Professional titles are not always a guarantee

Here, unlike in other other EU states, anyone can set up as an engineer, the accountancy sector is largely unregulated, and you can become a physical therapist in 16 weekends

A significant number of so-called accountants operate outside the regulated sector. In most major European countries the law prohibits abuse of the term ‘accountant’

A significant number of so-called accountants operate outside the regulated sector. In most major European countries the law prohibits abuse of the term ‘accountant’

Mon, Jun 2, 2014, 01:00

When is an accountant not really an accountant? And what about a engineer? Consumers may believe they understand the qualifications of someone they are hiring simply by their title, but this is not always the case.


Accountant – regulated or not?

Who do you go to when you need tax advice, help with tax returns or your company’s books to be audited – an accountant. But is that accountant as well-qualified as you believe?

It’s a term that many of us use every day, and one we typically assume means a professional who has completed formal accountancy exams. Research from Chartered Accountants Ireland shows that eight out of 10 Irish people believe that automatic regulation of people calling themselves accountants already exists on our statute books. But does it?

At present, if you are a practising accountant in Ireland, and a member of a professional body such as ACCA, CIMA, CPA Ireland or CAI, you will come under the regulatory oversight of the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA). You will thus be subject to conduct of practice regulations, and external inspection (quality assurance).

But this system is voluntary, and even if you’re not affiliated with any of the aforementioned bodies, you can still call yourself an accountant .

According to CAI, there is a “significant” number of so-called accountants operating outside the regulated sector. While some of these may offer perfectly legitimate services, others may have been expelled from such a body for serious disciplinary breaches. CAI has found a case of a man expelled in 1998 for offences including paying client funds into his own firm’s account and falsifying a document from a bank. Convictions followed, and yet he has been found to be still offering services as an accountant.

Chartered Accountants Ireland president Brendan Lenihan describes it as “a glaring omission on the statute book. Our evidence shows that this situation just cannot happen in most major European countries because the law prohibits abuse of the term ‘accountant’ in these countries”.

According to research from FTI Consulting, six EU member states – Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden – have such a legal framework in place. Other jurisdictions, including the UK, do not.

To combat abuse of the term by “rogue operators” here, presidents of the main accountancy bodies are engaging with Senators to get support for an amendment to the Companies Bill, which deals with the powers and role of IAASA. They are hoping this will prohibit the use of the term “accountant” by anyone not supervised or approved by IAASA. The Companies Bill is due to go to the Seanad shortly.


Physio or a physical therapist?

You’ve got a sore leg or a bad back and you’re looking for someone to treat your symptoms. Who do you go see – a physiotherapist or a physical therapist? And are you aware of the differing levels of qualifications these professions might have?

Confusion has arisen largely because the two titles are interchangeable in over 110 countries around the world. In Ireland, however, they mean different things, which is why the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) has been lobbying the Department of Health to introduce legislation to distinguish between the two.

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