David Pattinson
Chartered Accountants
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What do I want with a Chartered Accountant?

 One of my clients recently decided to move from me to ABC Accounting Services in Gainsborough, so I had a look at their website to see who they are and what qualifications they have. I could not “meet the team” as invited on their homepage, because the link did not work, but I was shocked to find this unprofessional and defamatory page about Chartered Accountants:


Here is my response to that misrepresentation.

 The Chartered Accountant described is someone who has trained in a large city firm, where most of the clients are listed companies and the work is mainly auditing. After qualifying some stay with the firm, some move to other large firms and some go into industry, but very few move to small firms dealing with small businesses. The Chartered Accountants who run independent practices dealing with small businesses have typically trained in a similar firm, giving them a wealth of on-the-job experience of a wide range of businesses. Yes, they have also studied more esoteric subjects which they will rarely encounter, such as trusts and group accounts, but at least they have access to help and guidance if they do. Many will have started training straight from school, possibly first obtaining a lower qualification, such as AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians). They would have had early experience of dealing directly with clients, so will have valuable people skills. They will have the additional authorisations as registered company auditors or investment advisers only where they have had adequate training and it is relevant to their clients.

 The Chartered Accountant qualification is a guarantee of quality, whereas literally anyone can use the title “accountant” as it has no legal protection. What I have found over the years is that many of them are out of their depth: bookkeepers who think that they can fill in tax returns or former tax inspectors who think that they can prepare accounts. Unlike Chartered Accountants, they have no requirement to carry out continuous training to keep up to date with tax changes and other technical matters. I have sometimes had to take over and sort out the mess they created, which can cost the client a lot more than if I had acted from the beginning.

 If things do go wrong, the client of a Chartered Accountant can complain to the Institute, which can impose disciplinary procedures, including fines, training requirements or, ultimately, expulsion to prevent other clients suffering. Additionally, every Chartered Accountancy practice must have Professional Indemnity Insurance, providing cover against negligence claims. What protection do the clients of ABC Accounting Services have? None, as far as I can see, as there is nothing on their website to indicate membership of any professional body or any insurance cover. Instead, the proprietors are hiding behind the protection of a limited liability company, Alphabet Solutions Limited.

 So ask yourself: can you risk not using a Chartered Accountant? Chances are, you can’t.

September 2020