AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) has warned small and medium-sized enterprises against the use of “unregulated” high street accountants and tax advisers and urged the government to “go further” to tackle the issue.
The warning comes as AAT publishes the findings of a new 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.
In addition, 68% also said unregulated accountants had caused their clients problems in the past.
It was also found that 44% of those surveyed advised that the impact from unregulated accountants had gotten worse since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government is currently consulting on proposals to require unregulated accountants to hold professional indemnity insurance, which AAT has previously described as “inadequate”.
AAT has responded to the latest HMRC consultation on raising standards in the tax market, arguing that the most effective, simple and fair means of addressing the problem of unregulated advisors is to “oblige anyone giving paid for tax advice to be a member of a relevant professional body”.
Adam Harper, director of professional standards and policy, AAT, said that for small businesses “poor advice” from an unregulated high street accountant or tax adviser could “plunge them into a dire financial situation”.
He said: “Mandatory membership of a relevant professional body for anyone offering paid-for tax and accountancy services would put accountancy on a par with professions such as nurses, architects and solicitors as well as lowering the number of agent-related complaints to HMRC and addressing issues such as money laundering and tax evasion.
“In the meantime, we would caution small businesses to beware of unregulated paid-for tax advice and ensure that their accountant or tax adviser is a member of a relevant professional body, such as AAT.”