Complaints about AAT members
As a professional accountancy body, AAT is committed to raising standards and upholding professional ethics within the accountancy profession. Our Code of Professional Ethics sets out the fundamental principles of ethics for professional accountants, reflective of both AAT and the professions recognition of its public interest responsibility. These principles confirm the standard of behaviour expected by our members, in that they must:
- not allow bias, conflicts of interest or undue influence of others to override professional or business judgements
- be straightforward and honest in all their professional and business relationships
- comply with AAT regulations and relevant UK legislation and avoid any conduct that discredits the profession
- maintain professional knowledge and keep their skills at a required level
- respect the confidentiality of information acquired as a result of professional and business relationships.
We aim to protect the public interest by operating a disciplinary framework that allows us to investigate complaints received about our members and take proportionate action where there is evidence that they have failed to observe the ethical code and the high standards expected.
If you have concerns about the conduct of an AAT member you can make a complaint to AAT's Professional Standards team.
Is the individual an AAT member?
You must be certain that your complaint concerns an AAT member. If you’re unsure and the person is offering accountancy and/or bookkeeping services please check our licensed member directory, alternatively call us on +44 (0)20 3735 2468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
One year time limit
We will only consider complaints if they are raised within a year of the alleged issue occurring. If you make a complaint outside this period, there must be exceptional circumstances that you are able to explain to us.
Licensed member's internal complaint policy
Our licensed members must by law have an internal complaint policy. We will consider whether the licensed member has been given an opportunity to resolve a complaint before we intervene. This means that, wherever appropriate, you must give our licensed member an opportunity to resolve the matter through their own internal complaints procedures before you raise a complaint with AAT.
If the licensed member does not satisfactorily resolve your grievance, you may lodge a complaint with us. When doing so, you must provide copies of all correspondence in connection with the complaint.
If your problem relates to a criminal matter, you must first report it to the police (or other relevant authority) for investigation. If there are legal proceedings or other ongoing investigation you must advise us of this.
AAT acts in the public interest and as such we act for the benefit of the whole public, rather than for individual complainants or members. Making a complaint against a member is not a substitute for seeking compensation or other remedies through the courts. We cannot give you legal advice or provide redress for any monetary loss suffered. Therefore, if you believe you have a negligence claim against an AAT member, we recommend that you seek independent legal advice.
Matters we can consider
We can consider complaints arising from the services provided by licensed members where:
- there is evidence that the conduct was premeditated, repeated, systematic or dishonest
- the member abused a position of authority or trust
- a client's or other person's interests have been seriously compromised
- any victim of the conduct was vulnerable
- the conduct was motivated by any form of unfair discrimination
- there are grounds for believing that the conduct is likely to be continued or repeated
- the reputation of AAT or its membership has been damaged
- the Code of Professional Ethics has been breached and the breach is not minor in nature.
Matters we cannot consider
We cannot consider complaints where the issue is one which AAT has no power to regulate or decide upon, for example:
- anonymous complaints that are not supported by independent evidence
- attempts to use the disciplinary process to support legal action
- disputes about fees
- breach of contract or civil disputes
- disputes between employers and employees
- the personal activities of the member unless they are of a serious nature and could amount to misconduct.
AAT will not investigate complaints relating to fee disputes as this is not a breach of our standards, guidance or regulations. AAT members are entitled to exercise their legal right to recover unpaid fees, for example via debt collection agencies or the small claims court.
Our complaints and disciplinary process should not be used to support legal or fee disputes, or any other matters that lie within the jurisdiction of the court. To ensure we discharge our public interest obligations in a manner which is proportionate, consistent and fair to all parties, any investigation will be adjourned if it is identified there is an ongoing civil dispute. If you have a civil dispute, we recommend you seek your own legal advice.
All complaints must be supported by evidence of misconduct by a member. We will not investigate your complaint if you:
- do not provide documentary evidence in support of your complaint, or
- provide excessive documentation or hearsay evidence irrelevant to the complaint.
AAT aims to be transparent in its handling of complaints against members. This means all evidence and information will be disclosed to the member you are complaining about.
Please ensure you provide a full account of each issue you wish to be considered by AAT – as well as all relevant supporting evidence – when submitting your complaint. We will not consider complaints or evidence submitted in stages. Also, awaiting the outcome of one complaint before deciding whether to submit others would be contrary to the public interest and would amount to a misuse of our complaints process.
Help to make your complaint
Our complaint framework should not place anyone with a disability at a disadvantage. We have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to meet individual needs. If you are unable to submit your complaint using our online form, please contact the Professional Standards team on +44 (0)20 7397 3008 or email email@example.com.
If you have any other specific requirements, please contact us to discuss what you need. While we will do our best to accommodate any reasonable requests, the Professional Standards team must still ensure we discharge our public interest obligations in a manner which is reasonable, consistent, and fair to all parties, and will therefore require the same obligatory information/evidence to substantiate a complaint before taking it forward.
We will write to confirm receipt of your complaint and then carry out an assessment to determine whether there are grounds for us to consider the complaint under the Professional Standards Investigations policy.
This assessment will involve making enquiries with the member or third parties (where applicable). Where necessary we may also ask you to provide additional information.
Once the assessment is concluded we will either:
- inform you we are unable to intervene and explain why, or
- warn the member and counsel them on future conduct, or
- take disciplinary action against the member.
If disciplinary action is taken we will keep you apprised of the disciplinary proceedings and the outcome of your complaint.
If the matter is referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal, you might be asked to attend the hearing to appear as a witness.
We aim to conclude cases between six and 12 months, but this very much depends on the complexity of the complaint and whether the matter needs to be referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal for a determination.