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Law and Regulation of Tax Professionals

Author: Frank Haskew

Published: 01 Sep 2021

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Frank Haskew reviews a timely guide on the UK’s tax regulatory framework

Law and Regulation of Tax Professionals, edited by Julian Hickey and Adrian Shipwright (Bloomsbury Professional, £150; online and PDF versions also available from bloomsburyprofessional.com)

This book is timely and welcome, especially given the current debate in the UK about raising standards in the tax advice market and whether further regulation is required. However, if you thought that the market is completely unregulated and that this would be a slim volume, you will be surprised to find that it is 572 pages long. The editors are well-known barristers at Addington Tax Chambers and are to be congratulated for providing a comprehensive overview of the disparate regulatory framework covering UK tax advisers and bringing all of this material together in one handy volume.

It begins by setting out the regulatory framework, including GDPR issues. This is followed by a detailed chapter on Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation (PCRT) rules (of which ICAEW is one of the seven sponsoring bodies). Written by tax consultant Mark McLaughlin, this chapter compares how the PCRT rules differ from those that apply to lawyers and barristers, even though the Solicitors Regulation Authority has effectively adopted the PCRT as part of its rulebook through the publication of a warning notice set out in Appendix 3 (not Appendix C as quoted in the text).

The editors have included a comprehensive chapter on the important topics of contractual engagement terms, terms of business and the controversial question of limitation of liability. Chapters follow on disclosure of tax avoidance schemes, including the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes (DOTAS) rules and the promoters of tax avoidance schemes (POTAS) rules, negligence and the difficult subject of professional privilege.

Other chapters cover the areas of criminal investigations, tax evasion and anti-money laundering. One surprising omission is a detailed commentary on the dishonest tax agent rules set out in Finance Act 2012. Although the rules are referred to, a detailed explanation of them should be essential reading in a book covering regulation of the tax profession, even if they have been little used in practice.

One of the difficulties of writing a tax book is the danger that developments overtake the content before it is published. In this case, the authors have included an extensive commentary on the proposed changes introduced by DAC 6, only for the UK to announce major simplifications to the rules at the last minute. The editors decided to leave the chapter as written, but include a stop press mentioning the changes. While this is an understandable decision, it will need to be revised (and condensed) in a future edition.

The book includes a useful checklist on matters to be considered in any engagement, and there are extensive references to the relevant law and cases. In summary, and subject to the comments made above, this is a valuable volume that no professional practice should be without. Given the pace of developments in this area, it is likely that the editors are already working on the next edition.

About the author

Frank Haskew, Head of Tax, ICAEW