Clients trust their accountants more than their partners

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Our survey for Accountable found that almost half of our survey respondents trust their accountant over their partner.

Research carried out for AAT this March found that 46% of people who employ an accountant or tax adviser trust that professional more than their own partner. Maybe that’s not so surprising given that 35% of respondents would not trust their partner with their bank information.

Broken trust

That’s a lot of responsibility to bear, and not all finance professionals are appropriate for the challenge they’re given. When choosing an accountant, cost was the most important factor (selected by 41% of respondents), over specialist knowledge (24%).

That may be a false economy given more than two-fifths (42%) of respondents reported losing money due to poor accounting. Separately, more than half (51%) had to hire another accountant to correct their previous adviser’s work. Amongst those who claimed to have suffered financial losses due to poor accounting, our research showed that self-employed individuals (39%) and those with a ‘side hustle’ (49%) are the most affected.

Regulation matters, too. Data from HMRC shows that one in three unregulated accountants (not members of a professional accountancy or taxation body) cause two-thirds of the complaints they receive about tax agents.

Members of professional bodies are both guided and held to account for their actions. For example, AAT imposed monetary fines amounting to £84,000 against 65 licensed members for anti-money laundering breaches in 2022. Of respondents, 35% checked their accountant’s qualifications before appointing them, suggesting some awareness of how important accountability is.

Building it back

These business risks are why we’re campaigning for accountable accountants. AAT is working with others across the profession to press the Government to take much-needed action, that will deliver greater confidence in those who employ financial advisers.

These findings underline the risks and higher costs businesses can face when appointing unqualified and unregulated advisers. Our survey has also shown that small businesses in particular are losing money through accounting errors. This is why AAT has repeatedly said the Government should legally require anyone offering paid-for tax or accountancy services to be a member of a professional body, as happens in other professions. This would provide much needed assurance to business owners that their accountant or tax adviser is suitably qualified and required to maintain their commitment to the highest standards of professionalism and ethical behaviour.

– Adam Harper, Director of Professional Standards & Policy at AAT

Pay off

At the other end of the spectrum, good practice makes a real difference. Of respondents, 70% agreed a qualified professional’s accounting had saved them money, pointing towards the benefits of a regulated industry.

Cat Hall is AAT Content Editor, members and technical .

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