Anyone can call themselves an Accountant

Anyone can call themselves an accountant, and offer accounting services to the public. All they need to do is to register themselves with the Revenue as a tax agent, and the Revenue will overlook their lack of qualifications in tax. By contrast, only persons duly qualified and regulated by the Law Society can call themselves solicitors. I could call myself a doctor (I have a PhD in engineering) but if I start selling patent medicines then I could be in trouble.

Businesses have a choice over what sort of accountant they wish to engage, and the choices can be listed as

(a) A Chartered Account or Chartered Certified Accountant. These professional accountants will have needed to pass a fair number of exams and to do supervised training to get the qualification. They are subject to continuing supervision by their professional bodies. They also need to have Professional Indemnity Insurance. Qualified to prepare all types of account, including company accounts.

(b) A Chartered Tax Adviser. Has to pass difficult exams, have supervised training and carry insurance as in (a). Does not necessarily have any accountancy training. Many CTAs work alongside professional accountants.

(c) A Member of the Association of Accounting Technicians. There are many accounting technicians working in the offices of Chartered Accountants and Chartered Certified Accountants and doing a good job with the basic accounts of sole traders and partnerships. Sometimes the MAAT qualification is a stepping stone on the way to a professional qualification.

(d) Someone who has failed their exams for any of the above can still call themselves an accountant and engage in public practice. How will you know?

(e) Someone who has been struck off any of the above can still call themselves an accountant and engage in public practice. How will you know?

(f) Someone who flaunts lots of initials after their name, generally for organisations no one has ever heard of.

(g) There is still a residue of good unqualified accountants, some with plenty of experience of working for a qualified accountant. How will you know?

(h) A Chartered Certified Accountant who looks competent on the Internet. That’s a plug!

If you have a son or daughter who is considering a career in public practice, then the qualifications to consider are Member of the Association of Accounting Technicians or Member of the Association of Taxation Technicians in the first instance. Professional qualifications are Chartered Accountant, particularly if he or she wants to be an auditor, Chartered Certified Accountant for a more general-purpose qualification, or Chartered Tax Adviser for tax.

With my own Chartered Certified Accountant qualification and my interest in new technology, I am really part accountant and part production engineer. I want to use new technology to bash down production costs. The benefit can be shared out between cheaper accounts for my clients and more profit for me. If you want an accountant who is nothing like a production engineer, then don’t come to me!