Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Here Comes Economia

The ICAEW have recently announced the name of their new in house magazine that will replace "Accountancy".

It will be called Economia.


"As you may be aware, in February 2012 we are launching a new member magazine to replace accountancy as part of the annual ICAEW membership. The new all member magazine is called economia.

Why have we chosen the name economia?

This is the name of the figure at the heart of our logo who has represented ICAEW since its inception over a hundred years ago. She embodies the values of the profession which are so important to chartered accountants today. 

economia will reflect these values, providing the latest analysis and commentary on financial and accountancy news, essential technical updates and the most up-to-date business, management and economic trends. Plus, a whole lot more."

It is interesting to see that Wolters Kluwer have retained the brand name "Accountancy" for their magazine (which ICAEW members will have to pay for as from February 2012 if they still wish to receive it).

Christie Malry on FCAblog is worried about finding a decent URL, it seems the main ones are owned by non ICAEW organisations (why didn't the ICAEW check this first?).

I have checked and the Economia url is still available with the "xxx" adult extension, together with and

As tempted as I am to buy them up, this time I will let that opportunity pass:)

Oh what the hell, I can't resist, I have now bought!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Accountancy Asleep At The Wheel

Kudos to Christie Malry, of FCAblog, for highlighting Accountancy's faux pas over their article about Anton Colella being appointed CEO of ICAS.

As Christie points out, Anton has been CEO of ICAS since 2006.

I dare say that Accountancy may not be delighted to have this error so publicly pointed out, and could possibly strike Christie from their subscription list.

Oh, hang on a minute, Accountancy will be charging for their services next year (as the ICAEW has parted ways with them). Therefore it is up to Christie and others as to whether they choose to continue to subscribe to the magazine (£79.20 per annum), and/or pay the absurd charge of £239 for access to their website.

Can you guess what they will choose to do children?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

ICAEW's "Special Relationship" With HMRC

In October I wrote on my HMRC site about the ICAEW's and HMRC's appeal for tax agent firms to allow HMRC to come and see how things are done at the coal face:

"Michael Izza, the CEO of the ICAEW, has issued a public call for tax agent firms to allow HMRC staff to come and see what it is like at the "coal face" and visit the firms to observe procedures etc. HMRC have assured the ICAEW that there are no risks to the firms (or the clients of the firms) if they allow HMRC staff to come and visit."

Later, that same month, I quoted Clapser:

"HMRC has committed to a big challenge. However, improvements can only be made with the input of the profession and it is therefore important that firms come forward to volunteer to host HMRC staff. Council members are strongly encouraged to do so, and take their opportunity to share their experiences."

I then stated:

"I would note one thing, not everyone is of the view that there is such a cosy relationship between HMRC and the profession.

Anthony Thomas, President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), recently debunked the nonsense that there is a "special relationship" between HMRC and the professional bodies, calling it a "myth" (akin to that "relationship" between the UK and US governments).

This view may ruffle a few feathers over at the ICAEW, where Michael Izza (the CEO) claims that "we (the ICAEW) now have a partnership with HMRC".
Moving forward to the present, I was more than gemused to read on Nichola Ross Martin's site that the "visit the coalface" idea has been done before (even to the extent of visiting the very same tax agent!).
Ironically, neither HMRC or the ICAEW seem to remember this!
Here is Nichola's article in full, in the hope that it jogs the memories of both HMRC and ICAEW.
"We have a case of déjà vu: as part of the latest Agent Strategy HMRC are visiting firms to see what it is really like in practice. Hold on, hasn't that been tried already? Read on and see if you can spot the difference.

In 2008 HMRC director’s general of business tax – Melanie Dawes visited West Country firm A C Mole and Sons to “see what it is like for us - and experience the practical effects of HMRC's Change Programme as we do…” Paul Aplin, a partner in the firm and chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Tax Faculty enthused on his blog “I think that it completely changed the way she viewed our issues.”

Roll on three years, we now learn that HMRC’s director general of personal tax – Stephen Banyard, has just returned from a visit to... West Country firm A C Mole and Sons, speaking to staff and receiving feedback. Paul Aplin, a partner in the firm but now ex-chairman of the ICAEW Tax Faculty reports, “I think he went away with a better understanding of the problems we encounter.”

So, assuming that Mr Banyard has not taken a leaf out of his boss’ book (Dave Hartnett, “the most wined and dined mandarin of Whitehall”) and was not really taking the opportunity for a day out of London sampling local cuisine, we must conclude that the visit was really useful. Sad to say that judging by the effect that Ms Dawes previous visit seems to have had it is unlikely to create any noticeable changes for tax agents. We all agree that service levels and standards have spiralled into a lamentable decline in the past three years.

Probably the most embarrassing thing for both HMRC and the ICAEW is that three years ago after the Dawes' visit, Paul had also managed to tete a tete with HMRC's Chairman Mike Clasper. ”When I met Mike Clasper, last week I told him what it was like at the coalface - the wasted time dealing with piles of incorrect PAYE coding notices and the frustration and embarrassment caused by incorrect penalty notices…We spoke one to one - no officials present - for almost an hour and a half and I felt that I received a fair hearing…”

Not that any of what happened three years ago appears to have had any effect on service standards or agent relationships.

The acid test is probably whether members of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) who are investigating the rolling saga of the combination of HMRC’s Permanent Secretary’s blunders with large business, together with HMRC's value for money and falling service standards will take heed and give Mr Clasper a prod. Why on earth do a one to one with the ICAEW's top tax man and do nothing?

It is of course too late to ask Melanie Dawes, she has now jumped ship to the Cabinet Office following a previous grilling by the PAC in September. Mike Norgrave has just been appointed to take her place, obviously, he cannot be held accountable."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ICAS Unveils New Website and Logo

ICAS has unveiled a new website and logo, four coloured circles, with an emphasis on the "CA" part of ICAS (ICAEW take note!), as part of a rebranding exercise, in order to increase engagement and improve communications with members.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Road To Nowhere

As noted on this site in July, the ICAEW is parting company with CCH wrt publishing a monthly magazine for its membership and will use another publishing house.

As from February 2012 Accountancy (as published by CCH) will be subject to a number of changes:

- Instead of being free to all ICAEW members, Accountancy will be £79.20 per annum (£99 to non-members)

- The previously free Accountancy website will now only be available for an annual subscription of £239

- The website address has switched from to
Given that ICAEW members resent having to pay (within their subscriptions) for a magazine that is invariably binned still in its shrink wrap cover, I cannot see that they will be prepared to stump up an extra £79.20 per annum for another magazine covering the same issues that their new Institute magazine will presumably cover.

As for charging £239 to access the website, well that's just daft!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Carry On CCAB II - The Cost

Accountancy Age reports that cost the changeover from "old" CCAB to "new" CCAB, as the previous corporate structure was liquidated by KPMG, was £10K.

Given that CCAB have not issued a press release since 2009, was this really worth it?

Carry On CCAB

Accountancy Age reports that the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB) will continue operate without CIMA.

The ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS, CIPFA and Chartered Accountants Ireland will remain in it.

As I noted in March 2011 CCAB has been rather quiet,  not having issued a press release since 2009; yet still charging fees to its members!

However, Michael Izza (CEO of the ICAEW and CCAB secretary) has stated that it will "provide a unified voice on matters of common interest" he went on to say that the the institutes took a "hard look" at whether it was worth continuing as the CCAB.

"Having soul-searched, we decided to carry on."

Does this mean the same frequency of press releases?

Monday, October 24, 2011

HMRC's Clasper at Council

Mike Clasper (Chairman of HMRC) recently visited ICAEW Council.

Here is a summary of what he said (source ICAEW):

hmrc service standards and tax agent strategy
HMRC’s Chairman, Mike Clasper, and Brian Redford, Deputy Director, Business Customer & Strategy, attended the October Council meeting to discuss service standards and the recently published consultation on Tax Agent Strategy.

The decline in service standards is one of the biggest concerns currently being mentioned by the ICAEW membership. Following a highly critical report by the Treasury Select Committee published in July 2011, a meeting was held in September 2011 between HMRC’s senior management and the professional bodies and various charities to discuss what should be done to help make improvements. It was chaired by Mike Clasper and following the meeting a joint statement was published, setting out plans for HMRC to work with the professions and charities to make improvements. Tax Agents have a critical role to play and need a strong relationship with HMRC. At the moment there is a lack of trust that needs to be addressed.

There is understandable concern that promises have been made in the past to improve service standards but they have not been realised. However, the joint statement marks a turning point and shows that HMRC has picked up the challenge issued by the Treasury Select Committee to work with the profession to make improvements.

The biggest problems highlighted are post and telephone handling. The challenge for HMRC and the profession is to jointly understand the nature of the problem, develop solutions to improve the service and find performance measures that accurately reflect the customer experience.

In the past, there have been different views as to how HMRC should recognise agents, with some feeling that the focus of attention should be on the tax payer. HMRC are now clear that strategically the role of the agent should be recognised in addition to the role played by the customer and there is a genuine intention on the part of HMRC to improve relationships with agents.

With the launch of HMRC in 2005, there was a loss of confidence in the organisation from customers as it was felt that it did not have a clear customer centric focus. The foundations for the merger were solid enough. It offered one tax authority for business which is a huge enabler for a customer-centric organisation, a system of dealing with large businesses that is globally competitive and a vast amount of knowledge about tax payers. However, the merger did not fully resolve the cultural differences between the two organisations and needed to deliver efficiency savings at the same time as facilitating a smooth transition from a local to a national organisation.

Following the merger, HMRC’s strategic objectives included:

-       Closing the tax gap
-       Focusing on the customer experience
-       Providing value for money
-       Operating with professionalism

In the 2010 spending review, along with all government departments HMRC was charged with cutting costs by a further 25%, but reinvestment back into HMRC was agreed with a primary focus on closing the tax gap and improving compliance.
In order to achieve HMRC’s strategic goals, there has to be a balance between three key and often conflicting aims:

1.    The tax has to be collected
2.    The customer experience has to be good
3.    HMRC has to be efficient

2010 – A difficult year

Mike acknowledged that 2010 was a difficult year and had said so on the record, but that it had to be seen in context. For HMRC employees, existing systems and processes were becoming outmoded and as configured were not able to provide a single view of a PAYE customer on its systems and this required expensive manual intervention. The system designed to support PAYE was based on 13 regionally defined databases meaning that some people had several records, some of which had not been linked and led to bad data quality and inconsistency. Working with this dated system, people developed ways of getting the right result without inputting the right data which led to further problems. HMRC underestimated the problems that would arise in the move to the new national PAYE system (NPS) and the resources that were needed to tackle them. These problems were only made worse by the resulting high volume of telephone calls that taxpayers and agents made to HMRC.

A related problem was the growing backlog for reconciling PAYE exceptions, which by 2010 had reached 23 million open cases, a problem that dated back to 1983. It was proving impossible to tackle this backlog with the existing systems.

The current situation

Mike explained that over the last few months there had been a considerable turnaround in performance and customers were starting to see the benefits of the NPS investment and other operational changes. Customer contact has improved. This year 70% of calls, on average, are answered within 40 seconds which is a massive improvement on the previous year.

Postal response times are the best they have been since the merger. The average is less than 15 days – calculated from the day the post arrives at HMRC through to when it is posted on HMRC’s system and a response sent. However, Mike accepted that this is not translating to the customer experience and this needs to be addressed. HMRC is also working with its mail partners, Fujitsu and Royal Mail, to cut delays once correspondence leaves HRMC.  But Mike acknowledged that there is more to do in improving the customer experience.

Internally, work is being done to improve professionalism and quality. Training and development is an essential part of this. HMRC is supporting professionalism through the establishment of ‘The Tax Academy’, accredited by Manchester Metropolitan University. This year, some 200 members of staff will commence their training through the academy for full technical training, although it is acknowledged that a wider section of the workforce will undertake other training and continuing professional development.  HMRC recognise some 18,000 members of staff as tax professionals.

Teams have been empowered to improve their own processes through ‘Pacesetter’ methodology and already an improvement in productivity of up to 60% has been seen in some areas.

Work is also being done to cut down on the organisation’s hierarchy. There have been up to 14 approval levels, from frontline staff up to CEO. By March next year there will be no more than eight. The top four tiers of the organisation have also been reviewed. 45% of jobs have been competed with a number filled externally to revitalise the structure and overall numbers reduced.

Up to 8,000 members of staff are also moving from processing to compliance roles in the coming years, which will help to balance the three requirements to achieving strategic goals.

On the performance challenge, HMRC staff members have received the training needed to enable them to go out and observe Tax Agents in their own firms to get a first-hand view of the problems that they are experiencing. HMRC now needs the profession to volunteer to host their staff and help improve standards. At the moment, it was proving difficult to recruit volunteer firms and Mike requested that ICAEW did all they could to promote this initiative. Since the Council meeting a significant number of  ICAEW members and others have stepped forward and the visits are will commence as planned.

Tax Agent Strategy
Allowing agents to ‘self serve’ through an online system should improve the process. By enrolling and understanding the business profiles of tax agents, it will be possible to tailor communication and support.

Through this system, HMRC will now be able to look at all interactions with agents. If there are consistent problems, they can then work with the agents to make improvements, a mutually beneficial process.
HMRC has committed to a big challenge. However, improvements can only be made with the input of the profession and it is therefore important that firms come forward to volunteer to host HMRC staff. Council members are strongly encouraged to do so, and take their opportunity to share their experiences.
For further information, please contact Frank Haskew, Head of the Tax Faculty,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Alliance

Congratulations to Anton Colella, the Chief Executive of ICAS, who has been elected Chair of the Global Accounting Alliance (the umbrella body which represents more than 775,000 accountants around the world).

Anton takes up the two-year non-executive position from November.

As I noted back in April 2006, the GAA proves that ICAS and ICAEW can work together!

I also noted the following:

"If you look up the registration of, you will see that it was registered on 15th September 2005 by the ICAEW.

This was before the merger motion was defeated in October 2005. This implies that the wheels were already in motion for the creation of the GAA.

Why then, if the ICAEW was working towards a global alliance at that stage, did they persist in telling the members that the most effective way of making our voice heard on the world/national stage was via merging with CIMA/CIPFA?

FYI, I have registered in my name, and will ensure that it redirects to this site in the next 48 hours

Note, for reasons best known the the GAA and the ICAEW, the website leads nowhere now  (even though it is still owned by the ICAEW).

Why is that then?

Details about the appointment (below) are provided by ICAS:

The Global Accounting Alliance (GAA) is an alliance of leading professional accountancy bodies. It was created to promote quality services, share information and collaborate on international issues. The GAA works with national regulators, governments and stakeholders to take a global lead for the profession. It is headquartered in Sydney.
The GAA operates in around 165 countries. Its members are The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA)
Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA)
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA)
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
Chartered Accountants Ireland (ICAI)
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
The Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (JICPA)
New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA)
South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA)
Institut der Wirtschaftsprüfer in Deutschland e.V. (IDW)

Anton Colella said, "It is a great honour to be appointed as Chair of such a prestigious global body, representing more than three quarters of a million accountants.  This is an interesting and pivotal time for the accountancy profession.  ICAS and the other 10 membership bodies of the GAA collaborate closely to ensure we speak together and are a leading voice on the key international issues that surround our profession.  The shared expertise of the GAA is a gateway for accountants to grow and develop in what is becoming one of the first professions to be truly global.

Anton was appointed Chief Executive of ICAS in 2006. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ruffling Feathers

Anthony Thomas, President of CIOT, may well have ruffled some feathers over at the ICAEW when he recently debunked the nonsense that there is a "special relationship" between HMRC and the professional bodies. He called it a "myth", akin to that "relationship" between the UK and US governments.

Over at the ICAEW, Michael Izza (the CEO) recently stated that "we (the ICAEW) now have a partnership with HMRC".

So, who is right?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Visit the ICAEW's Community page on Ethics.

As at the time of writing there were zero posts/comments!

'Nuff said!

Hat tip to Dennis Howlett for pointing that out.

This reminds me of an article about Ethics that I published in 2005.

Newsflash Ethics Coming Soon To ICAEW :)

In my haste to set up the ethics blog, created the category before the blog was ready. It's coming soon

Monday, October 03, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ICAEW Awarded Carbon Trust Standard

ICAEW has been awarded the Carbon Trust Standard, and is the first professional accountancy body to achieve this certification.

"The Carbon Trust standard was achieved following a programme of recording, measuring, and managing ICAEW’s carbon emissions each year between April 2008 – March 2011.

As part of our programme ICAEW installed new lighting systems, controlled by movement sensors, developed a system of switching off plant and equipment during non-operational hours and installed energy efficient water cooling equipment.  These changes on both ICAEW sites in the City of London and in Milton Keynes ensured the right carbon outputs for certification."

I trust that it was time and money well spent, as the Taxpayers' Alliance was of the view last year that the Carbon Trust should be shut down; as their letter (29 September 2010) to Chris Hune clearly states:

"Dear Mr. Huhne,

It has been reported that the Carbon Trust is under review and could be abolished. At the TaxPayers’ Alliance, we’ve done a lot of work on how to deliver spending cuts. Your department needs to find considerable savings and we feel that around £100 million that could be saved by abolishing the Carbon Trust should be one of them for a number of reasons.

The Carbon Trust doesn’t address a genuine market failure. If large businesses can genuinely save money by cutting their energy use, then they have an incentive to do so. Particularly with other policies – such as the Renewables Obligation – increasing energy prices and the introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment. If they need external advice to achieve that result, they can pay for it instead of taking money from ordinary taxpayers.

The quality of their advice is suspect. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, recognised as a pioneer for their energy saving work, felt that the advice they received was not reliable. The minutes of their Sustainability Panel record that:

“The Chairman went onto explain that he felt the Council had been sold a wonderful idea but that only a third of the predictions were going to occur which he felt boiled down to the original plan being wildly optimistic.”

The organisation is unaccountable and inscrutable. As the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Carbon Trust, taxpayers cannot find out how their money is spent. Staff remuneration is high. Their Chief Executive Tom Delay received remuneration of £237,797 in 2008-09. It is difficult to tell how many staff at the organisation receive high pay thanks to its complicated structure.

Three executive partners who manage investment funds for the Carbon Trust at the organisation’s investment management arm CT Investment Partners LLP (Peter Linthwaite, Jonathan Bryers and Adam Workman) appear to be very generously compensated. They paid £50,000 initially for their share in CT Investment Partners LLP and – between the three of them – are now getting £380,000
a year in profit in fees from the Carbon Trust. They work out of the same office and the National Audit Office has raised concerns at potential conflicts of interest, saying that there “is a risk that CAT Investment Partners staff could influence publicly funded research and development or incubator support for emerging businesses that they, in time, may back by way of investment and thus from which they may earn carried interest”.

The Carbon Trust has even expanded to other countries, as if it were a multinational company, through its Carbon Trust International programme. In August 2009 they were advertising for a Head of Carbon Trust USA position. They are working to promote the creation of similar organisations in other countries. This is clearly an inappropriate use of British taxpayers’ money.

The Carbon Trust is therefore subject to considerable mission creep, its main work does not address an actual market failure, it is extremely generous in how it remunerates its staff and fails to match up to the principles of transparency and accountability articulated by the Government. While it is possible to conceive of reforms that might improve the organisation, the best way of securing value for taxpayers is to abolish it outright.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Sinclair
TaxPayers’ Alliance

Here's what the FCAblog thinks of this absurd waste of time and money:

"Er, wtf mates? Could you maybe go for a Plain English Standard next time, because that's the biggest load of management-speak cobblers I've ever read. "Quantify our footprint"? "Benchmark our performance"? This is obfuscation of the highest order.

If you really want to know what this all means, there's some documentation over at the Carbon Trust's website, including the full standard. Basically, ICAEW is using less carbon than it was in 2008. But carbon measurement is a curious science. For example, the graph of carbon emissions by country says that China is the 'worst' emitter. Yet most of China's emissions relate to production of goods which are then consumed elsewhere in the world. So while Brits throw lots of shit away, China gets the blame for it, carbon-wise. And the other big scam is carbon offsets, where you pay someone who might pollute to not pollute, so that you can instead. It's the discredited system of indulgences, reinvented for the 21st century.

Of course, saving money is A Good Thing. So why not just say that that's what they're doing - they're turning lights and the air conditioning off at Moorgate Place because it means the subscription won't have to go up as much next year? I'm sure members would love that. 

One can only hope that more will be made clear when ICAEW publishes its annual review in spring next year. In the mean time, if you want to undertake a futile gesture, you can always 'vote down' the article on ICAEW's website. Go on, you know you want to..."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Diluting The Brand Via The Back Door

The ICAEW has announced plans to work more closely with the Institute of Certified Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The MoU enables qualified ICPAK members to apply for ICAEW membership subject to certain requirements, which include passing ICAEW’s Advanced Stage examinations and attaining a period of work experience with an ICAEW Authorised Training Employer.

ICAEW members can apply for ICPAK membership subject to passing Kenya tax and law papers delivered by Kenya Accountants and Secretaries National Board.

It seems that the ICAEW is intent on growth by numbers, irrespective of the fact that the method chosen dilutes the brand.

Friday, September 16, 2011

HMRC Service Delivery - The Coal Face

I have asked for views from the coal face (HMRC staff) as to the likelihood of the Joint Statement on Service Levels achieving anything.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

HMRC Service Delivery

Michael Izza (CEO of the ICAEW) has expressed hope that HMRC's commitment (yet another in a series of promises, previous ones having been broken) to improving its service levels will actually come to fruition this time.

He writes:

"HMRC has made similar promises in the past to tackle service issues yet have failed to deliver. 

I believe this time will be different. 

Thanks in no small part to the role played by our Tax Faculty and in particular, Paul Aplin, chair of its technical committee, we now have a partnership with HMRC and a very public commitment from the very top to a way forward which will help turn things around."

I don't discredit Michael for his optimism.

However, I do not share it.

Regular readers of my site can attest to the fact that HMRC is in fact heading for meltdown, and will not be in a position to make good on its promises.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Topless Accounting

Washington State accounting firm Schuyler, Fishbein and Kleinwort have decided to market their business by having their female accountants give clients topless sessions for an extra $50 per hour plus tips.

That is 50% higher than normal hourly rate of $100, seemingly some clients have been willing to pay for the extra service.

I can't see the ICAEW endorsing that approach to marketing here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

ICAEW News Makeover

ICAEW News (nee "Stop The Merger") has been given a much needed makeover.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Accountant's Song

A little light relief for the Bank Holiday weekend!

My thanks to Pete McLaren for giving me permission to reproduce "The Accountant's Song" from his site Idiot Husband's Blog.

The following words fit to Lily Allen’s – The Fear

The Accountant's Song

I’ve passed my exams and I’m now fully ready,
To be an accountant but I’ll keep things quite steady.
I’ll wear business clothes and do things right and proper
I’ll follow procedures to avoid a show stopper.

I’ll keep to the budget, I won’t take forever,
I’ll not use a taxi, I’ll walk in all weather
I’ll hand in reports and my boss will just love them
I’ll bend over backwards for clients to help them.

John Majors my hero, he’s so cool.
He left the circus he’s no fool
He’s an accountant, he’s a, star
He chose the best profession by, far.

At the weekend I’ll go out let my hair down,
I’ll hit the clubs with my friends when we’re in town
I’ll put on my make-up, make sure not to smudge it,
And of course when I’m out I’ll stay well within budget.

Some of my friends think accountings a bit sad,
They’re talking stupid, according to my Dad.
He says they know nothing and they spend too much money.
When their card bill comes in, that’s when they start to worry.

I know what’s right and what’s wrong,
Accounting is where I belong
When will my friends see the light?
Agree that I’ve got things right.

There are times when I dream about fast cars,
Or of living the life of those Hollywood film stars.
But I’m an accountant and I earn not bad money,
In the summer I might go somewhere quite sunny.

I’m an accountant, I do my best, all the time.
I’m ambitious which is not a crime.
My partners an accountant too
Being an accountant could be right for you

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Running Scared II - A Question of Ethics

Further to my earlier article today about the dispute between Mike Pallot and the ICAEW.

It seems that the ICAEW managed to pay Mr Pallot the £1500 twice by mistake.

Fortunately for the ICAEW (which did so much to block Mr Pallot receiving a refund), Mr Pallot is ethical and told them that they had paid him twice!

Ethics should of course work both ways, so I look forward to hearing that the ICAEW has told all the members who are overpaying their subs that they are entitled to a refund and that their subs have been reduced accordingly to suit their circumstances.

Running Scared

Accountancy Age report a rather interesting story about a long running and acrimonious dispute between Mike Pallot (a retired PwC senior partner) and the ICAEW.

Mr Pallot was awarded £1,500 against the institute in a small claims court for overpaid subscriptions. He successfully argued that the ICAEW's subscription notices failed to make it clear that he was due a reduced subscription due to his retirement.

He is quoted:

"The ICAEW certainly seems to have gone to great lengths not to set a precedent by refunding me the amounts I paid as a result of what I see as a clear lack of transparency on its part, although I am at a loss to understand why it didn't seek to settle my claim in a sensible way before the matter reached court."

The case, and the fact that the ICAEW went to so much trouble to try to avoid setting a precedent, gives rise to a number of questions:

1 Why did the ICAEW not simply settle out of court?

2 Why did the ICAEW waste so much time and money on trying to prevent the claim succeeding?

3 How much money did the ICAEW waste by being so intransigent?

4 What is the potential liability facing the ICAEW from back claims made by retired members, and others (eg unemployed), who now realise that they have been overpaying their subscriptions?

5 If the ICAEW knows the answer to 3, why hasn't it done the ethical thing and alerted the members who have overpaid that they are owed a rebate and that they are overpaying their subs?

It seems to me that the ICAEW is running scared, I advise all members to double check their subscriptions.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Accountancy Parts Ways With ICAEW

Accountancy Magazine have announced that they will relaunch the magazine in January 2012 to widen access to accounting and finance professionals, and that the 10 year contract with the ICAEW will end.

Cathy Wolfe, CEO of Wolters Kluwer UK, says:

"The strong growth of Wolters Kluwer's digital publishing means that we see a great future for Accountancy magazine on multiple platforms. We plan to take the journal in new directions, to meet the evolving needs of accountants and a wider group of finance professionals.

The relaunch will follow the ending of the current 10-year contract under which Accountancy has been published by CCH as the official journal of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. This publishing association is ending by mutual agreement, allowing Wolters Kluwer and ICAEW each to pursue their respective publishing plans.

At the same time, Wolters Kluwer is in discussion with ICAEW to identify areas where we will continue to work together.

This gives rise to a few interesting questions:

1 Given that the magazine will no longer be the official journal of the ICAEW, may we now expect more critical articles about the the ICAEW as from next year?

2 Does this mean that the ICAEW members will no longer be forced to pay for the magazine, and may in fact have their annual subscriptions reduced? I guarantee we will see no reduction in membership subscriptions (even if the magazine is no longer sent out to the membership)!

3 Are the ICAEW going to launch their own magazine, if so at what cost to the membership?

Re questions 2 & 3, here is part of the answer (as per the ICAEW site)

"From February 2012, PCP will take over a suite of existing ICAEW communications reaching over 156,000 members and students in the UK and internationally. PCP will build a significant publishing team that will be responsible for eight different member and student magazines and linked website channels. As part of the agreement, PCP will also be launching a new magazine, in print, digital and online formats, that will be provided free of charge to ICAEW Chartered Accountants, students and affiliates.

Robin Fieth, Executive Director of ICAEW said “Our tender process began at the end of 2010 and involved many leading publishing groups and customer publishing agencies. PCP offered us a unique and innovative solution to develop our publications in a way that will help drive forward our brand and reinforce ICAEW as a world leader of the accountancy and finance profession – they were a natural agency to partner with.”

Dan Davey, Managing Director of PCP said “To win a long-term, multi-million pound contract with a superbrand such as ICAEW in our first year is testament to the unparalleled opportunity that we, as part of the Progressive group of companies, can offer clients. It was clear right from the start of the tender process that ICAEW and PCP, together, could build a market-leading proposition that will set a new standard in business-to-business and membership communication.

Factoid: The new magazine is not "free" (despite what the ICAEW says), the costs of publication and delivery are built into the annual ICAEW subscription (whether or not the member actually wants the magazine).

It will be interesting to see if the new magazine suffers the same fate as Accountancy currently suffers in the hands of many of the members of the ICAEW, namely being cast into the bin still in its plastic wrapper.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Breaking Ranks?

Citywire reports that the ICAEW plans to "break ranks" with fellow accredited bodies and offer statements of professional standing (SPS) to advisers who make a one-off payment rather than requiring them to join as members.

The ICAEW has applied to be an accredited body, and expects to be approved by the Financial Services Authority in December 2011.

Other accredited bodies, such as the Institute of Financial Planning and Chartered Insurance Institute, want advisers to be members in order to be issued with a SPS.

Vernon Soare, ICAEW executive director of professional standards, said:

"They won't have to be a member.

They just need to register with an accredited body, they pay a registration fee and we do a review of continual professional development.

The proposal has generated a fair amount of heated "debate".

However, so long as the ICAEW's "certification process" does not get dragged through the mud by a conman (a certificate does not make a man/woman a "professional"), it does not seem to be an unreasonable proposal.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Anal Issues

Accountancy Age reports that Alan Livesey, an ex ICAEW Scottish council member, is none too happy with the ICAEW over rules "fudging" at the recent elections.

The ICAEW is trying to ditch its "boring Blighty" connections/brand, by growing internationally (coming soon a motion to change the name). As such council composition has been changed, and the number of reps from UK constituencies cut (eg Scotland lost one of its two council members - can you guess who?).

Note: does anyone not see the irony that the "English" Institute has Scottish councillors, given that the "English" Institute once rejected a merger with its Scottish brethren and vice versa?

Anyhoo, it seems that "technical errors" meant that the required period between voting and Tuesday's AGM (constitutionally set at 14 days) was breached, forcing an emergency suspension of election rules.

This was approved by the majority of council members. However, Livesey argues:

"There appears to be one set of rules for the masses and another, seemingly unchangeable set of rules for the institute."

All very "anal" maybe, but it rather misses the point.

As long as the ICAEW claims to be the "English" Institute, it should not bring in non institute members to council without first clarifying to its main membership why international growth is to the benefit (as opposed cost) of its members and brand value of its qualification.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

ICAEW News Launched

ICAEW News launched today, a daily digest of news and comment from/relating to the ICAEW.

Not officially endorsed by the ICAEW.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Exit Edward The Accountant

The early departure of Edward Hunter (the accountant) from episode one of The Apprentice may, on the face of it, disappoint those in the profession.

However, it should be noted that Edward (for reasons best known to himself) neither used any of his accounting skills, nor did he profess any "regard" or "self esteem" for being an accountant.

Not everyone is suited to the profession.

However, to reject the skills and knowledge garnered from years' of hard work and exams is surely akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water?

Like it or loath it, if you have managed to qualify as an accountant then use those skills and knowledge to your best advantage.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pension Deficit

In 2009 I wrote about the ICAEW's defined benefit pension scheme:

"The ICAEW have finally realised that the current arrangement, whereby subscriptions are increased each year to fund the pension black hole, is unsustainable. Therefore the ICAEW is going to cancel the final salary (defined benefit) pension scheme (closed to new members since 2000) next year (ie 2010)."

I noted then that the scheme had a £19M deficit.

Today Accountancy Age reports that the defined benefits pension scheme, which was closed on 30 June 2010, is expected to show a £22.6M deficit as of 31 March 2010 following the completion of an actuarial valuation.

It seems that funding contributions of £6M a year for three years, followed by £3.5M a year, will be made until the deficit is eliminated.

It is reasonable to assume that the long suffering members of the ICAEW will be expected to pay increased subscriptions to cover these funding contributions.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Global Ambitions Chinese Whispers

The dangers of the ICAEW's global ambitions are revealed by a question posed at the ICAEW council meeting by Alan Livesey.

Accountancy Age report that he raised the problem of students in China (where the ICAEW has recently opened a new office, to great fanfare) passing their exams without ever having paid their membership.

The institute's board was taken aback by the suggestion, and promised to investigate.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Global Ambitions - The ICAEW Looks East

The ICAEW's ambitions know no bounds (internatioanlly at least).

Accountancy Age reports that the ICAEW has opened a new office in Beijing, in order to extend its reach in China and Hong Kong.

I wonder how much this office and its staff will cost the membership?

Come to think of it, why does the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England Wales need an office in China?

Whilst people ponder those two questions, Accountancy Age goes on to report that Douglas Lau (regional director of the ICAEW in greater China) will head up the new office.

Factoid: The ICAEW has 200 members in mainland China and around 3,000 in Hong Kong.

As part of the ambition to grow its membership (its attempt to do so by merging with CIPFA et al was thwarted in the UK) the ICAEW will work with the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, with which it has signed memorandums of understanding.

There's irony for you!

It would seem that the article I wrote in October 2010, about ICAEW's ambitins in Sri Lanka, is also applicable to the Chinese venture:

"Global ambitions are all well and good. However, care needs to be paid by the ICAEW to ensure:

1 That any inter institute membership, if it occurs, will be structured in such a way as to ensure that the brand value of the ICAEW qualification will not be diluted.

2 That, given the recession and high cost of subscriptions, UK members' subscriptions are not frittered away on global ambitions that have little relevance to the UK membership.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Global Ambition II - Are ICASL and ICAEW About To Merge?

In October 2010 the ICAEW and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICASL) signed an MoU designed to establish closer working relationships.

I noted the following at the time:

"Global ambitions are all well and good. However, care needs to be paid by the ICAEW to ensure:

1 That any inter institute membership, if it occurs, will be structured in such a way as to ensure that the brand value of the ICAEW qualification will not be diluted.

2 That, given the recession and high cost of subscriptions, UK members' subscriptions are not frittered away on global ambitions that have little relevance to the UK membership.

I see that according to the Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka:

"Justin West, ICAEW’s Head of New Business Opportunities declared that the two institutes were looking at going beyond exchanging membership and was seriously focusing how the two institutes can share talent, ideas and technical expertise which will help take the profession forward.

In a detailed presentation, West who articulated the international recognition possessed by ICAEW and thereby the benefits that members can enjoy with an ICAEW membership, disclosed that within the next six months, both Institutes will make an announcement on the tangible benefits that its members can enjoy which would help in the further development of their professional goals.

I also note that ICAEW has extended the fee waiver, valued at £900, offered to all ICASL members until September 2011 who wish to join ICAEW.

Are ICASL and ICAEW about to merge?

My comments made in October 2010 stand.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Average Salaries £82,400?

According to the survey carried out by the ICAEW and Robert Half, the average salary of an ACA is £82,400 and the average bonus is £17,400.

Am I alone in thinking that these numbers seem to be on the high side?

Who actually has time to complete these surveys?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Why Do We Pay Fees To CCAB?

It seems that, if Accountancy Age is correct, CIMA left CCAB because they feel that the fees charged to belong to CCAB were disproportionately high.

"CIMA explained that its members were paying a "hugely disproportionate amount" towards the body. However, CIMA's request to renegotiate the fee structure through an arbitrator was turned down by the other institutes: the ICAEW; ACCA; ICAS; ICAI; and CIPFA.

Given that CCAB appears to have done nothing (that it is proud to tell the world about) since December 2009, CIMA may well have a point about the fees.

What exactly are the members of the five remaining professional bodies paying their fees to CIMA for?

CIMA Displeased

Accountancy Age reports that CIMA are less than pleased with CCAB's decision to announce that CIMA were leaving, without first running that announcement past them:

"However, TS gathers that the CIMA bods were none-too-impressed at the CCAB press release announcing that the institute had buggered off.

With CIMA still technically a member of the CCAB (which will be reformed under a different moniker), the institute was 'very surprised' that the notice went out without its prior knowledge or signoff, catching them on the hop.

An administrative oversight surely, or the CCAB members making it clear that CIMA aren't part of the gang any more and can't have it both ways?

Stand by for this to heat up.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Have CIMA Shot Themselves In The Foot?

Following the announcement by CIMA that they are to leave the seemingly moribund CCAB, there have been a number of comments posted on Accounting Web by members of CIMA.

Aside from the issue that none of them were consulted over this move, there is also the valid point being made that many accounting jobs require a CCAB qualification.

Now that CIMA have removed themselves from CCAB, does this not put their members at a disadvantage?

Have CIMA by their actions damaged their brand and made themselves and their members a lesser body or, does CIMA know that CCAB is about to implode and that this is in fact a canny move that ensures that they will avoid the chaos that will ensue?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


In 2005 I wrote:

"Eric Anstee is reportedly so incensed, by what he calls "spoiling tactics", that he has threatened to "realign" the ICAEW's funding of CCAB; he may even withdraw ICAEW from CCAB."

Yet, by 2008, the ICAEW had somewhat changed its views wrt CCAB:

"..It seems that the ICAEW, either via accident or design, has managed to stir up another major row with some other accounting bodies.

Accountancy Age reports that "private papers" (intended for council only) were "accidentally" published on the ICAEW website last week.

The papers disclose a plan to rank accountants in terms of a hierarchy. The Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies would be the top, and book-keepers at the bottom.

The plan is part of the ICAEW's desire to formally recognise the term "accountant", and will be submitted to the Privy Council.

The ranking will be as follows:

- financial accountants
- accounting technicians
- book-keepers

Given that the plan then was to make CCAB numero uno, the decision by CIMA to leave CCAB is a tad odd, is it not?

What is the reason for this decision?

Could the reason be that CCAB appears to have died (no press releases since 2009), and CIMA wants to leave before the ship sinks and drowns all those left on board?

ICAS Leads The Way

As I have noted on my HMRC site, ICAS have put a very well aimed and targeted boot into the "delicates" of HMRC, in respect of HMRC's Impact Assessment of Business Record Checks.

ICAS are of the view that business records checks could cost SMEs at least 10 times more than HMRC's guesstimate, and will impose an absurd administrative burden on SMEs.

In HMRC's fantasy land each visit, averaging half a day, will cost a business £54. However, ICAS has re-costed an average visit using realistic estimates of business disruption and adviser's time and have come up with a total of at least £560 per visit.

ICAS is also somewhat wary of HMRC's fantasy plans to visit 50,000 SMEs each year for four years.

That would be most assuredly bureaucratic bullying overkill, if HMRC really had the resources to do that. Additionally, ICAS is not particularly impressed with the "quality" of some of the people HMRC will be sending into the field and is concerned about the "intransigent attitudes" of these inspectors.

ICAS say:

"..the bases on which these proposals have been presented seem deeply flawed.

Assumptions made by HMRC regarding the incidence of inadequate business records are unsubstantiated by any detail, and estimated costs of the scheme are massively understated. It was not long ago that HMRC were assuring the Administrative Burdens Advisory Board that interventions would be well targeted to reduce red tape for compliant taxpayers, and we fail to understand why this policy has been changed...

HMRC's basic assertion that poor business record keeping is responsible for a loss of tax in up to 2 million SME cases annually seems to be a sweeping generalisation with little credible evidence provided to back it up. We would like to see evidence as to how this statistic has been arrived at, as the validity of the entire consultation document is based on it. Without such evidence, the proposals might appear burdensome and unjustified.

Experience of our members in practice suggests that poor record keeping (where it arises) does not necessarily equate with loss of tax – it can sometimes result in their clients paying too much tax...

We would take issue with HMRC's basic assumption that SMEs with poor records have chosen to have poor records. This is a misconception. Those with the courage and tenacity to embark on new business ventures are forced to battle from the outset against a mass of Government regulation and red tape. Typically they don't go into business because of their record keeping skills...

Anecdotal evidence has caused our members to question the skills and professional judgement of some HMRC representatives checking the business records of their clients. We understand that many of these members of staff have no significant accountancy or tax training. This can cause them to be on the defensive, and in these circumstances it is not unknown for them to adopt intransigent attitudes...

As we can see, an unelected inefficient bureaucracy is allowing the excessive powers granted to it by a weak and incompetent political establishment to go to its head; and is attempting to use these powers to bully people and organisations that pay for its very existence.

Why have the ICAEW not issued not similar riposte to HMRC's plans?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Too Little, Too Late

The ICAEW, and the other professional accounting bodies, have failed in their bid to delay the implementation of iXBRL.

Treasury Minister, David Gauke, responded to the letter issued by the six bodies:

"Having read your letter and considered it along with other representations, I would like you and HMRC to proceed on the basis that mandation of online filing in iXBRL will go ahead as planned on 1 April."

As I noted a few days ago I am "disappoined to see that the professional institues (inclduing the ICAEW) have taken so long to stir themselves..

Delays have consequences!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The iXBRL Issue

I am disappoined to see that the professional institues (inclduing the ICAEW) have taken so long to stir themselves to put up a fight over HMRC's iXBRL implementaion planned for this April.

ICAS did at least red flag it in July 2009.