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Abandoning accountancy membership in order to operate as a sole trader

Abandoning accountancy membership in order to...

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I can see that this issue has come up before but I had a couple of particular questions for people that have maybe made the jump before me.

I qualified with ACCA in 1996 and have maintained my membership and CPD ever since. I have spent the last 22 years working in corporates and have occupied a number of senior finance positions including CFO of a division for a multinational. But I am tired of corporate life and decided I would like to spend the rest of my career (say next 10 to 15 years) working for myself, providing accounting and tax filing services for small businesses, individuals and sole traders. My plan was to attend a number of ACCA courses over the next year, equip myself with the small business knowledge and then get my practising certificate and be off.

Anyway, it is quite clear that I will not get the certificate and will need to resign my ACCA membership if I want to do this. So I wanted to hear from maybe others that have done this? Do you have any regrets? How do you maintain CPD if not a member, by this I mean can you still access all the same courses.

I guess another big question is, if circumstances change and I decide to go back to corporate life, is it possible to resume a resigned ACCA membership.

Many thanks in advance.

Replies (29)

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Stepurhan
By stepurhan
27th Feb 2015 12:56

Corporate v Practice

There is a reason why a practicing certificate requires practice experience.

Being a practice accountant is very different to being a corporate accountant, no matter how high-level the position. A very different knowledge set is required, and your CPD maintenance will only go so far in covering that.

So it might be best to see if you can get work in practice first. If you just make the leap and find you aren't able to operate at a practice level, both you and your clients will be in trouble. Whether you then go the full three years to get a practicing certificate within ACCA is a different matter.

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By Bungo
27th Feb 2015 13:28

Thanks. Am well aware of the differnt nature of the work of course. But just to clarify, I was not asking about my suitability or capability and was not even questioning why a practicing certificate should be required. I mentioned I would spend the rest of the year obtaining the right knowledge and it will be my intention to maintain the required knowledge regardless of my membership. So for the sake of argument, let's just assume I have that side of things covered.

So I was just looking for people who have been in similar situation and how they felt about giving up ACCA and whether anybody knows if it is possible to resume it if situation changes. I have no interest in joining a practice, I want to work for myself for the remainder of my career.

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By Flash Gordon
27th Feb 2015 13:46

No regrets

I quit ACCA and my only regret was not having done it sooner. There are a lot of CPD courses available - you don't need the letters to be able to access them.

And I think (though check with ACCA) that you can rejoin - you may have to pay some back fees though, can't remember. But you won't want to rejoin!

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By JamesAnd
27th Feb 2015 13:56

Probably a daft question...

I presume you would just not be able to audits? What other restrictions are there if you don't have a practising certificate ?

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Stepurhan
By stepurhan
27th Feb 2015 14:41

Restrictions

JamesAnd wrote:
Probably a daft question...

I presume you would just not be able to audits? What other restrictions are there if you don't have a practising certificate ?

A basic practicing certificate won't let you do audit either. An auditing practice certificate requires certified audit experience.

If the OP is willing to give up their ACCA qualification, then there are no real limits on what ordinary accounts and tax work they can do. References (for mortgages, etc) are likely to be the only problem, as most require a recognised qualification as "proof" the person is competent to give the reference.

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By Silver Birch Accts
27th Feb 2015 13:59

In Practice

I mentioned I would spend the rest of the year obtaining the right knowledge and it will be my intention to maintain the required knowledge regardless of my membership. So for the sake of argument, let's just assume I have that side of things covered.

Above qoute from the OP Bunga.

I have 40 years years experience and I supect many reading this have similar.

You never know it all, hence CPD and reading everyday such things as AccountingWeb, yet Bunga has allowed until Christmas to aquire the font of all knowledge. I may have got the wrong end of the stick but I find Bunga's attitude somewhat arrogant and possibly dangerous.

 

 

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By MattG
27th Feb 2015 14:31

1 Year could be enough - if done correctly.

Silver Birch Accts wrote:

I mentioned I would spend the rest of the year obtaining the right knowledge and it will be my intention to maintain the required knowledge regardless of my membership. So for the sake of argument, let's just assume I have that side of things covered.

Above qoute from the OP Bunga.

I have 40 years years experience and I supect many reading this have similar.

You never know it all, hence CPD and reading everyday such things as AccountingWeb, yet Bunga has allowed until Christmas to aquire the font of all knowledge. I may have got the wrong end of the stick but I find Bunga's attitude somewhat arrogant and possibly dangerous.

You are correct to a point, but I think the 40 years reference is a bit misleading, clearly you don't need 40 years experience to setup your own practice, though equally setting up with no knowledge/experience is not ideal either.

Also I think "font of all knowledge..." is over egging it a bit, there are some 15-20k pages of tax legislation in this country, but if you aren't preparing accounts for a bank, or oil company you can safely discount several hundred pages, so it's a question of what you specialise in and knowing your limits. Knowing your limits should apply to pretty much any firm though, indeed practicing in areas in which I am competent is a key condition for my practicing certificate, as I imagine it is for other institutes.

I agree with your point in general though, a year of just doing ACCA courses will likely not be enough. I'm not an ACCA member and don't keep track of what courses they offer, but I suspect most of them are going to be aimed at maintaining existing knowledge and going through new development, they won't be covering the basics that you need to be able to do compliance work for small businesses.

I too came from industry and setup my own practice without any practice experience, which I agree is a bit of a stretch in general. In my case though I obtained full ATT membership and did a tremendous amount of reading and research before starting. I am a bit of a freak in this respect though, currently studying for the CTA qualification and I'd be hard pressed to fully explain why I'm doing it!

I also accepted the fact that to start with every job would take 2-3 times as long as it would for somebody with practice experience, as I would be checking and double checking the rules and I factored this in as a learning curve. You really do need to know your limits though, I turned down a few engagements when I first started out, as I just couldn't be confident I had the experience to deal with them.

 

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By Bungo
27th Feb 2015 15:20

Clarification

Silver Birch Accts wrote:

I mentioned I would spend the rest of the year obtaining the right knowledge and it will be my intention to maintain the required knowledge regardless of my membership. So for the sake of argument, let's just assume I have that side of things covered.

Above qoute from the OP Bunga.

I have 40 years years experience and I supect many reading this have similar.

You never know it all, hence CPD and reading everyday such things as AccountingWeb, yet Bunga has allowed until Christmas to aquire the font of all knowledge. I may have got the wrong end of the stick but I find Bunga's attitude somewhat arrogant and possibly dangerous.

 

 

Yes you have got the wrong end of the stick.

I am aware that it is different and there is a learning curve. But I am capable of learning,prepared to learn and will not bite off more than I can chew in terms of commitments. So what I am saying is that this is not what my thread was about. Maybe I will have questions later about readying myself later, but for now I just wanted to discuss the matter of membership. That is all. Hope it clarifies.

I really think you were a bit quick to call me arrogant without knowing a single thing about me.

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By Gilly
27th Feb 2015 14:13

I've done it

I worked in industry before starting to carry out bookkeeping, and straightforward SATRs, CT600s, VAT returns and payroll work for micro businesses.  It was all work I'd had experience in, but the change was still a huge learning curve. I probably did more CPD than work in the first year.  It's not difficult for an intelligent person to know their own boundaries. 

I could have obtained an ACCA practising certificate, but chose not to for various reasons, and resigned my membership.  I don't miss it at all.  I became a member of AAT, got a MIP licence from them, and am more than happy with their CPD provision, and the support available to MIPs.  Especially as it's UK focused.  I found with ACCA I was filtering out a lot of information relevant to auditors and ACCA's global interests etc.  I maintain my CPD records so that they meet ACCA's requirements as well as AAT's. 

The last time I checked, it was possible to renew my ACCA membership by paying subs for each year of absence, and providing full CPD records for those years.  Probably best to check this yourself, in case they've changed the rules.

AAT members also have the option to attend local ACCA and CIMA CPD events free of charge. You can still attend the paid-for ACCA courses, you just have to pay a bit more.  The local events give you chance to meet other accountants to bounce ideas/grumbles off, and working alone can feel a bit isolating sometimes, so it helps to get out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By JamesAnd
27th Feb 2015 15:16

Thanks stepurhan

I was asking my original question because I then wanted to move on to wondering what the future holds for accountancy qualifications.

HMRC have their own registration scheme (and I sometimes think HMRC will end up having a "corgi" type scheme for accountants) and thus if an individual can perform most accountancy/taxation duties could this dilute the need even further to be qualified to ACCA or FCA level and leave this qualifications only for "intricate" work that perhaps most self employed accountants wouldn't be that bothered about being involved in anyway otherwise, they would presumably stay in practice 

As has also been mentioned in this string it is not difficult to keep up to date technically what with SWAT, Mercia, Taxation etc.

Just some thoughts that's all.

 

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By andy.partridge
27th Feb 2015 15:37

Give the OP a break

1. They are a qualified ACCA

2. They have nearly 20 years post-qualification accountancy experience, much of it in senior positions

3. They have been committed to CPD

4. They recognise there are gaps in their knowledge which they are motivated to fill

What's not to like about that? Sounds to me like the sort of person to trust to make a go of it.

Good luck (and sorry I can't answer your ACCA query).

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By Bungo
27th Feb 2015 15:36

Thank you

andy.partridge wrote:

1. They are a qualified ACCA

2. The have nearly 20 years post-qualification accountancy experience, much of it in senior positions

3. They have been committed to CPD

4. They recognise there are gaps in their knowledge which they are motivated to fill

What's not to like about that? Sounds to me like the sort of person to trust to make a go of it.

Good luck (and sorry I can't answer your ACCA query).

Thank you and to all the other helpful posters on this thread.

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By Maslins
27th Feb 2015 15:39

Agree with andy.partridge's comment above.  I'm ACA instead of ACCA, but on the assumption you do get some recent practice experience like you say you will, why do you think they won't give you a practising certificate?

I got mine as soon as I had 2 yrs post qual experience...I don't recall there being any particular hoops I had to jump through, just pay the additional fee (I'll leave people to decide their own level of cynicism here).

Following some of the other comments above, I too have contemplated why I keep my ACA membership going.  They're a modest PITA, with all their "help" being stuff that's of no benefit/interest to our clients, me, or HMRC...all just pedantic rubbish IMHO.  They're also a modest cost.  Clients really couldn't give a monkeys, most lay people assume you have to be qualified to call yourself an accountant.

One thing I might struggle without it is mortgage references, which are pretty common with our fairly young client base.  Sure, some lenders accept SA302s, but many have their own form which needs to be signed off by someone suitably qualified.

I don't think many people regret giving up their membership...but I haven't...yet.

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By Bungo
27th Feb 2015 16:20

ACCA practising certificate

Maslins wrote:

Agree with andy.partridge's comment above.  I'm ACA instead of ACCA, but on the assumption you do get some recent practice experience like you say you will, why do you think they won't give you a practising certificate?

I got mine as soon as I had 2 yrs post qual experience...I don't recall there being any particular hoops I had to jump through, just pay the additional fee (I'll leave people to decide their own level of cynicism here).

Following some of the other comments above, I too have contemplated why I keep my ACA membership going.  They're a modest PITA, with all their "help" being stuff that's of no benefit/interest to our clients, me, or HMRC...all just pedantic rubbish IMHO.  They're also a modest cost.  Clients really couldn't give a monkeys, most lay people assume you have to be qualified to call yourself an accountant.

One thing I might struggle without it is mortgage references, which are pretty common with our fairly young client base.  Sure, some lenders accept SA302s, but many have their own form which needs to be signed off by someone suitably qualified.

I don't think many people regret giving up their membership...but I haven't...yet.

Unfortunately the ACCA will only give out practicing certificates to people that work for an ACCA accredited company and have completed a three year log book with that employer. Well I don't and haven't. I have read that ACCA is the hardest body to get a practicing certificate from. It just isn't going to happen unfortunately. Not unless I hunt for a job with an accredited employer (and it is not even that easy to find out who is) and work for them for three years from now. So in a nutshell, I cannot get one.

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By Gilly
27th Feb 2015 17:09

Accredited company not necessary but...

[/quote] Unfortunately the ACCA will only give out practicing certificates to people that work for an ACCA accredited company and have completed a three year log book with that employer. Well I don't and haven't. I have read that ACCA is the hardest body to get a practicing certificate from. It just isn't going to happen unfortunately. Not unless I hunt for a job with an accredited employer (and it is not even that easy to find out who is) and work for them for three years from now. So in a nutshell, I cannot get one.[/quote]

There's another way, if you didn't work for an accredited firm, but you DID have a line manager/supervisor at some point, from an IFAC body (ACCA, CIMA, ICEAW etc.), and they are willing to sign your forms to confirm your records. you could apply for a practising licence (without audit).  ACCA will check their membership before processing your application.  It doesn't need to be from your most recent employment. But you would need to do the experience log, and have a good enough relationship with your previous employer to have them sign your records.  My CPD records were sufficient to produce the experience log.

It took me flaming ages to find out all of that, and flaming ages to get it done, and in the end I thought 'stuff it' and spent the fees on some nice tax software instead.  

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By Bungo
27th Feb 2015 17:40

Another way
I have nearly always worked for another qualified accountant. But I have been working internationally and in the UK. My line manger for seven years in UK (longest job post qualification) emigrated to the USA and I know he let his ICAEW lapse. Other UK jobs, well no I don't have the connections there any more as going a bit too far back and seven of the last ten years have been working internationally so that isn't going to help me out. So I can't see a way, without starting again.

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By NHGlos
02nd Mar 2015 09:18

PC Possibility

Bungo wrote:
Unfortunately the ACCA will only give out practicing certificates to people that work for an ACCA accredited company and have completed a three year log book with that employer.

An ex colleague was ACCA qualified and was able to gain a practising certificate with a retrospective review of their employers and experience. Basically ACCA considered if their previous employment had been with employers who would have met approved employer status, even though they weren't actually approved at the time. They still have to complete a PC experience log, but the employer's status was the tricky part.

It's also worth noting that an approved employer doesn't have to be an accounting practice, unless you want a PC with audit qualification. However, I would think that the PC would only permit you to provide services for which you are experienced in.
 

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By Bungo
02nd Mar 2015 10:16

Worth a shot

NHGlos wrote:

Bungo wrote:
Unfortunately the ACCA will only give out practicing certificates to people that work for an ACCA accredited company and have completed a three year log book with that employer.

An ex colleague was ACCA qualified and was able to gain a practising certificate with a retrospective review of their employers and experience. Basically ACCA considered if their previous employment had been with employers who would have met approved employer status, even though they weren't actually approved at the time. They still have to complete a PC experience log, but the employer's status was the tricky part.

It's also worth noting that an approved employer doesn't have to be an accounting practice, unless you want a PC with audit qualification. However, I would think that the PC would only permit you to provide services for which you are experienced in.
 

Thank you. I will give it a shot. I trained with an approved employer way back when but I stayed with them less than a year after qualification. I am pretty sure one of my other employers was approved at the time, I was there just over a year. The others, don't think so, but big multinationals which might help. Trouble is I don't think I can get these signed off so many years later and I have spent a lot of the last decade working overseas.

I certainly have no intention of auditing and don't require that part.

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Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
27th Feb 2015 16:38

For what it's worth

I'm ditto Flash, and Andy sums it up perfectly.

I have always been in practice and on 1 January gave up my ACCA registration, and told them why (the word anachronism was used).

The regulatory bodies impose ethical rules, continuous self assessment/training, PI and continuity of practice, but it doesn't mean that, just because you are not a member, you can't match these ideals.

Good luck and spend the £600 you save wisely, I spent mine on a Money Laundering weekend course, the Anti Money Laundering one was a lot more expensive.

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By mumpin
27th Feb 2015 18:11

Corporate Life...

I took a similar route from Industry to Practice and I'm ACCA (although I made the move some 12 years ago and I also gained ATT at the same time as moving).

From what I recall the ACCA accepted much of my Industry experience. I just had to present it in such a way that they understood that it was relevant to practice.

Did you do/supervise:

Payroll, p11ds/BiKs, CT600's, Statutory Accounts Prep, Companies House filings, Management Accounts?

That was all good relevant experience when I applied for a PC. The approved ACCA Accredited Company thing is in the ACCA dreamworld. You just have to demonstrate (in writing) that it was an environment akin to that...

I found ACCA Prof Standards quite helpful but would agree that the qualification is really just an expensive constraint (although I do hang on to it).

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By HASXX
27th Feb 2015 19:00

Hello,

I qualified as ACCA through industry in 1995 and only changed to practice (my own) 7 years ago. When I applied for my PC there was a way whereby if you had qualified before a certain date (I cannot remember the date but I met the condition) then I needed to write to ACCA detailing my relevant experience and have my manager sign off - she was not qualified. So therefore as you qualified in 1996 you may meet the same rule as myself.

As Mumpin above says I basically rewrote my CV to show how my industry experience was relevant to a practice environment and also still had a copy of my training record and references from when I applied for membership so sent that all in too.

However, like some have stated I am questioning the benefit of ACCA membership so might be ditching it soon!

Good luck

 

 

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By girlofwight
27th Feb 2015 22:46

Good luck

First, good luck with the change in lifestyle.  Life is too short to be doing something you are not happy in.

You've got the experience of life and business to make a start in what you want to do.  There will be some learning, there is with most things, and doubtless there will be a few mistakes along the way - they can be apologised for and corrected.  Just don't over reach too soon.

The ACCA PC rules are restrictive.  Although I retain ACCA membership, I am really not sold as to its benefits. 

In your shoes I wouldn't worry too much and I'd resign; you qualified as a Chartered Certified Accountant and no one takes that away from you, so you can still quite ethically make reference to your having qualified as such, just you no longer retain Association membership and thus you don't use the designatory letters.

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By Bungo
01st Mar 2015 08:50

Go for it

girlofwight wrote:

First, good luck with the change in lifestyle.  Life is too short to be doing something you are not happy in.

You've got the experience of life and business to make a start in what you want to do.  There will be some learning, there is with most things, and doubtless there will be a few mistakes along the way - they can be apologised for and corrected.  Just don't over reach too soon.

The ACCA PC rules are restrictive.  Although I retain ACCA membership, I am really not sold as to its benefits. 

In your shoes I wouldn't worry too much and I'd resign; you qualified as a Chartered Certified Accountant and no one takes that away from you, so you can still quite ethically make reference to your having qualified as such, just you no longer retain Association membership and thus you don't use the designatory letters.

Thank you for your encouragement. I don't think I can get the practising certificate, although I will run that to ground to make sure first. But I am thinking I wil just need to make the leap...

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By Cantona1
28th Feb 2015 18:03

What CPD do you get?

What CPD do you get for being ACCA member? None. ACCA's CPD course are not free, in fact very expensive compared to other CPDs providers.

No one could stop you from accessing ACCA's monthly editions in its website, such as AB. You can skim it in half an hour, unless you want to read the ad pages. It has not content relevant to the profession.

The amount of money you save from annual membership fee could be used to buy  on-line CPD courses.

You can also join the "University of Google" for free minus your time.

 

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By girlofwight
28th Feb 2015 21:50

As long as half an hour to skim A&B? :)

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By Bungo
01st Mar 2015 08:48

Cryptic

girlofwight wrote:
As long as half an hour to skim A&B? :)

Nope give up. Could you elaborate on your comment, it was just a bit too cryptic for me. Thanks.

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By girlofwight
01st Mar 2015 19:16

I was suggesting that Accounting and Business, the ACCA journal, lacks a degree of relevance :)

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By mumpin
01st Mar 2015 10:17

@Cantona1...

You get lots of free CPD from ACCA.

All the technical articles have multiple choice tests at the end. If you correctly answer 5 questions then the ACCA email you a certificate for Verifiable CPD.

I guess the point is that if you weren't a member then you wouldn't need to prove your CPD to anyone.

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By Ken Howard
01st Mar 2015 11:14

Yes, but...

mumpin wrote:
You get lots of free CPD from ACCA.  All the technical articles have multiple choice tests at the end. If you correctly answer 5 questions then the ACCA email you a certificate for Verifiable CPD

Yes, but very few technical articles are relevant for a small/sole practitioner with small simple clients.  All the audit related ones are irrelevant, as are the international standards ones, as are the ones re medium and large companies.  That doesn't leave much, if any left.  The ICPA free CPE resources are far superior and, more importantly, relevant.  

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