Friday, August 29, 2008

Tax engagement letters

Some time ago (I won't confess quite how long ago) I was asked to chair a working party comprising the members of the main accounting and tax bodies.

Our task? To review and update the guidance provided to our members as regards the issue and content of engagement letters for tax work.

I mention this now because the guidance has at long last just been published. We all underestimated quite how much time and effort this project would consume. This was probably because we decided to do more than simply update the previous 'standard' guidance.

I had this idea (which was shared by the other members of the working party) that the updated guidance should be helpful to our members and that whatever we produced should be commercial, client friendly and uptodate. Oh - and SHORTER than previous standard letters.

I must say that I'm pleased and proud of the outcome. It's taken an enormous amount of time and I hope that the reaction from members will be positive.

The professional bodies last updated their guidance on tax engagement letters in 2001, largely by adding additional paragraphs to previous versions. Before that the guidance was updated at the start of the self assessment system.

In more recent years many commercial publishers have been updating the original ‘standards’ – most of these are however seem to be based on those published by the professional bodies. There have been some innovative approaches too – including at least one that allows practitioners to use an online facility to pick and choose which sections they want to include and for a tailored letter to then be created very quickly and simply.

Anyway, I was asked to write a piece for Taxation magazine about the new guidance and speciman documents. I understand that this will appear next week. Copies of the guidance and documents should now be available from the professional bodies concerned: ICAEW, CIOT, ACCA, ICAS, ATT, IIT and CIMA.

Although the new guidance has been produced for the members of those professional bodies I have no doubt that it will become more widely available in due course. I am hopeful that our efforts will be welcomed and that commercial publishers will, in time, update their own offerings – in so far as this may be appropriate to reflect the latest guidance. I am happy to assist in resolving any queries in this regard.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Mark. I received the new guidance on Saturday. At first glance the new engagement letters appear to be in plainer English, too, which is very welcome indeed.