Market leading insight for tax experts
View online issue

Chartered accountants promoting aggressive tax avoidance 'could be struck off'

printer Mail

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) will consider whether accountants who run aggressive tax avoidance schemes should lose their practising certificate, the Daily Telegraph has reported. Frank Haskew, Head of the ICAEW Tax Faculty, told Tax Journal today that the ICAEW had not said that such a sanction should be imposed, but the possibility was ‘something that we need to look at’.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, was asked whether accountants should lose their right to practise in the same way that a drunk driver loses his licence, the paper reported today.
Gauke ‘said the comparison was an “interesting point”, stressing that the government wanted “to work closely with the professional organisations”’. Taking away the right to practise from accountants was an option for professional bodies.
The paper quoted Gauke as saying: ‘The attitudes of the professional bodies if you have people who are operating well below the standards one would expect of a professional, in those circumstances it may well be that some professional bodies will want to look at this.’
The ICAEW ‘welcomed’ the suggestion, according to the report. It quoted Frank Haskew as saying: ‘It is something that we will be looking at over the next few years. It is difficult to draw the line between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. It is not black and white.’
Haskew told Tax Journal that he could not forecast the outcome. But as a professional body the ICAEW had to recognise that the climate had been changing, and needed to respond.
Yesterday the ICAEW’s Chief Executive, Michael Izza, also noted that the tone of the debate on aggressive tax avoidance had changed. Writing on his Moorgate Place blog, Izza said: ‘Politicians are reflecting the views of wider society that such behaviour is not only unacceptable but needs to be stopped. As a profession, I believe we have a critical role to play. Our discussions with ministers and HMRC over the last week confirm that they do want to work with us on how this is taken forward.’
Izza was concerned that ‘ministers, in wanting to single out those advisers actively involved in promoting aggressive tax avoidance schemes, may taint our profession as a whole’.
Discussions in the last couple of weeks had made it clear, he said, that ‘the vast majority of ICAEW member firms don’t want to be involved with such practices’. They appreciated ‘how damaging the consequences of such schemes could be to their clients’ reputations and ultimately their own’ if HMRC took action against a scheme or launched a broader investigation.
Thiis news story was first published on 24 July 2012