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Upholding our profession at a time of crisis

13 May 2020: ICAEW Chartered Accountants and firms are at the heart of navigating the economy through this crisis, and during such times it is vital they maintain the professional, technical and ethical standards that define the profession.

ICAEW Chartered Accountants and firms are always expected to demonstrate the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct. This includes abiding by ICAEW and statutory regulations. At a time of global crisis, these standards are more important than ever.

The UK Government has introduced unprecedented measures to support businesses, employers and employees, helping to protect the UK economy and people’s livelihoods. As Chartered Accountants acting in the public interest in accordance with our Royal Charter obligations, we are helping government implement these schemes, ensuring businesses and individuals receive the help they need, and that public money is being used where it is intended, with efficiency and transparency.

In a position of such responsibility, it is imperative that the reputation of ICAEW firms and Chartered Accountants as trusted advisers to UK businesses is maintained.

We’ve recently issued guidance on compliance and the professional conduct expected of ICAEW members and firms during these unprecedented times. These reinforce the requirements to ensure client confidentiality, the need to continue to undertake client due diligence checks to prevent money laundering and our proportionate approach to all areas of regulation and professional conduct cases.

We are all feeling the intense pressure of the current crisis, personally and professionally. That is why we must all take particular care in our conduct and our judgement. As HMRC has recently highlighted, unscrupulous agents have been targeting returning NHS workers with bogus schemes, and others have been fraudulently manipulating the rules underpinning government support. We must all be extra vigilant, and appreciate the harm this could do to individuals, businesses, and to the reputation of our profession.

Our Code of Ethics – to which all Chartered Accountants and their firms must adhere – sets out our fundamental principles of integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality, and professional behaviour.

More specifically on tax, we are one of seven organisations who founded and continue to update the Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation (PCRT), which details fundamental principles and standards for tax planning. PCRT sets and enforces clear standards around the facilitation and promotion of tax avoidance, and compliance is mandatory for our members who advise on UK tax matters.

ICAEW members and firms are at the heart of navigating the economy through this crisis – helping the government understand what support businesses need, and ensuring business is able to access and use that support. The professional, technical and ethical standards we apply in fulfilling this crucial role will define our reputation for decades to come.

For further updates on compliance and professional conduct at this time, please see the ICAEW designated coronavirus hub.