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Minister: accountants regulated by professional organisations

The Treasury minister has said that accountants found recommending or participating in tax-avoidance schemes need to be regulated by their professional organisations when asked in a recent interview if these accountants should lose their right to practice.

David Gauke called it ‘interesting’ to compare an accountant caught red-handed to a convicted drink driver, implying that both may lose their right to participate in the activities that led to their ruin. However, the Government does not want to usurp the authority of any professional organisations that oversee the accountancy profession, the Treasury minister added, stating that professional bodies have the option of taking the right to practise away from accountants that fail to live up to the standards of a particular organisation.

It may very well come to be that the circumstances surrounding certain actions, such as participating in tax-avoidance schemes, are currently below the standards of a particular professional body, Mr Gauke said. In such an instance the expectation may indeed be to strip the accountant of his right to practise, a suggestion the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales welcomed.

The ICAEW’s tax faculty head, Frank Haskew, commented that removing the right to practise from accountants is something that the Institute will be examining over the coming years. With such a nuanced issue, it is highly difficult to look at it as simply black and white, Mr Haskew remarked, adding that it will take some time to draw the line between an acceptable consequence and an unacceptable one.

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