Press Release: New ATT President poses the question: Time for an all-regulated profession?

Stuart McKinnon was today appointed1 as the new President of the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), and immediately launched a debate within the Association and the wider tax profession on whether there should be “some level of regulation or at the very least supervision” of all professional tax agents. He has set up an ATT working party to look into this area.

Additionally, the new President has issued a challenge to the tax profession to “do our bit for youth unemployment and open access to the professions” by taking on more apprentices and trainees.

Speaking at the ATT Council this morning, Stuart McKinnon said:

“No one should be in any doubt about how radically the tax profession will change as a consequence of the HMRC agent strategy. This is no longer a case of if the strategy is adopted but when. It is a pivotal point in the history of the tax profession...

“The Agent Strategy has left hanging the question of compulsory regulation of the profession. It is odd bearing in mind that we remain one of the few unregulated professions... But what is wrong with regulation? What has come out of HMRC’s own research is that the public cannot generally distinguish between someone who is qualified and someone who is not. To the man in the street the title Tax Agent denotes that that person has a certain level of expertise when in fact anyone can call themselves a Tax Agent and HMRC will accept them as such. Regulation is often seen as more red tape but it can and should mean protection. It is how it is handled that is important.

“All members of the ATT are provided with a code of conduct covering professional standards and ethics which if needs be we will judge them against. They are required to undertake a minimum number of hours training each year (which we monitor) and, where they are providing services in a self-employed capacity, they agree to have adequate professional indemnity insurance. This is our informal regulation. We are not trying to create red tape for our members. We believe there are minimum standards to be adhered to if members are holding themselves out as Tax Agents. It not only protects the general public, knowing that the Tax Agent they are dealing with is qualified to carry out the work they require, but it also protects our members to know they are adhering to best practice. If the profession as whole wishes to retain that mutual respect required in our dealings with HMRC then we need to look to some level of regulation or at the very least supervision.

“I have set up a working party to look into this whole area and how we need to change to respond to regulation, whether it is compulsory or as at the moment voluntary, and whether we can provide alternative routes to membership or supervision.”

He also spoke about the ATT’s decision to join forces with PwC and others to provide a Higher Apprenticeship in tax, which was announced2 earlier this month:

“Another initiative which we have been working on with a number of partners is a Higher Apprenticeship in taxation. This is a subject close to my heart as it is sort of how I got into tax. My boss was a bit of a visionary as he saw the tax profession changing from being staffed by mainly ex-members of the Inland Revenue to an independently trained and qualified profession. He employed me at age 18 on something akin to accountancy articles to study and practice tax...and look where I am now. A partner at Baker Tilly and President of the ATT.

“A Higher Apprenticeship will provide a cost-effective alternative to recruit and train the next generation of Stuart McKinnons. I am sending out a challenge to all members of the profession who have at some time been given a similar break to mine which enabled them to get onto the career ladder in ta take on one trainee and give them the break you got. I appreciate in these current economic times this is not always an easy ask but the country will not be in a recession forever. When we emerge you will have your home-grown qualified staff ready to take advantage of the upturn. Better that than having to buy someone in with all the expense and risk associated with that strategy. Let us give something back for what we were given and at the same time do our bit for youth unemployment and open access to the professions. Go on, I dare you!”

Notes to Editors

  1. Stuart McKinnon’s appointment was made by the Council of the ATT, following the resignation of Andrew Meeson in October. Yvette Nunn, who runs her own tax practice, is the new ATT Deputy President and Natalie Miller of PwC is the new Vice President. They will serve in these posts until the end of 2012.


    Stuart is a Partner in Baker Tilly, based in their Newcastle-upon-Tyne office. A past Chairman of the ATT/CIOT North East Branch, Stuart was appointed to ATT Council in 1999. In his time on Council, Stuart has chaired both the Examination and Member & Student Services committees and has led a number of working parties.


  2. On December 1 2011 the Government gave the go-ahead to a bid from a consortium of organisations including PwC (the lead organisation), the ATT, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, the Management Consultancies Association, the Financial Skills Partnership and training provider BPP, for a new Professional Services Higher Apprenticeships Programme. The Programme will initially cover tax, audit and management consulting. Apprentices on the tax route will follow a newly-developed level 4 Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) qualification in tax, designed to raise apprentices to the ATT professional standard.


Technical Team 

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