When you are using professional services you expect all such professionals to be the same don’t you?  Did you know however that the word ‘accountant’ is not a protected label like ‘solicitor’ or ‘architect’. This means that anyone can call themselves an accountant when they have no real qualifications as you might expect an accountant to have nor do they belong to a regulator who will supervise their work.

Many such people are really book-keepers. If you need help maintaining ledgers to hand over to your accountant to submit your annual accounts then that is fine.  Book-keepers can be very useful particularly if you do not have a head for figures or have the time to keep on top of your paper work. They can also help with quarterly VAT returns and process staff wages for you.

However, for more challenging work and advice it is sensible to seek the assistance of a qualified accountant. In England there are several professional bodies to which qualified accountants can belong such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants or the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales. Such accountants will have professional qualification which is denoted by letters after their name such as ACA or FCA.

The benefits of using properly qualified accountants are immense. Their professional body regulates what they do and how they do it and if you are dissatisfied you can complaint to the professional body who will investigate your complaint. If the complaint is upheld the professional body can impose sanctions and discipline the accountancy firm.  Compensation can be awarded to the client and ultimately the accountant’s membership of the professional body can be revoked.

The high standards upheld by the professional bodies’ means that you have peace of mind that your accountant is highly qualified and professional and that you can resort to a process in the event that you are dissatisfied.

The alternative for an unqualified and unregulated accountant who has not acted in a professional manner causing you loss is for independent court proceedings to be brought against the accountant in negligence. It can be difficult to demonstrate that your unqualified accountant acted negligently as the standard by which they will be assessed is likely to be far lower than a properly qualified accountant.

You should therefore consider carefully what it is you want from your accountant or book keeper before choosing the right type of professional to instruct.

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