Here in the UK, finding a qualified accountant can be complicated. This is as, unlike other professions like doctors or solicitors, no single body monitors exams and titles. Any individual can advertise themselves as an accountant or book-keeper without experience or training, meaning that their services may be of questionable quality. There is also little an employer can do legally if their accountant provides unlawful advice.
Thankfully, a large number of professional institutes exist which accountants can belong to. These bodies provide not only a guarantee of ability but also a level of protection via professional ethics codes and requirements for indemnity insurance. An employer then has the option to make a formal complaint to an institute and legal coverage in the event of any wrongdoing by a chartered accountant. Accountants which are ratified in this manner are usually the best option for both business and for personal use.
Accountants, such as www.linghamscharteredaccountants.co.uk, that hold qualifications from one of these bodies have to pass certain requirements which differ between bodies but usually entail a combination of examination and proven real-world experience. Some can be particularly demanding, with the ICAEW requiring 3200 hours worked alongside successful completion of 15 separate exams. While exact requirements will differ, each demonstrates a formal training.
Some of the qualifications that an accountant may hold include:
- CTA, ATII or FTII (Chartered Tax Advisor). Issued by the Chartered Institute of Taxation or CIOT
- ACCA or FCCA (Chartered Certified Accountant). Issued by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants or ACCA
- ACA or FCA (Chartered Accountant). Issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England or Wales or ICAEW
- CA (Chartered Accountant). Issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland or ICAS
- ACA or FCA (Chartered Accountant). Issued by Chartered Accountants Ireland or CAI
- ACMA or FCMA (Chartered Management Accountant). Issued by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants or CIMA
- ASPA or FSPA (Certified Public Accountant). Issued by the Association of Certified Public Accountants or ACPA
Accountants may advertise themselves as a Fellow, Member or Associate of one of the above bodies, which simply means that they hold qualifications from the institute in question. Otherwise, they may use an abbreviation or their qualification/title. They may also have more than one qualification or title which indicates that they have passed a number of accredited courses. Each institute offers prospective employers the ability to check a potential accountant, certifying their qualifications.
Beyond the chartered accountant bodies that issue qualifications, a number of other groups exist which represent accountants. These are generally organizations which accountants may belong optionally in order to gain professional advantages. Some specialise in certain niche industries (such as the Institute of Financial Accountants which focuses on smaller business) or more as advisory firms that can provide appropriate accountants (such as the International Association of Practising Accountants).
It is important to note that these bodies do not issue qualifications. The most important factor to consider when choosing a chartered accountant is their professional title, such as Chartered Tax Advisor. These titles are simple to check and confirm via the appropriate bodies.