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A SENIOR accountant has welcomed government plans to crack down on unscrupulous tax advisers.

Victoria Thompson, a chartered accountant at JF Hornby & Co believes the move will offer greater protection to members of the public.

Commenting on the recent announcement, she said: “I welcome the proposals from government; tougher legislation in the sector is something our managing director Paul Hornby has been calling for so this is welcome progress,” said Victoria.

Pleased: Victoria Thompson

“I’d like to see the introduction of a government-backed regulatory body that oversees tax advisors, holding them to account and ensuring they are operating within a set of tightly defined guidelines.”

A majority of the UK’s 85,000 tax advice firms are members of registered bodies such as the ICAEW, ACCA or Chartered Institute of Tax, and as such are bound by their codes of conduct. 

But almost anyone can provide tax advice with limited or no oversight and without being a member of a professional body. It is these practitioners in particular, that are now in sharp focus.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) launched a public consultation called “Strengthening the Regulatory Framework in the Tax Advice Market” as part of the Spring Budget. 

It aims to introduce significant measures to address the issue of unqualified individuals offering tax advice. The consultation invites feedback on various proposals to enhance the professionalism and standards within the tax advice sector.

Key areas of focus include the possibility of mandating membership in a recognised professional body for tax practitioners who charge for their services, ensuring adherence to high professional standards. 

The consultation will explore how professional bodies and the government can collaborate to elevate the quality of tax advisory services, determining which practitioners should fall within the ambit of these new requirements and which may be exempt

Announcing the crackdown, Nigel Huddleston, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “A minority of practitioners who are incompetent, unprofessional or unscrupulous who continue to operate, harming their clients and the public finances’.

“The government has taken recent action to tackle the most egregious behaviour in the market, particularly from promoters of tax avoidance and repayment agents, and has shifted power away from repayment agents back towards the taxpayer. But more needs to be done.”

MD Paul said: “Engaging with the right businesses and individuals will be crucial to the success of this process. There is huge value and insight to be added from all corners of this industry and I’m hopeful the government recognises this.

“We have to get to a point where this industry is properly regulated – in the way that lawyers and doctors are –  and every last cowboy is kicked out.”