Practicing certificates: What you need to know

Community Correspondent
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Word of a recent regulatory case drew attention to the sanctions that can be applied to members practicing without a certificate. The penalties can range from fines, to warnings, to exclusion of membership, reports Rachael Power.

One AccountingWEB member brought home the risks recently when he found out he was being investigated for practicing without a certificate by his professional body. As co-director of a firm offering business planning services he thought he did not need a certificate, but on hearing about the investigation, he discovered he was wrong. That case is now progressing through his body's regulatory mechanism, but the incident highlights that some practitioners may still be unaware of the rules and regulations around the practicing without a certificate.

Register with AccountingWEB for free and log in to see the full article, which covers:

  • Principal partners' requirement for a practice certificate
  • Disciplinary measures
  • Membership requirements and costs (CCAB bodies)
  • What to do if you are being investigated
  • Qualifications versus experience

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Practising certificates

..always helps to spell practising correctly too!!

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Practising Certificate

Why no mention of the Institute of Financial Accountants? This is a professional accounting body (non CCAB). The ICPA is a trade body not a professional body.

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as an FCA, i would estimate that my qualification costs me well in excess of £1,000 pa in terms of membership fees, practising certificates and PII not to mention all the compliance time.  My unqualified competitors have a significant advantage over me.  They claim to be regulated by HMRC (money laundering regs); I am regulated by the ICAEW.  Which do you think the public has heard of?  waste of money.

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The CIMA Member in Practice Fee is £118 (not £103 as above) for the 2012-13 Subscription year which includes the practising certificate application)

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In progress....
I'm in the process of trying to get my ACCA practicing certificate. I've finally got my experience signed off but the next stumbling block is getting a continuity in practice agreement with another firm. I don't have any clients, I understand the necessity of it in the long run but it seems regardless of your competence, getting the correct paperwork in place before you even get the practicing certificate is a nightmare! And at the moment there's still no guarantee that I will get my practicing certificate. What if my experience is not enough?

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How did you get on ?
I've started the process of getting the firm that I work for registered with av a for sign a practising certificate off.

I'm just finding one problem after another - getting some to sign off - the volume of paperwork.

If all goes well and I get 4 x 6 months of sign off what other hurdles will I encounter.

I want the.certificate on a part time basis initially and bulid thing up,

Thanks for any help you can give

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It is not just the cost of obtaining the practice certificate it is all the time spent on the bureaucracy that goes with it.  It seems to me that when you have a regulatory visit they are not at all bothered as to whether the work has been done correctly and the right questions asked of the client just whether or not you have signed and dated the working papers. 

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I resigned from ICAEW after more than 20 years membership and 18 years with a practising certificate. For a small practitioner the Institute seems irrelevant to me and there is clearly no value for money in the membership and practising certicate fees.

It staggers me how much effort ICAEW put into checking and pursuing bureaucratic matters and threatening action against 'miscreants'. Contrast that with when I was acting as expert witness and was forced to report a medium sized firm to the Institute for the appalling tax advice and lack of duty of care that they had given to their client. In that instance ICAEW were unable to offer an opinion on the advice given and could only provide a mediation service.

It seems to me that if membership of ICAEW is supposed to be some assurance of quality then the Institute need to back this up with real action rather than the tick in the box culture that pervades at present.

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I intent to agree with you.


I have been a member of the ICAEW for almost forty years and can assure you that in all that time  I never  felt that being a member of  the ICAEW gave me any added value to my practise.

With the ever rising costs and  constant changing regulations is a turn off  

I am seriously considering in resigning at the end of this year, but would like to continue in practise as a qualified accountant without membership of a professional body.

How have you managed since you resigned ?  and how do you describe your firm on your headed paper ?( since you would no longer be able to use the name Chartered Accountant on your headed paper)

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There has been no difference since I resigned. I have never marketed my firm and all new business comes via word of mouth. My letterhead used to say 'Chartered Accountants' and now says 'Accountants and Tax Advisers'. I still go on the same courses and subscribe to Taxation magazine so I keep up to date the same way as I always did. In the unlikely event that accountants are required to be members of a professional body I would apply to the Institute of Taxation - I passed their exams in 1993 but didn't take up membership as I was already with ICAEW

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What About AAT?

I am currently studying Level 4. Why no mention of AAT?

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qualified or experience question

A never ending debate/  the exams have become easier/ with longer periods to complete.

leading to too many people qualified by exam/ but no experience- chasing ever fewer vacancies.

As software now controls most practice work/ (how many of you could survive without Iris or

alternative)  why not give recently qualified a limited practice cert- say like the software company

allow them so many clients to begin with/ expand the certificate with the practice development.

At least give them the chance to put into use the knowledge gained on current laws and rules.

At the monent by the time they received a cert/ that knowledge is out of date ?.

no different from a driving licence/ you pass /you drive- and your insurance goes up or down

with how you drive and the experience gained.



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100% agree i managed 30 years, what a waste of a life

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I am an FMAAT and have a practicing licence under AAT, however I am also a member of ICPA. I find that the latter are much more proactive and seek to provide many of the things I require to practice at discount, I also get lots of discounted software etc from ICPA. PII and web based CPD is included in my annual fee as are my tax manuals.

I also represent ICPA on our local working together committee where there is also an AAT rep, I never get any feedback from AAT regarding WT, yet all ICPA reps report back and issues are published in monthly mag and on the website and on social media for all to contribute and participate. All in all I think that ICPA is more useful to me in my day to day business and gives me more value for money.

ICPA cannot supervise me under ML however they are far more active in the field than HMRC and keep me updated on ML issues more than AAT does.

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Sacked ACCA

Within 2 years of my exams, I realised being a member of ACCA gave me nothing but a headache.  As we specialise in mainly small businesses and onsite work there wasn't any benefit of paying all those fees.

In order to satisfy the Lenders out there wanting verification, i joined the ICB and am regulated under them.  Cheaper and more helpful, well worth it.


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Honest Accountanting

Providing one prepares accounts on a true and fair basis, matches revenue with expenses etc you have an honest set of accounts providing you the accountant have a picture of the whole business. For most of us that is a small business. This also applies to small Limited Companies.

I have health problems which affect my income. So I realized I could not afford the AAT membership with the associated CPD costs in money and time.

The biggest problem I have is when I am doing something not in my normal zone. I have no colleagues who therefore widen the knowledge in a firm. This is my biggest problem. I am currently completing the joint Co House and HMRC accounts service pdf. Im stuck with the deffered taxation boxes. Can anyone help?

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Somewhat saddened

Reading the article, accountancy is becoming a trade not a profession, and the comments I feel really saddened. I have always wanted to be an accountant since, my late teens, and found it to be very worthwhile and fulfilling. Surely as philfromleeds says provided you give good advice, prepare the numbers in the correct manner and offer a valid opinion that is something to be proud off.

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Legal requirement of not being a qualified accountant f

Can any senior please guide me in this regard,

I am establishing my own bookkeeping and general accountancy firm, I am not a qualified accountant yet but have more than 3 years experience in accountancy practices.

I am a graduate (accounting and financial management) and nearly qualified in next year.

I need to show to UKBA (for visa purposes) that I can even setup this bookkeeping and accountancy firm without being member of any accountancy body as there is not any legal prohibition to do such bookkeeping firm as most of the accountant doing for individuals, small business and companies (not audited company accounts). 

Even companies house doesn't have any requirement of appointment of a qualified accountants for unaudited accounts. Same is HMRC  - They assign agent logins without demanding whether your are qualified accountant/tax adviser or not. But still need to show to UKBA that I can do such firm...

I just need that document of legal provisions that for (bookkeeping) tax returns, unaudited accounts etc there  wouldn't be requirement of being a qualified accountant.


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Look at the Institute of Certified Bookkkeepers.and the ICPA

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Many thanks.

I have looked their website and no such information, not any customer services personnel able to point the applicable rules.

I would appreciate your effort if you please specify the rules if you have gone through.....

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There is no law against you calling yourself an Accountant

Hi Rizvan,

If you feel confident enough to practice as an accountant you can call yourself an accoutant and practice as an accountant.  And if you cant to the job you will find out. Here I am talking about ability.

Give it a go either you will be messed up or you will mess up people.

You can not call yourself a Chartered Accountant because you are not a Chartered Accountant.

Same goes for Certified.

I call myself a Bookkeeper/Accountant.

I advertise on the back of my car as a Bookkeeper. I dont think an a successful accountant would advertise on the back of his car.





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@Phil Leaman

Many many thanks really.

Yes, I would send u an email as well.

I cannot be employed but only self employed as per this visa of UKBA rules.

I really appreciate your interest towards and thankful to you.

Let me know as well, if I would ever be of your help any time regarding anything I can do.

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Yep, thanks alot 

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Can I just warn you all (including Stephen-Taylor) that when one qualifies in AAT, you cannot become a student member of ACCA while holding practising certificate (if you wish to study for ACCA that is)!

Something that Accounting bodies do not seem to inform students about....!!

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