Did you know that not all accountants are professionally qualified? The term ‘accountant’ is not legally protected and as a result anyone can call themselves an accountant, regardless of training, qualification or experience.
A qualified accountant has completed a professional qualification, usually a combination of exams and work experience, and is a current member of a professional body; they are a trained professional.
When looking for an accountant for your business, you should find out what qualifications they have. You can check directly with the professional body they are a member of and most bodies will be happy to confirm whether an accountant is a current member or not.
What an accountant calls themselves and what designatory letters they use can tell you what body they are a member of. You can find a a quick guide to the titles and the designatory letters of the main UK accountancy bodies on the AIA website here
Whilst there are more costs associated with being a qualified accountant, such as membership fees to a professional body and professional indemnity insurance, this does not always mean that you will be paying higher fees. Unusually low fees should always be met with caution.
Using a professionally qualified accountant means you are putting your business in safe hands. AIA members, and other qualified accountants, have committed to a professional qualification, and are required to undertake Continuing Professional Development to ensure they are up-to-date with changes in the profession.
Furthermore, AIA members in public practice must have professional indemnity insurance to cover the risk in the unlikely event they give you bad advice or are negligent in handling your affairs. On those rare occasions when something does go wrong, you can lodge a complaint with AIA, and we can begin disciplinary procedures.
Members that are supervised by AIA under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 are also subject to our Quality Assurance process, which means that we monitor practices to ensure that our members are maintaining the high level of skill and professionalism expected of them. Other professional bodies will have similar monitoring schemes in place.
Like the members of most professional bodies, AIA members are bound by our Constitutional Documents and Code of Ethics, as well as the Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation (PCRT) guidance. This guidance, written by professional bodies for members working in tax, sets out the hallmarks of a good tax adviser, and in particular the fundamental principles of behaviour that members are expected to follow. The guidance has been recognised in the courts as ‘setting the standard’ for use by all tax advisers in the UK.
This is intended as a brief guide to help you make an informed decision when selecting your accountant, but you should thoroughly research other advice on the topic, as well as any potential candidates for the role!
Nicola Perry, Association of International Accountants (AIA)