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Croydon President more than honorary title

Stepping down as President of ICAEW Chartered Accountants Croydon, Andrew McKenzie-Smart highlights the professional and personal changes he has seen over the past four years and how this has affected the bottom line, if not the waist line!

Andrew McKenzie-Smart

June 2019

I have been President of the ICAEW in Croydon for three of the past four years and have now handed over to my successor.

For our profession, I have been President at a time of unprecedented uncertainty. In the main this has been caused by the Brexit referendum, but also due to the announcement of the “end of the tax return” under the Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative. The most surprising thing is that neither of these substantial changes were implemented before the end of my presidency.

Additionally, following the high-profile insolvencies of, among others, Carillion, the House of Fraser and BHS, I believe, as chartered accountants, we need to become more involved in the dialogue regarding the urgent changes needed to the audit process and to UK corporate governance.

While some commentators consider that the catastrophic demise of these major companies could have been better managed if the audit process were more robust or more independent, others have directed the blame at central government, pensions legislation or employment issues.

This dialogue needs to involve our profession, and we need to acknowledge any weakness in our systems, our training or other ethical guidance. We then need to take steps to implement the necessary changes..

In the tax community we have already addressed the proliferation of tax avoidance schemes and those who were promoting such arrangements have rightly been marginalised. A similar impact is likely to be needed in the governance of large business and multinationals in the UK as has already occurred regarding the provision of tax advice following the revisions to the professional rules of conduct in relation to taxation.

If these issues are appropriately addressed then UK business should be able to grow and face the challenge that Brexit, MTD and such like will provide over the next few years.

For me personally the last four years have had the following momentous events:

I moved home and the office to Oxted in Surrey; I took over the practice of another accountant, and dealt with the issues and problems that she had not identified nor dealt with in the client bank I acquired; I recruited five additional staff as part of the process, sacked two people, and seen three staff leave; One of my daughters has passed her A levels, gone to university and been offered an integrated masters degree course and my youngest daughter has passed her GCSEs; Sadly, my father, my business mentor for many years, who had been ill with cancer, passed away.

During this time my business has seen its fee income increase considerably. While I don’t consider that being President of the local District Society has directly increased my firm’s fees, it has had a bearing on how my potential clients view me and my practice.

I believe that being the local President is more than an honorary title, but one which provides useful contacts, knowledge and skills which I will benefit from for many years to come. I am sure my wife will be pleased that I will be home more often, and I have had the family discussion about the “diet” needed following the many ICAEW dinners and receptions.

Andrew McKenzie-Smart is the founder of Smart Accounting & Tax Solutions LLP

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