The Fair Tax Pledge and accountants: putting the profession on risk for tax abuse

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One of the options available to a person signing the Fair Tax Pledge is to say that they have an accountant advising them on their affairs.

If they tick that option they have the chance to download a letter that they can send to their accountant. That letter makes three things clear.

The first is that the person has signed the pledge.

The second is that the signatory expects the accountant to help them fulfil the obligations they have committed to.

And third, by suggesting a change to the terms in the engagement between the accountant and their client it makes the accountant liable if they do anything that does compromise the signatories chosen position e.g. by choosing tax avoidance activity on their behalf that the signatory would not want to partake in. A specific form of wording in the form of a change to the terms of engagement to achieve that goal is made available for download. It's also available here.

I think that for the accounting profession this is pretty significant. First, this may be the first time they might be put at risk of liability by their clients for trying to sell them tax avoidance. Second, they're not used to their clients dictating the terms of engagement, which is just wrong: the client should have a say.

But it's also deeply significant in another way: it also means that the accountant who really does not want to sell their clients tax abuse can get them to sign up to the Fair Tax Pledge and then build this fact into their engagement letter and know that they have then been indemnified for not advising on all the abusive tax arrangements on the market. That's a positive win for hundreds, if not thousands of honest accountants in the UK, and they do exist.

If I was still in active tax practice in any significant way I'd be queuing up to get my clients signed up to the Fair Tax Pledge for just this reason.