AAT sufficient?

Hello chaps,

Im a newbie on here; I've had a quick look and couldn't see this covered before, but my apologies if this is a duplicate.

I'm a new Full Member of the AAT, having joined through the 'Part Qualified' route as a PQ ACA. It had always been my intention to qualify as an ACA in order to progress my career to the level I would like.

However, now that I've become aware of the MIP scheme, I wonder whether becoming ACA is even worth it? I currently work in a very small firm as a senior client manager (so, I have responsibility for a portfolio of clients), looking after their accounts, corporation tax, VAT and self assessment, as well as any ad-hoc issues with bookkeeping, CGT, IHT... etc. I also do a small amount of self-employed work for which I've applied for MIP status.

My question, I suppose, is really one of earnings potential; do those of you who are AAT MIPs find that not having a 'higher' qualification has hampered your earnings potential? Would I be well advised to continue with the ACA studies? I'm considering either leaving employment and starting my own firm (though I have concerns about the practicalities of that), or buying the clients I currently look after from my employer, and becoming a partner of this firm. Obviously nobody can tell me what's best for me, I'm just putting feelers out to build a body of advice. The main dilemma, for what it's worth, is that I have two small children and ACA studying requires an immense amount of home-study which is rather difficult if I want to see my children too!

Thanks all, look forward to getting to know you.

Mike.
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Comments

  • Monsoon
    Monsoon FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 4,071 ? ? ?
    Hi Mike and welcome to the forum.

    With the experience of your current role, and with the AAT MIP scheme, as a non-chartered myself I would consider going AAT MIP without ACA when the time is right for you.

    In terms of working for yourself, I don't think the qualification affects your earnings potential. More relevant is your business acumen as well as your customer service skills as well as of course technical knowledge. The majority of clients don't give two figs what qualifications we have. If you were climing the employment ladder then it's a different answer, but if your ultimate goal is to work for yourself and if the current plan would be hindered by the ACA's practising certificate rules, I would give serious thought to just forgetting the ACA, spending more time with your kids and getting on with building your business.

    Good luck whatever you decide :)
  • PGM
    PGM Registered Posts: 1,954
    Monsoon wrote: »
    I would give serious thought to just forgetting the ACA, spending more time with your kids and getting on with building your business.

    Good luck whatever you decide :)

    I've got ACCA, but I still agree with what Monsoon says. Ability and customer care are the main things. And as is not mentioned enough, the time spent away from your family with the huge amount of time ACA or whatever takes to complete.
  • Monsoon
    Monsoon FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 4,071 ? ? ?
    Seems vaguely relevant:
    If I had to live my life over again,
    I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.

    I'd relax. I would limber up.
    I would be sillier than I have been this trip.

    I would take fewer things seriously.
    I would take more chances. I would take more trips.

    I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers.
    I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

    I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
    but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.

    You see, I'm one of those people who live seriously and sanely,
    hour after hour, day after day.

    Oh, I've had my moments. And if I had it to do over again,
    I'd have more of them.

    In fact, I'd try to have nothing else, just moments, one after another,
    instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

    I've been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without
    a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute.
    If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter than I have.

    If I had to live my life over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
    and stay that way later in the fall.

    I would go to more dances.
    I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
    I would pick more daisies.
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    Thanks guys! Both of your sentiments are pretty much in line with where my thoughts were already headed, it's just that I've been in 'ACA training' mode for quite a while now (8 years, with a couple of fairly big gaps in between!) so the idea of never actually becoming ACA feels like a bit of a failure.

    I wonder, as well, do either of you work from home? That would be my absolute ideal, but I have fairly significant concerns about whether I could give a decent quality of service doing so?
  • JodieR
    JodieR Registered Posts: 1,002
    I work from home - I have toyed with the idea of an office as there's plenty of suitable premises v near my house - but I like the fact that I can be at home working when my daughter finishes school and especially during the school holidays - it's ideal as she can have her friends over and have a good time while I'm earning a living. It does get a bit annoying when I have to keep kicking her & hubby out of the living room every time I've got a client over and I realise that a couch doesn't look very professional, but my clients don't seem to mind at all. It's not for everyone but for now it suits me best.
    It's lovely having minimal travel costs and going to work in your PJs and doing the mundane tasks in front of the telly. Does get a bit lonely though sometimes!
  • deborahcarpenter
    deborahcarpenter Registered Posts: 161 ? ? ?
    I also work from home and like Jodie R my clients dont mind the nice comfy sofa either. I too have thought about getting an office but that would increase my overheads which would mean me increasing my fees which i dont want to do. I also visit my clients at their homes when the need arises. I am currently studying towards ATT (completion in May hopefully),but i didnt see the point in doing ACCA or CIMA.
  • paulstafford
    paulstafford Registered Posts: 126 ? ? ?
    I work from home too.

    Definitely the best option to start off with.
  • Monsoon
    Monsoon FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 4,071 ? ? ?
    You can make a good living working from home, definitely.

    For me, I'm not disciplined enough and I've had an office for 4 years now (omg, 4 years! O.M.G. I can't believe it). I much prefer it.

    I didn't put my prices up when I got an office. I just got more clients. And then staff. :lol:
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    Thank you, again, for your replies!

    If I may be more specific, then (without wishing to be overstep the mark). I would need to be able to draw (net of taxes, most likely as a combination of salary and dividends) at least £2,500 per month if I were to make the massive leap from safe, regular employment to self-employment... for which I estimate I'd need somewhere between £40 - £50k of gross fees. Am I being unrealistic?

    Also as regards holidays, for example, when I go away from my employment, the admin staff are still here to answer the phone and my colleagues can help with technical queries... how do you manage as a one-man band?
  • Monsoon
    Monsoon FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 4,071 ? ? ?
    It's a realistic income, yes. How quickly you could grow to that level of fees, I don't know. It will depend on your sales and marketings skills as well as your location. Realistically at least 2 years.

    You will either have to have some capital to support you while the business grows, or be able to cope on a lower income to start off with. Don't forget WTC.

    I strongly advise monthly fees from the outset as then you have a regular income.

    With regards holidays, get a virtual receptionist to take phone calls, and have an auto responder on your email, and deal with it when you get back. Personally, my staff are essential to me and my style, but many people thrive as sole practitioners.

    With regards technical queries... that's what a lot of us use this place for. That and the technical help available to MIPs through the scheme.
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    Thanks, again! Monthly fees are a must I completely agree - we do that in the firm I'm employed at and it just makes so much sense - clients can budget more easily and credit control costs are minimal.

    With the technical queries - this forum does seem good I must say! I'm generally fine on technical queries, I just meant if I'm on holiday then there's nobody available to give the client the answer they might need urgently.

    In terms of growth I'd only do it if I could buy some clients from somewhere but I must admit, I haven't looked into the detail of WTCs.
  • Newbie
    Newbie Registered Posts: 229 ? ? ?
    one point to consider, as a PQ ACA I believe you are restricted in the self employed work you can do as an ACA student, bookkeeping is ok, otherwise ACA can remove you from their register if they find out.
  • Monsoon
    Monsoon FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 4,071 ? ? ?
    jamesm96 wrote: »
    I'm generally fine on technical queries, I just meant if I'm on holiday then there's nobody available to give the client the answer they might need urgently.
    In which case, have your continuity of practice nominee (who you would need to have to get yourself on the MIP scheme) as an emergency contact while you are away.

    As you know, the majority of "urgent queries" are actually HMRC letters that are meaningless and non-urgent, so any accountant should be able to help with general advice. Obviously if you know you're going away, you get anything potentially problematic out of the way with before you leave, and let clients know you'll be off between x and y dates. With that done, even if you're away for 2 weeks then there's rarely anything that can't wait. Even should something actually urgent come up, well, people are allowed to go on holiday. Even in a firm with various members of staff, sometimes it's only one person who can deal with a specific thing, so the client may still have to wait.
  • Dean
    Dean Registered Posts: 646
    Newbie wrote: »
    one point to consider, as a PQ ACA I believe you are restricted in the self employed work you can do as an ACA student, bookkeeping is ok, otherwise ACA can remove you from their register if they find out.

    This is for an ACCA student. ACA is now more flexible and so long as you have express premission to carry out self-employed work by your QPRT then you can do any work within your AAT MiP license.

    How far into ACA are you?

    I'm finding that becuase of the 'credit crunch' and the UKs "financial melt down" that people are becoming more concerned with status! I wouldn't be too suprised if the term "accountant" becomes protected and only a "chartered" qualified being able to use it. Just my personal opionion of course.

    Regards

    Dean
  • PGM
    PGM Registered Posts: 1,954
    Monsoon wrote: »
    As you know, the majority of "urgent queries" are actually HMRC letters that are meaningless and non-urgent

    Yep, thats very true!
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    Dean wrote: »
    This is for an ACCA student. ACA is now more flexible and so long as you have express premission to carry out self-employed work by your QPRT then you can do any work within your AAT MiP license.

    How far into ACA are you?

    I'm finding that becuase of the 'credit crunch' and the UKs "financial melt down" that people are becoming more concerned with status! I wouldn't be too suprised if the term "accountant" becomes protected and only a "chartered" qualified being able to use it. Just my personal opionion of course.

    Regards

    Dean

    I'm PQ, so I've completely passed the Professional Stage and just have the Advanced Stage remaining. Which body do you belong to Dean? I mean, are you chartered as well as AAT?
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    Monsoon wrote: »
    In which case, have your continuity of practice nominee (who you would need to have to get yourself on the MIP scheme) as an emergency contact while you are away.

    As you know, the majority of "urgent queries" are actually HMRC letters that are meaningless and non-urgent, so any accountant should be able to help with general advice. Obviously if you know you're going away, you get anything potentially problematic out of the way with before you leave, and let clients know you'll be off between x and y dates. With that done, even if you're away for 2 weeks then there's rarely anything that can't wait. Even should something actually urgent come up, well, people are allowed to go on holiday. Even in a firm with various members of staff, sometimes it's only one person who can deal with a specific thing, so the client may still have to wait.

    Yes you're quote right (obviously) I did have to nominate a continuity provider... presumably if that personal is also happy to cover temporary absences then the way it would normally work would to be reciprocated and I'd cover for their holidays.

    Quite right though, a client's idea of 'urgent' generally isn't so!
  • Monsoon
    Monsoon FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 4,071 ? ? ?
    Dean wrote: »
    I'm finding that becuase of the 'credit crunch' and the UKs "financial melt down" that people are becoming more concerned with status! I wouldn't be too suprised if the term "accountant" becomes protected and only a "chartered" qualified being able to use it. Just my personal opionion of course.
    That's interesting, I've yet to see this, but I can see a certain logic to it.

    I doubt the word accountant will become protected. I don't see how it could be easily implemented, enforced or indeed how it would actually change the marketplace. People want qualified accountants, sure, as opposed to non-qualified, but I honestly can't see the word accountant getting protected status. I think the government's actually commented to that effect.
  • Dean
    Dean Registered Posts: 646
    James you're too far along to stop now surely!!

    I'm AAT & ATT. I've completed my training contract but I still have some exams left to do. I wasn't going to finish them because I've been an MiP for 5+ years now and my tax knowledge this there with the ATT but based on my previous post I'm starting my exams up again this year. I must be mad but trying to fully secure my future!

    Regards

    Dean
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    Dean wrote: »
    James you're too far along to stop now surely!!

    I know mate, it's a dilemma for sure!
  • Dean
    Dean Registered Posts: 646
    Sorry I've just re-read your opening post and I've called you James! Sorry.

    Mike, I personally don't see your dilemma - it's always been your intention to qualify as an ACA. If you don't complete it now you will kick yourself later on in life, especially as you are almost there!

    If you are thinking this way purely from a self-employment perspective then you can do both providing your employer is happy for you to do so.

    Your whole situation sounds exactly like mine except I don't have children!

    Regards

    Dean
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    Dean wrote: »
    Sorry I've just re-read your opening post and I've called you James! Sorry.

    Mike, I personally don't see your dilemma - it's always been your intention to qualify as an ACA. If you don't complete it now you will kick yourself later on in life, especially as you are almost there!

    If you are thinking this way purely from a self-employment perspective then you can do both providing your employer is happy for you to do so.

    Your whole situation sounds exactly like mine except I don't have children!

    Regards

    Dean

    No worries mate... I get emails from clients (bearing in mind they've had to type my email address of mike.james@...) calling me James, and sometimes Mark!

    Your sentiments are exactly how I was feeling, I agree with you. It's why I posted the thread; it seems daft not to go on and pass the finals when I've gotten through all of the Professional Stage exams. However, if you think of it as you would an investment, you have to ignore the sunk costs (the time I've put in thus far) and just decide whether the future costs (of time and energies and the sacrifices I'd have to make) are justified by the benefit of being ACA... I just don't know if they are!
  • Dcollins
    Dcollins Registered Posts: 179 ? ? ?
    I'd definitely encourage you to continue with studying, especially as you've got this far. Yes, it's tough, but there is an end to it, and I think education and qualifications are always worthwhile. I found the last stage of ACCA difficult, and was ready to give up, but worked out and stuck to a study schedule (2-3 evenings per week + one weekend morning) that gave me enough time to live as well. There is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when it's finished, and it can open doors for you.

    Working for yourself is not the easy option, and the grass isn't always greener...

    Having said that, there's much to be said for the AAT's MIP support, flexible working, no office politics, no commuting, and no-one stealing your yoghurt from the office fridge.
  • Dean
    Dean Registered Posts: 646
    jamesm96 wrote: »
    However, if you think of it as you would an investment, you have to ignore the sunk costs (the time I've put in thus far) and just decide whether the future costs (of time and energies and the sacrifices I'd have to make) are justified by the benefit of being ACA... I just don't know if they are!

    How old are you?

    Regards

    Dean
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    Dean wrote: »
    How old are you?

    Regards

    Dean

    26. So, which institute are you studying for?
  • uknitty
    uknitty Registered Posts: 591
    My surname is Williams and I get called William all the while - which is interesting considering I'm a girl :D

    Now, I know tone doesn't really come across on the internet, so this may sound like I am being shirty but I'd like to assure you that this is not my intention.

    I would absolutely bite your hand off for a shot at a training contract. Maybe you have been in the situation for so long that you have become to familiar with it, and perhaps don't realise what a major achievement it is securing a training contract to study ACA. It really is a fantastic opportunity.

    When you started out with the training what was it that motivated you, and what were your objectives for when you qualified ? Now ask what is it that has changed since then ? If you are 100 % sure that ACA is not for you and that it is going to hold you back in some way, or make you unhappy then of course you should stop - But, if the only reason you are chosing not to continue is because you want to work for yourself - well it is true that you don't need to be chartered to do so, but why waste all the work you have put in to the qualification so far just so you can set up a practice sooner rather than later ?

    If you only have 12 - 18 months left to finish ACA then that is a drop in the ocean compared to the rest of your working life ahead of you.
  • Dean
    Dean Registered Posts: 646
    jamesm96 wrote: »
    26. So, which institute are you studying for?

    I would stick with it. The time investment now will pay off later and once you qualify that's it, at which point you won't know what to do with your time!

    There's only one institute that has a formal training contract ;)

    Regards

    Dean
  • burg
    burg Moderator, FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 1,441
    Mike,

    I'm the same age as you and had a similar decision to make back in early 2009. I had started studying ACCA before realising the restrictions it placed on me and my future ambitions of running my own practice. Feb - Apr of that year was very quiet with very little chargeable work around. I had a few interviews with other local firms but decisions were taking a while as to who was getting the roles.

    While waiting I had some bookkeeping opportunites come my way which promised an income I could cope with. I left in late May of that year and started my own practice. This has gorwn very well since then and I now have around 120 clients. I have worked from home using a converted garage and this has been fine. Things have been more difficult though this year with the higher client numbers and as from February I will be moving into offices.

    The last 2 1/2 years have been difficult and earnings haven't been great but I am looking forward to a much more comfortable year (finance ways).

    I don't regret my decision at all but I was fully aware of the risks I was taking. Should things had not gone so well I was happy to go back to my former practice and see what they could offer and should I be that desperate was happy to work in Tesco or even utilise my previous qualification as a Pharmacy Technician.

    Make sure you think about the risks you would be taking and how happy you would be if things did not go to plan. Don't throw things away just to move a bit quicker. My plan was to always do ATT but as yet I have not got that far. It is something I must get on with but it is just finding the time. I have four children as well so any time not working is spent as a family.

    Best of luck with what you decide.
    Regards,

    Burg
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    uknitty wrote: »
    My surname is Williams and I get called William all the while - which is interesting considering I'm a girl :D

    Haha... that's a good one! I think I may use that the next time a client apologises for calling me Mark!
    uknitty wrote: »
    Now, I know tone doesn't really come across on the internet, so this may sound like I am being shirty but I'd like to assure you that this is not my intention.

    I would absolutely bite your hand off for a shot at a training contract. Maybe you have been in the situation for so long that you have become to familiar with it, and perhaps don't realise what a major achievement it is securing a training contract to study ACA. It really is a fantastic opportunity.

    No you don't sound shirty at all, that's a really interesting perspective, I'd not thought of it like that at all thank you. I joined this firm in 2003 when things were easy in the job and money world, and I was the only employee other than the receptionist, so I'm totally out of touch with what it's like for other trainees. For the record, I know I said that my absolute ideal would be to work from home, but that's by no means a short-term goal, just an ideal. Buying the clients I look after and becoming a partner (of sorts) would be fantastic.

    Other factors that I see as being against ACA qualification in my special little pot of circumstances are that I passed some of the Professional Stage exams a VERY long time ago. For example, I passed Audit in 2004 and tax in 2005 and I've had no formal training in between times, so picking up the studies in 2012 and sitting Advanced Tax and Audit exams seems unrealistic.
  • jamesm96
    jamesm96 Registered Posts: 523
    Dean wrote: »
    I would stick with it. The time investment now will pay off later and once you qualify that's it, at which point you won't know what to do with your time!

    There's only one institute that has a formal training contract ;)

    Regards

    Dean

    Haha... Sorry, I missed the bit where you said you'd finished your training contract!
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