Many people are not aware that “accountant” can be the name used to describe a range of different people, some of whom may not even be qualified. This is not like a Solicitor which means someone that is qualified to give you legal advice.
Anyone in the UK can call themselves an accountant or book-keeper even if they have had no training or have no professional qualifications. This could mean that you have no comeback for the advice you are given or if any laws are broken.
If you are in business or need advice about your personal finances it would probably be best to engage a professionally qualified accountant, one that has taken and passed the stringent exams set by one of the professional institutes (the ICAEW for example requires the passing of 15 exams and over 3200 hours of relevant work experience).
Members of these professional institutes (shown below) not only have to have professional indemnity insurance to cover them, and you, if anything goes wrong but they also have to abide by the code of professional ethics set by their institute, meaning that if your accountant gets it wrong you can complain to the institute that they belong to.
Here in the UK there are many qualifications that an accountant can hold, these include (in no particular order)
Many qualified accountants may even hold more than one qualification, for example they have both FTII and FCA after their name meaning that they are a fellow of the Charted Institute of Taxation and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
Each of the institutes show above will allow you to check if someone that is claiming to be a member of their organisation does actually belong and can advise you if this is not the case.
There are also other professional organisations that accountants may belong to, these include :-
The ICPA : an Accountancy organisation, representing the 60% of Accountants in practice not represented by the CCAB bodies
Institute of Financial Accountants :
a professional body for financial accountants and managers primarily serving small and medium enterprises.
The Association of International Accountants : a professional accountancy body that promotes the concept of ‘international accounting’ and has created a global network of accountants in over 85 countries worldwide.
- The Federation of Tax Advisers : Recently merged with the Institute of Financial Accountants and now the tax faculty of the IFA.
- IAPA : The International Association of Practising Accountants is a global association of independent accountancy and business advisory firms who provide accounting, audit, tax advisory and business consultancy services.