Terms and Conditions
What to look for in an Accountant
Why choose a Chartered Accountant?
Legally anyone can call themselves an ‘accountant’ without any training or experience. Before becoming a ‘chartered accountant’ and using the designatory letters ACA or FCA, the members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) must:
undertake a period of at least three years training with an organisation that is authorised by ICAEW; and
pass rigorous examinations embracing financial management, financial reporting, auditing, business analysis and strategy, and taxation. This training and experience also ensures that chartered accountants develop communication skills, business awareness and professional judgement.
ICAEW members are expected to maintain high standards of ethical and professional conduct. The ICAEW scheme of Practice Assurance gives members in practice a framework of quality assurance principles to help them assess and develop their own practices. It demonstrates their commitment to upholding and developing professional standards.
All members must comply with ICAEW’s scheme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), ensuring that their knowledge and skills are kept up to date.
Chartered accountants who offer accountancy services to the public must have professional indemnity insurance. Firms must have a complaints procedure but ICAEW can become involved if necessary.
Knowing that ICAEW members have undertaken a rigorous training regime and have rules to follow and a reputation to live up to means you can rely on the advice you get from them.
What is Practice Assurance?
The Practice Assurance scheme demonstrates to the business community and wider public the commitment of the ICAEW to upholding and developing professional standards that command public confidence. Practice Assurance applies to all members who provide accounting services to the public.
Practice Assurance demonstrates that not only do chartered accountants in practice hold the premier business qualification, but that they back this up with the highest ethical standards, professional service and business expertise. It is designed to protect the good name of ICAEW members and the profession and to offer practical, independent standards and advice in order to demonstrate commitment to maintain the standard of their professional services to the public. More information on the Practice Assurance scheme.
Terms and Conditions of Service
For details of our full terms and conditions of service please click here.
Checklist for selecting a Chartered Accountant
Look for a firm which is similar in size to yours or has clients of the same size as your business; they will be more understanding of the issues and problems you will face.
Do they have experience of your sector and type of business?
What is their reputation? Will they be acceptable to third parties e.g. finance providers, shareholders?
For audit, investment business or insolvency work, make sure that the chartered accountant is authorised to undertake the work?
Check that the firm is practice assured.
If you’re starting a business, find a chartered accountant first.
Invest time in finding the right accountant. It's a long-term relationship.
Check in advance whether the first meeting to discuss their appointment is free of charge; specific advice may be charged for.
Tell them what you are planning to do and check whether they offer the services you will need to build your business.
Tell them the accounting records you keep. Can they suggest improvements?
Ask for their comments on your business plan. If you need finance, you may need a plan. How much would they charge to do one with you?
Establish what the fees will be and when they are payable.
Establish who at the firm will be dealing with your work - it may not only be the person you are meeting with. Do you get on with this person; is this someone you can work with?
Ask to speak to existing clients - references are always important.
If you also want advice on investments check whether they can provide this as it can be a complex area. Advice on specific investments (such as pensions) can only be provided by advisers authorised by the Financial Services Authority (which some chartered accountants are). Other chartered accountants may be licensed by ICAEW in the ‘designated professional body’ arrangements and can provide a limited range of investment services. But all chartered accountants can give general advice, which may prove a useful basis for subsequent discussion.
After the Appointment
After appointing your chartered accountant you should receive a letter setting out their terms and conditions.
Your chartered accountant should always keep in touch, not just at the year end.
You must tell your chartered accountant as soon as possible of changes in your business, problems, circumstances, etc.
After your accounts have been prepared you should receive a letter setting out future tax liabilities.
Don't be afraid to tap into your chartered accountant's knowledge for help with running your business.
Review your chartered accountant's charges every three to five years.
From time to time, assess whether your accountant's services still match your business needs. If you are not getting what you want – ask.
If you decide to sell your business, tell your chartered accountant - he/she could plan to minimise tax liabilities and even help with the sale.
Helen Jones BA, MSc, AKC
Helen has a masters in IT and has helped Robert with his business in a supportive capacity. She is particularly interested in using technology to assist communication.
Outside work Helen is a busy mother and involved in her sons' school PTA, her local church as well as distance running.