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Apparently Accountants are the Most Valued Professional Advisers (According to the Brits)

Keep in mind before we get into this that the Brits are a tad wonky; they use funny words (“fag,” for example, is a cigarette, not a name that’ll get you a beatdown in San Francisco’s Castro District), drive on the wrong side of the road and live in tiny little crackerbox houses. That said, small businesses over there feel their accountants have served their money best.

Well, kind of.

Professional advice website, has today released new research which reveals accountants as the most valued professional adviser when it comes to financial advice. Of the small businesses surveyed, 21% believed that their accountant provides them with the most valuable business advice. 12% of small business owners name friends, while 10% state a member of their family has given them the best advice on their business. One in three (31%) believe their own advice is the most valuable with regards to running their company.

Of the 54% of small business owners who have sought professional advice on their accounting and book keeping needs, 48% say that their accountant has saved them money in the long-term, while 47% state that they had helped them make sense of the complex UK tax system. Over a quarter (28%) say using an accountant has meant they have more time to focus on important business decisions. One in ten (10%) say their accountant has helped them to free up time to spend with their family.

That’s very warm and cozy, isn’t it? Except that 18% more of them prefer “focusing on important business decisions” to hanging out with their family with the time an accountant saves them.

Granted, the company from which the press release comes is “sponsored” by companies like J.P. Morgan Asset Management (others include AEGON, Legal & General, Alliance Trust, Lockton, Aviva, MetLife, AXA Life, Opinium Research, Bright Grey, Prudential, Canada Life Ltd, Royal London 360°, Clerical Medical Investment, Schroders… so how unbiased can it really be?)

Are Accounting Firms Getting Cheated by the PCAOB?

You may have forgotten, but last year the PCAOB established some new rules that require its members to file annual reports on Forms 2, 3, and 4 with the Board. These annual reports aren’t the glossy paged marketing tools filled with smiling faces that you may be thinking of, nor do they contain an financial information. They mostly consist of information that the PCAOB wants to know in case a firm changes its address, whether your firm hires shady characters, or finds itself in some serious legal trouble (take note Big 4).

Because all this reporting is a pain in the ass for the Board, a modest charge has been established to “recover the costs of processing and reviewing applications and annual reports,” according to a statement released by the PCAOB.

Now before you get all huffy about it, this is allowed by Michael Oxley’s favorite piece of legislation and now that the Board is getting around to requiring firms to submit the annual reports (inaugurals are due June 30), a fee only seemed appropriate and necessary.

Starting this year, registered firms will be charged the following:

Firms with more than 500 issuer audit clients and more than 10,000 personnel – $100,000

Other firms with more than 200 issuer audit clients and more than 1,000 personnel – $25,000

All other firms – $500

PLUS! The minimum registration fee is being increased to $500 because “The Board believes it is appropriate at this time to raise that fee to $500 to align it more closely with the minimum annual fee.”

In the grand scheme of things, the new annual fee and the increased registration fee aren’t really worth getting too worked up over but does make you wonder if accounting firms are getting the most bang for their buck vis-à-vis the PCAOB.

Oh sure, the annual inspections are a hoot and they’ll nail a shiesty accountant here and there but what about the guidance the Board has been issuing lately?

If the best the Board can do is churn out a reminders about bizarro transactions that belittles auditors (but don’t bother giving any examples) and proposals on how auditors should carry on a conversation, some people might start demanding a little more substance out of their watchdog.

PCAOB Release No. 2010-002 [PCAOB]