Unlike other professions in the UK where titles such as Solicitor, or Pharmacist, Chiropodist and even Dietitian are protected by law, the term Accountant is not a protected title. Anyone (yes anyone!) can call themselves an accountant. No training or practice experience required. You don’t need a degree, professional qualification, or even to undertake any form of studying before adding “accountant” as your job title. Just pick up a calculator and off you go.
What is a chartered Accountant?
Now, lets compare that to a Chartered Accountant (CA), Chartered is a protected title issued to leading organisations by royal charter. The professional bodies need to uphold a high standard to maintain there good standing and ultimately their existence. Members have to abide by a strict code of conduct ensuring their actions reflect how the governing body and the profession as a whole wants to be portrayed to both to clients and the outside world.
Multiple examinations testing knowledge gained from years of grueling study accompanied with a varying range of practical accounting and financial experience in their chosen areas of work are required for membership. Students typically spend 3-4 years studying and completing exams with pass rates averaging around 50% not all get the first step onto their chosen career plan. Chartered status is the equivalent to a Masters Degree level, with a part-qualified associate being like the equivalent level of a bachelor degree level as such is not easily achieved.
Once qualified the learning doesn’t stop, in order to continue using their special designation members are required to take ongoing learning courses (Continuing Personal Development (CPD)) and keep up to date with their knowledge. Usually this requires the member to complete a program of around 40 hours of learning per year as a minimum.
The UKs 6 chartered Accountancy bodies:
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
Some of the above have a global presence with members in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, India and may other countries worldwide.
Are they all the same? Well no, they focus on different areas that may or may not be compatible with the accountancy services your business requires. CIPFA focuses its expertise on the public sector with auditing of government and public money. For most small to medium size businesses in Britain the most applicable will be the ACCA or ICAEW. For larger corporate businesses that require professionals to work in jobs in their management accounts department rather than as an external accounting or audit firms – CIMA would be the best choice.
Other professional bodies
Non chartered bodies such as the AAT (association of Accounting Technicians) or the ATT (Association of Taxation Technicians), both have similar entry level qualifications and are respected in their own right.
Hopefully the above illustrates the value a top Chartered Accountant makes and the difference it means in the standards you can expect. Picking a chartered accountant can help ensure you find an adviser who can apply the latest tax treatments, ensure your business has the various tools needed, both online and in person to prepare your limited company for big opportunities.
There are many pathways to obtain solutions and support for your business, there are lots of options available. Make sure you take the time to scope out and really search to find the best chartered accountant to learn from and provide every role you are looking for.
Do you need an established charted professional firm of accountants to act for your business and help you become a commercial success or will a unqualified provider with no verifiable experience do?