- Professional bodies
Whether you wish to outsource your company's payroll department, organise your personal finances more effectively or obtain a realistic and fair value of a business you are looking to sell - all dealings with an accountant require you to volunteer delicate and important financial information.
Because of the nature and significance of both personal and business financial statements - businesses and individuals should be wary of handing this information over to just anyone.
Accountant Directory understands that when looking for and selecting an appropriate accountant, it is reassuring to know they are qualified, experienced and working to high standards - which is why we only list professionals who have provided a relevant qualification and insurance cover, or proof of registration with a professional body.
What is a professional body?
There are various professional accountancy bodies in existence that have taken on the role of self-regulation within the profession. Whilst qualified accountants are under no legal obligation to register with one of these bodies, being a member means an accountant has met certain eligibility requirements put in position by their member organisation and they therefore must abide by a code of ethics and complaints procedure.
All professional bodies will have their own set of entry requirements for membership; in most cases proof of a relevant qualification/training and evidence of experience within the field are required.
The majority of professional accountancy bodies will also require their members to undertake what is known as 'Continuing Professional Development' (CPD), which simply explained is additional learning, training or experience that will help already qualified accountants to safeguard their skills and develop their expertise.
CPD helps professionals to keep up to date with any industry developments and ensures that members continue to practice to the highest standards - all of which helps to reassure individuals and companies who are seeking their services that they are more than capable of undertaking their professional and technical duties.
Other professional bodies provide a number of membership categories, to differentiate between members who are qualified to different levels (e.g. Associate Member, Member etc).
Accountants who belong to a professional body will make this clear on their individual profiles. For more information about some of the key professional accountancy bodies, please see the list below:
Information about registration is subject to change, so for full details please visit the professional bodies' websites directly.
Accounting professional bodies
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a global accountancy organisation that provides professional qualifications and the option of membership for those working in accountancy, management and finance.
Individuals who complete an ACCA qualification, pass the necessary exams and undertake at least three years worth of practical experience within the industry will then be eligible for official membership. Gaining official membership status means that an accountant is then able to refer to himself or herself as a "Chartered Certified Accountant" and they will also be able to use the letters ACCA after their name.
Individuals who have held membership within the organisations for at least five years, and who have undertaken Continued Professional Development (CPD) will then be awarded fellowship status, entitling them to use the designatory letters FCCA after their name.
The ACCA is also a Recognised Supervisory Body (RSB), meaning that they are able to issue members who have demonstrated the required professional ability with Registered Auditor status.
Association of Authorised Public Accountants (AAPA) - a subsidiary of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
Formed in the late seventies under the Companies Act 1948 as a professional body specifically for auditors, the AAPA is a Recognised Supervisory Body (RSB) admitting only members that have individual audit authorisation or a qualification which is recognised for audit purposes in the UK.
Eligible members are entitled to use the designation 'Registered Auditor'.
The AIA is a leading professional body for accountants both in the UK and on an international level. The body is also recognised by the UK Government under the Companies Act 2006 as a Recognised Qualifying Body for statutory auditors. The body offers various levels of membership, including the following:
Academic - A specialist category of membership that is exclusively designed for academics. Academic members can use the designation FAIA (Acad).
Affiliate - Open to individuals who have worked within the accountancy and finance field for more than five years. Affiliate members can use the designation AMIA.
There are two levels of full AIA membership, Associate and Fellow, both of which come under the heading of 'Direct membership' and award members with the designatory letters AAIA and FAIA respectively. Members will also be able to refer to themselves as "International Accountants".
AIA is a Recognised Qualifying Body (RQB), meaning that they have been granted powers by the government to award individuals with an appropriate audit qualification. However, because AIA is not an RSB, if engaging in audit work their members must be supervised by another body that is.
CIMA is currently the world’s largest professional organisation of management accountants. The regulatory body are committed to upholding and promoting a high level of professional and ethical standards among members and therefore ask that they abide by their Code of Ethics and professional conduct.
CIMA focuses chiefly on business accounting and in particular management accountants who deal with the strategic elements of business such as forecasting, financial, and risk and control strategies.
Individuals who have completed the CIMA professional qualification or those who can demonstrate three years of relevant practice in the accountancy field are eligible for membership. Approved members can use the letters ACMA after their name to signify they are associated with the organisation.
CIPFA is the lead professional accountancy body for public services in both the public and private sector. The organisation operates under the Royal Charter and there are three possible routes to becoming a member:
- Individuals who complete the CIPFA Education and Training programme are eligible for membership.
- The council can vote to elect a new member who has provided evidence of appropriate education, training and examinations.
- The council can vote to elect a new member who has, in their opinion, been recognised as having obtained a position of distinction in the field of public finance.
Individuals who meet the above criteria and become members will be able to refer to themselves as "Chartered Finance Accounts" or "Public Finance Accountants" and will be able to use the designatory letters CPFA after their name.
As mentioned above, public finance accountants tend to work in public bodies such as local authorities, hospitals, trusts and government.
All members, including student members, are expected to abide by the organisation's code of conduct and complaints procedure, and action will be taken if the conduct of any individual member falls below the expected standards.
CIPFA is a Recognised Qualifying Body (RQB), meaning that they have been granted powers by the government to award individuals with an appropriate audit qualification. However, because CIPFA is not an RSB, if engaging in audit work their members must be supervised by another body that is.
The ICAEW is a professional membership organisation established by the Royal Charter in 1880, with the key aim of maintaining and promoting a high standard of practice and professional conduct within the accounting industry.
In order to ensure the above, the regulatory body asks that all members adhere to the Code of Ethics and complaints procedure they have put in position, as well as asking that they comply with additional regulations and standards.
To be eligible for membership, applicants must generally have completed three to five years of related work experience with an employer approved by the institute, and must also undertake and pass a series of exams.
Upon becoming a member of the ICAEW, individuals will be awarded the ACA designation that they will then be entitled to use after their name. After 10 years of membership, individuals are entitled to apply for fellowship status within the institute and will then be able to use the designation letters FCA (Fellow Chartered Accountant).
Only individuals belonging to this organisation, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) or the Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI) are able to refer to themselves as a "Chartered Accountant".
Generally speaking, chartered accountants mainly cover finance work and either work in accountancy practice, business and commerce, the public sector or financial services and banking.
The ICAEW, ICAS and CAI are all recognised bodies under the Companies Act 2006 as Recognised Supervisory Bodies (RSBs), meaning that they are able to issue members who have demonstrated the required professional ability with Registered Auditor status. They are also able to carry out a supervisory audit role for organisations that have not been awarded this status.
AAT is a professional membership body and awarding body for accountancy and finance qualifications. Through the implementation of a code of professional ethics, AAT aims to preserve accountancy as a well-trusted and respected profession.
AAT members must comply with the organisation's regulations and must behave professionally and ethically at all times. They must also keep their skills and competence up-to-date through consistent educational development.
The AAT is divided into the following categories:
- Student - A category for those still in training.
- Affiliate - A category for those who have completed an AAT qualification and who are now in the process of building up their work experience and skills before progressing to full membership.
- Member (MAAT) - Full membership is for those who have achieved the required level of training and additional work experience.
- Fellow (FMAAT) - Fellow is the highest level of membership and recognises senior experience, advanced expertise and sustained professionalism. Only those who have been MAAT for a period of five years or more can apply to become FMAAT.
- MIP Registered - A Registered Member in Practice is an AAT full or fellow member offering accountant, taxation or related consultancy services to the public. Members providing these service must be approved by the AAT to do so. Those who are 'Registered' status meet some but not all of the AAT licensing criteria, so can register on the scheme and work towards attaining a full licence.
- MIP Licensed - A Licensed Member in Practice is a full or fellow member offering accountant, taxation or related consultancy services to the public.
The Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA) is an internationally recognised professional accountancy membership body. With a heritage spanning back to 1916, the IFA are full members of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and provide dedicated support to their members who operate within the small to medium sized enterprise (SMEs) sector.
The IFA provides members with all the necessary tools to successfully operate as financial accountants. With the IFA, you can expect a wealth of experience and a streamlined focus. Their membership levels include the following:
- Retired status - For those who are in receipt of a pension but are still working part time (no more than two and a half days a week).
- Members in Employment - For those employed in business and are qualified financial accountants who chiefly work for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
Members in Practice - A substantial number of the IFA’s members are in practice as “external accountants” (i.e. doing accountancy work for people or companies who are not their employers), tax advisers or company service providers.
CPAA members are primarily based in public practice in the UK, however they also have a growing number of members who work as employees and are based overseas. Members have all spent a number of years within the accountancy profession and have been reviewed by the Association to ensure that they meet the high standards that people expect of professional accountants. Their membership levels are:
- Associate Membership (ACPA) - Associate (ACPA) membership is a full corporate grade of membership and is available through one of the following routes: Membership of any chartered body or any other acceptable recognised professional body or, have gained a first or post graduate degree in finance or accountancy from a recognised university. They must have a minimum of two years approved experience.
- Fellow Membership (FCPA) - Fellow (FCPA) membership is available to anyone holding that designation with any other chartered or recognised professional body or to Associates of five or more years standing.
Bookkeeping professional bodies
The International Association of Bookkeepers is a professional organisation serving, supervising and supporting the needs of bookkeepers and accounting professionals. The association only accepts qualified individuals so the public can feel rest assured that they are seeking the services of only competent bookkeepers.
ICB is the largest bookkeeping organisation in the world and is dedicated to promoting and maintaining high standards within the industry. The institute runs qualifications and awards membership grades which recognise academic attainment, experience and competence.
Other relevant organisations:
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is an independent UK regulator who monitor and enforce actuarial, accounting and auditing standards.
The organisation was funded by the government and the industry, and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is responsible for appointing the Board of Directors. It's subsidiaries (which are listed below), play a crucial role in the supervision and development of UK accounting standards.
The FRC is made up of six regulatory bodies:
- Financial Reporting Review Panel (FRRP)
Ensures that the provision of financial information by public and large private companies complies with the relevant accounting requirements.
- Accounting Standards Board (ASB) - Sets UK accounting standards.
- Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADA) - An independent, investigative and disciplinary body for accountants and actuaries in the UK.
- Professional Oversight Board (POB) - UK regulatory body specialising in accounting, auditing and actuarial professions.
- Auditing Practices Board (APB) - Sets UK standards for auditing.
- Board for Actuarial Standards (BAS) - Sets UK standards for the Actuarial Profession.
The Accounting Standards Board (ASB) is responsible for the development of the UK accounting standards. In 1990, the organisation took over the role of principle setting from the Accounting Standards Committee (ASC) and are now recognised for that particular purpose under the Companies Act 1985. The ASB is part of the Financial Reporting Council.
The key aim of the ASB is to improve standards of financial accounting and reporting for the benefit of users - so that all financial information is prepared in the same way according to the same framework.
The accounting standards that are set by the board are applicable to any company who wishes to provide an honest view of the accounts they present.
As a chief standard setter, the ASB are also responsible in part for the development of what are known in the industry as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP):
- Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
GAAP is the standard framework for accountancy practice in the UK. These principles, standards and procedures laid out in the GAAP must be followed, unless accounts are being prepared under the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which are the European equivalent of GAAP.
The primary aim of GAAP is to ensure that any accounting information that is assembled and reported is done so to a certain standard. This way third parties who rely on such information will know that it is accurate and comparable to that of other companies.
This list of professional bodies is not exhaustive and there are many more accounting regulatory organisations, details of which can be found over on our useful resources page.
Here at Accountant Directory we recognise the value of membership with a professional body. If you are wary of choosing an appropriate accountant, selecting one who is a member of a professional body will provide you with the peace of mind that they are experienced within the field and bound by a code of ethics and complaints procedure.