In May 2001, I helped set up the ICPA with a few chums in practice, an action that was borne out of frustration with the major UK institutes who really did not understand or possibly value the work we small practice accountants did.
That in itself was bad enough, but we had a Revenue service that failed to understand the value we small practice accountants were bringing to the economy, let alone our clients. Who, frankly, didn’t understand how we worked or the pressures we were facing and seemed to believe we were in some way facilitators for at best tax avoidance and at worst evasion. When we needed help it was hard to find, because no one really truly understood how we worked or what sort of questions our clients were asking of us. And, as the tax code grew and grew, facing huge additional costs just to try to keep up-to-date. Something simply had to be done and that’s what kick-started the ICPA.
Little did I know that 20 years later our organisation will have grown to over 1,170 practices with over 1,500 individual accountants being members. In all honesty I’m so proud that our memberships comes from every major institute; we have never sought to replace them, just to enhance the stature of small practices and to provide them with somewhere to direct their small practices members to. It took a good few years to achieve, but relations between the ICPA and all the institutes are in a good place.
But all good things come to an end and my tenure as full-time Chairman of the ICPA has run its course, and I’ve decided to call it a day. This was truly a hard decision to make because I have loved working for members and doing my very best to help in every way I could. But, as I say, all good things come to an end and as regards the ICPA that time is now.
What have been the highlights? That’s a genuinely tough question because there are so many but one must be this magazine. It’s grown from basically a little newsletter to being the single major printed magazine for small practices in the UK. We focus on issues that are at the forefront of our daily work. We have never run an advert for leasing fancy motor cars, nor has there ever been an article featuring tax avoidance schemes or featuring accountants in shorts on a beach extolling the virtues of banking in the Bahamas. This magazine has been and is devoted to our world, the world of accountants in practice: about how to deal with HMRC, clients and the technology that is available to us. It is one of my proudest achievements. I’m delighted to say that it has been agreed that I will retain overall control of this magazine going forward, so you’ve not 100% seen the back of me yet!
As I take my bow I’m very proud of the significant range of small practice-specific benefits we have brought on board, including our helplines and, of course, the professional indemnity cover included within the subscription. We were the very first organisation to recognise the addition workload the money laundering regulations were going to bring, and we were the first to provide every member with a free subscription to the AMLCC compliance software. We were ground-breaking so many times, and so many times where we led others were forced to follow.
The ICPA played a major role in establishing Accountex as a platform for small practices in the UK, as I helped formulate the very first event at London’s Olympia, and I’m proud to say we have exhibited at every one. I very much enjoyed presenting at Accountex and have fond memories of being one of the first speakers to use music to enhance their presentation – and definitely being the first Accountex presenter to use the Beastie Boys to help collect payments by DD!
I will miss my involvement in planning, designing and putting on our own conferences under the banner of ‘Practice Evolution’, and over the years giving great speakers the opportunity to present to small practice accountants. I’m torn between my ‘The Good the Bad and the Ugly’ or my ‘Magnificent 7’ presentation as to which was the best, but I remember being incredibly nervous the first time I stood up at our first conference in Suffolk.
I’m proud that throughout the MTD and Auto Enrolment sagas we provided help and advice to members when they needed it most and we made HMRC fully aware of our members’ concerns and worries.
On a more personal level, as this pandemic kicked off in March I put myself first up on the phones and took hundreds of calls from worried members struggling to makes sense of it all. The thanks I received made it all worthwhile.
I’m very proud of the fact that since 2010 we have only increased our subscription ONCE. How many organisations can say that? It never was about the money for me; it was all about the members, the accountants that nobody else was paying any attention to. It was about doing right by them and my only doubt was whether I would be good enough to represent and help them.
I leave my role secure in the knowledge that I did my best and achieved so much more than I ever thought possible. I remember some good colleagues that sadly are no longer with us, I remember the staff that have been with for so long and without whom I could have done nothing. While I will no longer be involved in the day-to-day workings of the ICPA I will still be around to help where needed and I’ll keep myself busy with my consulting work in my old practice. So I’ll leave you with a saying I’ve used extensively over the years and which many of you will already be familiar with from emails and letters: Ciao for now!
• Tony Margaritelli, Chair, ICPA