When choosing a contractor accountant, you need to be sure that the accountant you sign up with is professionally qualified to do the job, and that safeguards are in place just in case something goes wrong.
It may come as a surprise to learn that anyone call call themselves an ‘accountant’, as it is not a regulated word.
Membership of professional accountancy bodies is, however, regulated, and most contractor accountants are members of the main UK professional accountancy bodies.
Qualified accountants will hold practicing certificates to demonstrate their abilities and experience. They will be bound by a series of practicing standards, and should be covered by professional indemnity insurance in case mistakes are made.
The professional bodies will also deal with any complaints a client may have against a member firm, and have the power to discipline any firms which do not abide by their ethical codes.
What are the professional accountancy bodies in the UK?
A ‘chartered accountant’ is a member of the ICAEW (England and Wales), ICAS (Scotland) or CAI (Ireland)
A ‘chartered certified accountant’ is a member of the ACCA, and a ‘chartered management accountant’ will be a member of CIMA.
Only by passing a series of examinations, and having undertaken a specified amount of experience, can accountants become members of one of these professional bodies.
Contractor accountants, or their employees, may also possess technical qualifications which are governed by the professional accountancy bodies. These include AAT Technician and Certified Accounting Technician qualifications.
When choosing an accountant, you should ask prospective firms which accountancy body they are regulated by, if it is not already clear from reading the firms’ websites and brochures.
Unlike unregulated accountants, members of professional bodies are required to abide by a code of ethics. Should you have a complaint against your accountant in the future, you can take action via the professional body, via their dispute resolution processes.
Some contractor accountants are also members of the PCG’s accredited accountancy scheme. The scheme requires member firms to undergo extra training on industry-specific issues such as IR35 and income shifting, as well as passing a series of annual checks to provide contractors with extra reassurance. You can find out more about the PCG scheme here.
For more tips, read our guide to choosing a contractor accountancy firm.