A few years ago, I asked a barrister friend of mine where he was going on holiday. “I’m not,” he replied. That struck me as strange. He loves going to France in August. “Why not?” I queried. “My accountant messed up,” he explained. “I now owe HMRC tens of thousands of pounds.” Luckily for the accountant (not THP!), my friend didn’t sue: but he did make sure the firm paid the interest he owed. Since then, I’ve heard of a few cases of accountants making mistakes, which made me wonder: “Do accountants need to be registered?”

So, do accountants need to be registered?

Incredible as it may seem, accountants don’t need to be registered. There’s no central register of accountants and tax advisers. Even more worrying, you don’t need formal qualifications to offer tax advice. That basically means anyone can set up a firm to offer specialist services!

Can accountants be registered?

While there is no central register of accountants, reputable accountants have usually passed accountancy exams and are members of a relevant professional body. Chartered accountants are members of specific bodies, including:

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
  • Chartered Institute of Public and Finance Accountancy (CIPFA)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

There are also bodies for chartered accountants in Scotland and Ireland. All of these professional bodies have codes of conduct for accountants.

At THP, our accountants have (or are studying for) accountancy qualifications and chartered status.

How do I check whether my accountant is chartered? 

You have to check with the relevant chartership body. For example, you can search for ICAEW chartered accountants here.

Why should I choose a chartered accountant?

Bad advice can be expensive! Would you rather trust your accountancy and tax advice to someone without relevant qualifications and professional memberships, or a firm with expert, qualified specialists?

It’s also wise to check your accountant has the right insurances – such as professional indemnity insurance (PII) – so they’re covered if anything should go wrong. There’s currently no requirement for unregulated accountants to hold PII, which is astonishing.

Are there plans to introduce a register of accountants?

Currently, no. However, the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is campaigning for anyone offering paid-for tax advice to be a member of a professional body. Because there is currently no requirement for this, one-third of the accountancy sector is effectively unregulated. However, the government is currently considering proposals that all accountants should hold professional indemnity insurance.

Can I ask THP for details of memberships and insurances? 

If you are a THP client, or you are thinking of becoming one, then yes! We would be delighted to share details of our professional memberships and insurances. We not only want you to know you are in safe hands, but we insist on offering a service provided by qualified experts who have your best interests at heart.

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About Ben Locker

Ben Locker is a copywriter who specialises in business-to-business marketing, writing about everything from software and accountancy to construction and power tools. He co-founded the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the UK’s association for commercial writers, and is named in Direct Marketing Association research as ‘one of the copywriters who copywriters rate’.

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