THE leader of an award-winning Cumbria-based accountancy firm today issued a stark warning to business and individuals seeking financial and tax advice - beware of the sharks.
Paul Hornby, the managing director of JF Hornby & Co, spoke out as research revealed approximately one third of the accountancy sector is unregulated.
And almost three in five (59%) UK business owners remain unaware of the fact that anyone can trade as an accountant or tax adviser without formal qualifications, figures show.
The statistics are ‘deeply worrying,’ said Paul, who added: “The world of accountancy and tax is so very complex and members of the team here at JF Hornby train for many years to achieve the professional qualifications and standards required to practice in the right way.
“Investing in the team to ensure they reach the correct quality standard is both expensive and requires them to be afforded the time to do things right. But it will always be our approach to business.
“I can think of no reason an individual or company would choose to operate without the correct qualifications, or without membership to an industry body, other than corner-cutting and a lack of desire to do things in the correct manner.
“It is deeply concerning. I have always said you wouldn’t let an unqualified surgeon operate on you, so why let an unqualified account take care of complex monetary issues. I back the calls for stricter regulation of accountants and tax advisers to be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Almost two thirds of UK business owners (64%) believe that accountants and tax advisers have played an essential role advising on financial issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the light of Brexit, highlighting their importance as the UK’s economy begins to recover.
And the critical role of accountants and tax advisers is amplified with the raft of incoming tax changes following the recent Budget.
There are fears that at a time where small businesses are already under significant pressure, bad advice from unregulated accountants or tax advisers could cause huge damage.
The (Association of Accounting Technicians) is behind the recent research and has been campaigning against this issue since 2010, lobbying the government to introduce stricter regulation for accountants and tax advisers.
Although there has been some move towards change, such as the possible introduction of a requirement for anyone offering paid-for tax or accountancy services to have professional indemnity insurance, the AAT claims this has not gone far enough.
It is therefore calling for mandatory membership of a recognised professional body for anyone offering paid-for tax or accountancy services.
JF Hornby & Co are regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales ICAEW.
Paul said: “Good accountancy and tax advice is crucial to business owners and individuals - and ensuring it comes from a sound, regulated and above board source is crucially important.
“Not all unregulated businesses and individuals will be sharks - but there are plenty out there and I would urge extreme cautions to anybody considering appointing one as their trusted adviser.”