The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) has launched a guide for consumers with advice on appointing an accountant or tax adviser.
The guide, What you should know before you appoint an accountant, includes tips on what to look for when appointing an accountant, alongside real-life examples of the damage that can be caused by using unregulated accountants or tax advisers.
The guide forms part of AAT’s Accountable campaign, which calls for mandatory membership of a professional body for anyone offering paid-for tax or accountancy services. Whilst only one-third of accountants and tax advisers are unregulated, this section of the profession makes up two-thirds of complaints to HMRC, including issues such as tax evasion and money laundering. However, a recent AAT survey showed that six out of ten people are unaware that no qualifications are needed to practise as an accountant or tax adviser, and 57% of those surveyed thought membership of a professional body should be compulsory.”
AAT director of professional standards Adam Harper said: “Although employing an unregulated accountant or tax adviser may appear to be a money-saver, many people are unaware of the potential risks they could be exposing themselves to. As our new guide shows, their mistakes and errors could leave taxpayers with large and unnecessary fines and penalties, or even subject to fraudulent activity. Using a regulated accountant, however, will help to ensure that consumers can trust their accountant’s knowledge is up-to-date and access toa means of redress should they have concerns.
“As we await the outcome of the government’s consultation on professional indemnity insurance for unregulated accountants, we would encourage individuals and small business owners to use our guide to ask the right questions when looking to employ the services of an accountant. This will give them peace of mind and help protect their interests.”
The full guide can be read here
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At the beginning of June, AAT warned SMEs against the use of unregulated high street accountants and tax advisers and urged the government to go further to tackle this issue.
The warning came as AAT published the findings of a survey of its members, with 77% of those surveyed saying they had experienced examples or seen evidence of lower standards of service from unregulated accountants.