Regulatory groups are important in any profession. Someone must make sure, for example, that people who call themselves lawyers are actually trained and qualified.  Someone must also make sure that professionals’ work is up to standard, and handle complaints when it is not.

This is doubly important for accountants, whose work with both public and private money makes ethical and competent work essential.

CIGMA Accounting is registered with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), which holds its members an international standard of excellent work and ethical practice. Our accountants specialise in management accounts and personal tax returns.

We believe small businesses can change the world, and love helping them work in the most tax-efficient way.

Who regulates accountants?

At the highest level, the accountancy profession is regulated by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). The FRC is an independent body that receives its power from the UK government.

However, the FRC does not deal with complaints about individual accountants. Rather, the FRC designates what are called ‘professional accountancy bodies’ to create standards and hold accountants to them.

The six chartered accountant bodies chosen by the FRC to oversee accountants are the following:

These accountancy bodies train accountants, run exams, and finally award qualifications. To call yourself a ‘chartered accountant’ in the UK, you must have a qualification from one of these bodies.

In addition, these bodies are responsible for handling complaints and disciplining accountants where needed. For example if an accountant holds an ACCA qualification, then they are a member of the ACCA and that is where you should direct a complaint.

Can I complain about an accounting firm?

Accountancy bodies like the ACCA and CIPFA are meant to oversee individual accountants that are part of their organisation. They are not responsible for handling complaints about an entire firm, except under specific circumstances.

Accountancy bodies will consider complaints against firms when it is about serious misconduct on the level of the whole organisation – such as money laundering. Complaints against firms may also be considered if the body has given the firm authorisation to perform auditing work.

What complaints will be considered?

Usually, these bodies will only consider complaints about a member’s conduct while they were providing accounting-related services. There are several valid reasons to complain about an accountant:

  • Poor quality of work / service.
  • Dishonest or misleading behaviour.
  • Breaching confidentiality.
  • Providing their services when there is a conflict of interest.
  • Making exaggerated claims.
  • Signing audit forms when they are not legally eligible to do so.

How do I submit a complaint?

Importantly, the FRC stresses that you should always reach out to the accountant or their firm first. The firm employs the accountant, and it is primarily their responsibility to handle any misconduct.

Professional bodies even provide standard forms online which you can use to submit your complaint to the accountant or their firm.

But if the accountant or firm has not resolved your complaint in four weeks, their professional body will take up the case. The bodies will each have their complaint forms online, along with instructions on how to submit them. Here are links to the complaints web pages for each of the accounting oversight bodies:

What complaints can bodies not investigate?

Accountancy bodies cannot handle complaints relating to an Insolvency Practitioner – for example a Trustee under a Trust Deed or a liquidator. You must submit your complaint to the Insolvency Service via its online complaint form.

The following kinds of complaints will also not be considered:

  • Ones that should have first been brought to accountant’s firm.
  • Complaints that do not involve the accountant providing accounting-related services.
  • Complaints made more than 12 months after the incident / reason for complaint.
  • Criminal offences, which should be taken to the police.
  • Fee amounts. Professional bodies do not set fees for accounting work, and they are considered a commercial matter.

If you’d like to learn more about the organisations that qualify and regulate accountants, have a look at this post. If you’re looking to avoid accountants and file your own taxes, check out this post about self-assessment. A reminder that soon you will have to use HMRC-approved software to submit self-assessments! You can learn about those here.

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