Many people are not aware that the word ‘accountant’ is not protected in our industry: anyone can call themselves an accountant. There are a number of people out there who sell themselves as being an accountant but actually have no qualifications for the role.
It takes several years to qualify as an accountant, and a practising certificate must also be obtained, enabling you to operate as an accountant in practice. This means that you are regulated by an accountancy body, you are following professional ethics and have professional indemnity insurance.
If you are unaware that your accountant is unqualified, it may only come to light when you need something they cannot provide. The things that a qualified accountant can do that an unqualified one cannot include the following (these are just a few):
- Certify passport photos
- Provide a mortgage reference
- Sign off accounts for companies
- Sign off accounts for individuals
- Provide independent examiners reports for charities and societies
- Save you their fees in time and money
In my experience, I have seen non-qualified accountants provide services for their clients where they have NOT claimed all relevant expenditure or have treated allowable expenditure incorrectly. This means they have actually cost their clients, as they may have ended up paying unnecessarily high tax bills.
When you engage an accountant to work with, you must always ensure they are qualified (look for red flags, such as low fees that seem too good to be true) – it will save you heartache in the long-term.
If it is not immediately obvious whether they are qualified, you can ask them which accountancy body they are regulated to and then check their registration directly with that accountancy body.
Please always seek professional advice before taking any action. We are happy to answer questions in future issues. Send your questions through the Contact Us page on our website.
Chantal Baker is the founder and director of Champ Consultants Ltd, an accountancy and tax consultancy practice in Caterham. Please follow us on our social media channels.