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Accountants Vs Solicitors Vs Tax Specialists

You’re probably asking yourself if you need to instruct an accountant or a solicitor. Well, there’s also a third option, but we’ll come to that shortly.


If you have a serious tax problem, then your accountant may not be the best option. Accountants generally deal with traditional accounting issues. There are things like annual self-assessment returns, submitting company accounts and ensuring tax efficiency.

However, they’re usually not best placed to deal with tax issues when they arise. Tax issues would include things like tax investigations, tax evasion and appeals to First Tier Tax Tribunal. The skills and expertise involved in dealing with ‘issues’ are considerably different than those required to deal with day-to-day accounting matters.

For example, the exams an accountant needs to pass to become ‘chartered’ contain extremely little in terms of tax irregularities. This means that even internationally recognised chartered accountants can struggle when it comes to managing serious tax problems.

It’s worth mentioning that at T M Sterling, much of or work is referred to us by traditional accountants, whom don’t have the skill set to deal with complex tax irregularities.

Tax Solicitors

Solicitors Place Law First and Tax Second

Tax solicitors often have an extremely good understanding of processes and legal ‘jargon’. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand accounting processes. To successfully argue a tax investigation case, for example, its important that the representative has a complete understanding – not only of legal processes, but also of accounting procedures and calculating taxes.

It’s practically impossible to win an argument at tribunal if the representative has little understanding of accounting fundamentals that underpin the argument.

Other problems arise when we consider the tasks involved in completing a voluntary disclosure. For example, as part of the Code of Practice 9 (CDF) process, the representative is required to reconstruct the businesses accounts and compute the tax owed to HMRC. Clearly this is not a task that a solicitor is best placed to undertake.

‘Balance of Probability’ Vs ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’

In criminal law, the ‘test’ for any conviction is, ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. This means that if a judge or jury has any reasonable doubt whatsoever, then they cannot find the accused person guilty. Therefore, solicitors and barristers are used to fighting arguments where all the need to is present a single aspect of evidence to support reasonable doubt.

At First Tier Tax Tribunal this isn’t good enough. The test for any ruling at First Tier Tax Tribunal is ‘the balance of probability. Therefore, a representative must work much harder to convince the judge that the appellant (accused) is innocent. Even if the solicitor manages to convince the judge of a reasonable doubt, the judge can still decide that on the ‘balance of probability’ the accused party is guilty.

Solicitors simply aren’t used to having to ‘prove’ a case to be true.

Tax Specialists – A Better Option

Tax problem specialists, such as T M Sterling, offer the best of both worlds. Not only do tax specialists understand tax and accounting concepts but they are also highly experienced in the relevant appeals processes. It’s this ‘mix’ that means they are often best placed to deal with complex tax problems.

Tax specialists rarely undertake traditional accounting work. Rather, their primary focus is on solving complex tax issues. For example, at T M Sterling we deal with three areas specifically – Tax Investigation Help, Voluntary Disclosure Support and First Tier Tax Tribunal Appeals. Although we have a thorough understanding on all tax related processes, we rarely submit client’s self-assessment returns, for example.

Dealing with tax irregularities, voluntary disclosures and tax appeals requires a very specific skillset. Don’t be forced into having to choose between an accountant or a solicitor, there are other options out there and it’s unlikely to be the best choice anyway.

If you’re confused or need advice on a specific tax problem, then get in touch today. We offer a free initial consultation, so you have absolutely nothing to lose.