Small businesses see accountants as vital to their business

Gary Turner: 30% of small business owners view accountants as their most trusted advisers

The accepted definition of ‘accountant’ fails to do justice to the job accountants do or the status they hold with small business owner clients, according to an accounting software provider which is lobbying for the definition to change.

Xero is urging The Oxford English Dictionary to change its ‘archaic’ definition of the word ‘accountant’ and has launched an online petition. The clarion call has been supported by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the global body for professional accounts.

Gary Turner (pictured above), the MD and UK co-founder of Xero has penned an open letter to the dictionary’s in-house experts to call for the term to better represent what it means to be an accountant in 2019.

Accountants and bookkeepers are now seen as a vital part of any business: 30% of small business owners view accountants as their most trusted advisers, and 27% admit to asking their accountant for broader business advice, according to Xero research.

The definition currently reads – ‘a person whose job is to keep or inspect financial accounts’. Xero wants it changed to – ‘a person whose job is to keep or inspect and advise on financial accounts’. The reasoning is that it shakes off an outdated perception of the industry and reflects how much the role of an accountant has changed in the last two decades. Today’s accountant fulfils a range of roles; from financial controller, to trouble-shooter and business developer.

Claire Bennison, head of the ACCA said: “Technology is offering accountants greater opportunity to offer provide valuable business insight and advice to their clients. Xero’s proposed revision to the dictionary definition of the term accountant to add a small but vital verb – ‘advise’ – is a positive development we fully support as it reflects the changing role of a professionally qualified accountant as a trusted adviser to business.”

In his letter Turner writes: Accountants and bookkeepers are now seen as a vital part of any business: 30% of small business owners view accountants as their most trusted advisers, and 27% admit to asking their accountant for broader business advice, according to Xero research. ‘Today, an accountant doesn’t just crunch the numbers and observe financial operations, but so much more. They advise business owners and aid and fuel business objectives such as business growth, improving efficiency, cost and productivity.

‘Insight from well-respected industry bodies such as ICAEW  and IFAC finds that time and time again, accountants are a business owner’s most trusted adviser. We also know that accountants and bookkeepers are vital to the UK’s stability. Nearly 65% accountants believe that their jobs are having a major impact on the economy.’

Cheryl Price founder of CH Accountancy said:We are in complete support of this definition change. In the past year the role of accountants and financial directors has massively changed, and technology has played a huge part in this. In the next five years, accountants will continue to undergo a dramatic shift, moving from paper, spreadsheets and outdated desktop software to digital technology that is continuously built on and updated that evolves with new legislation. This enables accountants to scale up operations and allow firms to offer higher quality and advisory services to clients – a new role that will only become more prevalent in accountancy in the future.”

This article first appeared on Tax Guide on 24 January 2019

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