We live within a society that requires a multitude of professionals to prove that they are qualified to do the job, from gas engineers, electricians through to doctors.

In the case of many professions, for instance a gas engineer, they need to be registered with a professional body which ensures the engineers are up to date on current regulations, can be held accountable for any failures due to incompetency, and can help the end user meet the requirements of an insurance company.

Issues begin to arise where unqualified and unregistered members of the public, such as “cowboys” undertake the work, usually employed at a cheaper rate than qualified and registered members.

Accountancy is no different.

Much like other industries, the term “accountant” isn’t regulated, meaning that anyone would be able to call themselves an accountant, regardless of their qualifications.

However, unlike some of professions, rather than the “cowboy” accountant being held responsible for any mistakes, it is the client who would hold the responsibility. This could result in the HMRC imposing fines, penalties and at the very worst – a prison sentence.

How to know who is qualified?

Most qualified accountants or bookkeepers that practice within the UK will be members of one of the following bodies:

If you are looking to use a qualified tax professional, they should be members of the Chartered Institute of Taxation and will have the qualification of “Chartered Tax Adviser” (CTA). If they do not have this, they may be a professional who has completed the entry-level exams and will be a member of the Association of Taxation Technicians.

If you are unsure if your accountant, tax adviser or bookkeeper is qualified or registered, ask for their membership details and/or copies of their certificates.