaging in public practice.

  • Kevin Henry, chief executive of the Association of Certified Public Accountants.

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