Accountant

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Occupation
Names Certified Public Accountant, Chartered Accountant, etc.
Occupation type
Profession
Activity sectors
Business
Description
Competencies Finance, management, analytical skills and critical thinking skills
Education required
Bachelor's degree or higher in most countries, see professional requirements
Related jobs
bookkeeper

An accountant is a practitioner of accounting or accountancy, which is the measurement, disclosure or provision of assurance about financial information that helps managers, investors, tax authorities and others make decisions about allocating resources.

In many jurisdictions, professional accounting bodies maintain standards of practice and evaluations for professionals. Accountants who have demonstrated competency through their professional associations' certification exams are certified to use titles such as Chartered Accountant, Chartered Certified Accountant or Certified Public Accountant. Such professionals are granted certain responsibilities by statute, such as the ability to certify an organization's financial statements, and may be held liable for professional misconduct. Non-qualified accountants may be employed by a qualified accountant, or may work independently without statutory privileges and obligations.

The Big Four auditors are the largest employers of accountants worldwide. However, most accountants are employed in commerce, industry and the public sector.[1]

British Commonwealth[edit]

In the Commonwealth of Nations, which includes the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong pre 1997 and several dozen other states, commonly recognised accounting qualifications are Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA), Chartered Accountant (CA or ACA), Chartered Management Accountant (ACMA) and International Accountant (AAIA). Other qualifications in particular countries include Certified Public Accountant (CPA – Ireland and CPA – Hong Kong), Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA - Canada), Certified Management Accountant (CMA – Australia), Certified Practising Accountant (CPA – Australia) and members of the Institute of Public Accountants (Australia), and Certified Public Practising Accountant (CPPA – New Zealand).

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) received its Royal Charter in 1854 and is the world's first professional body of accountants.[2]

United Kingdom and Ireland[edit]

Excepting the Association of Certified Public Accountants, each of the above bodies admits members only after passing examinations and undergoing a period of relevant work experience. Once admitted, members are expected to comply with ethical guidelines and gain appropriate professional experience.

Chartered, Chartered Certified, Chartered Public Finance, and International Accountants engaging in practice (i.e. selling services to the public rather than acting as an employee) must gain a "practising certificate" by meeting further requirements such as purchasing adequate insurance and undergoing inspections.

The ICAEW, ICAS, ICAI, ACCA and AAPA are five Recognised Supervisory Bodies RSB in the UK. A member of one them may also become a Statutory Auditor in accordance with the Companies Act, providing they can demonstrate the necessary professional ability in that area and submit to regular inspection. It is illegal for any individual or firm that is not a Statutory Auditor to perform a company audit.[3] [4]


The ICAEW, ICAS, ICAI, ACCA, AIA and CIPFA are six Recognised qualifying bodies statutory RQB in the UK. A member of one them may also become a Statutory Auditor in accordance with the Companies Act, providing they are a member of one of the five Recognised Supervisory Bodies RSB mentioned above.

All six RQBs are listed under EU mutual recognition directives to practise in 27 EU member states and individually entered into agreement with the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA).

Further restrictions apply to accountants who carry out insolvency work.

In addition to the bodies above, technical qualifications are offered by the Association of Accounting Technicians, ACCA and AIA, which are respectively called AAT Technician, CAT (Certified Accounting Technician) and IAT (International Accounting Technician).

Australia[edit]

In Australia, there are three legally recognised local professional accounting bodies: the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), CPA Australia (CPA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia (ICAA). Other international bodies such as ACCA (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) enjoy recognition for the purposes of supporting their members in their careers. For instance, ACCA has achieved recognition by the Tax Practitioner Board, as Tax and BAS agents, in 2010.

Bangladesh[edit]

Chartered accountancy is governed in Bangladesh by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB).

Canada[edit]

Up to 2013, there were four recognized accounting bodies in Canada: the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CA) and the provincial and territorial CA Institutes, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA), the Society of Management Accountants of Canada, also known as the Certified Management Accountants (CMA), and the Society of Professional Accountants of Canada (RPA). CA and CGA were created by Acts of Parliament in 1902 and 1913 respectively, CMA was established in 1920 and RPA in 1938.

The CA program was the most focused on public accounting and most candidates obtained auditing experience from public accounting firms, although late changes allow candidates to obtain their experience requirements in industry at companies that have been accredited for training CAs (Note: New members that obtained their designation in industry were referred to as Registered CAs, in contrast to Licensed CAs who obtained their designation through a registered public accounting firm and are able to sign-off on audit opinion); the CMA program focused on management accounting, but also provides a general approach to financial accounting and tax; the CGA program took a general approach allowing candidates to focus in their own financial career choices. The CA and CMA programs required a candidate to obtain a degree as a program entry requirement. The CGA program required a degree as an exit requirement prior to certification.

Auditing and public accounting are regulated by the provinces. In Canada, CAs, CGAs, and CMAs are considered equivalents pursuant to provincial and territorial legislation. However, in practice, most public accounting and auditing in Canada is performed by CAs.

As of 2006, the Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA or FCCA) is also recognized by the Canadian government as an eligible qualification to audit federal government institutions in Canada. Furthermore, The Canadian branch of ACCA is pursuing recognition for statutory audit purposes in the province of Ontario under the province's Public Accounting Act of 2004.

Starting in 2011, a new framework was developed to unify the Canadian accounting profession under Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada). The Society of Professional Accountants of Canada (RPA) was not included in the merger discussions. In early 2013, CPA Canada was registered as a non-for-profit association, and CA, CGA, and CMA members were elected as directors of the CPA Canada Board.[5] In provinces which have approved the use of the CPA designation, accountants who were certified under one of the three former designations may use the CPA designation but for a period of 10 years must also state their prior designation, for example "Jane Doe, CPA, CA".[6]

India[edit]

Chartered accountancy is offered in India by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the second largest accounting body in the world. This Institute was established in 1949 under the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 for the regulation of the profession of Chartered Accountants in India.

The ICAI set up the Accountancy Museum of India in 2009, the third museum of accounting in the world. It is currently located at ICAI's office in Noida.

Pakistan[edit]

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP) offers chartered accountant studies in Pakistan. ICAP was established under The Chartered Accountants Ordinance, 1961 as a self-regulatory body.

The Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan (ICMAP) offers accountant studies in Pakistan. ICMAP was established under The Cost and Management Accountants Act, 1966.

The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Pakistan (ICPAP) offers public accountants studies in Pakistan. ICPAP was established in 1992 with the objective to provide professional accountancy education to the students at national as well international level. The CPA (ICPAP) qualification is approved for the purpose of external audit in United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan Institute of Public Finance Accountants (PIPFA) is an autonomous body recognized mainly in the government sector and established under license from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan by the authority given under section 42 of the Companies Ordinance, 1984.

The body is co-sponsored by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan, the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan and the Auditor General of Pakistan.

PIPFA has more than 5,000 members and a number of them are members of ICAP and ICMAP.

The institute was established to produce a second tier of accounting professionals in Pakistan

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, there are two local accountancy bodies the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA) and the New Zealand Association of Certified Public Accountants (NZACPA) the operating name of New Zealand Association of Accountants Inc (NZAA).

To audit public companies an individual must be a member of either the NZICA or an otherwise gazetted body. Chartered Certified Accountant (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants or FCCA) qualification has also been gazetted under. An ACCA member can practice as long as they hold an ACCA public practice certificate (with audit qualification) in their country of origin.

Sri Lanka[edit]

In Sri Lanka, a chartered accountant must be a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (designatory letters ACA or FCA). It is the sole local accountancy body, therefore to audit public companies an individual must be a member of the ICASL.

Austria[edit]

In Austria the accountancy profession is regulated by the Bilanzbuchhaltungsgesetz 2006 (BibuG – Management Accountancy Law).

Hong Kong[edit]

For the functional constituency, see Accountancy (constituency).

In Hong Kong, the accountancy industry is regulated by Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants HKICPA under the Professional Accountants Ordinance (Chapter 50, Laws of Hong Kong). The auditing industry for limited companies is regulated under the Companies Ordinance (Chapter 32, Laws of Hong Kong), and other ordinances such as the securities and futures ordinance, the listing rules, etc.

HKICPA terminated all recognition of oversea bodies in 2005 for accreditation under professional accountants ordinance. In general, all British RQBs except for CIPFA were re-accredited. Please refer to HKICPA for latest recognition.

Portugal[edit]

In Portugal, there are two accountancy qualifications: the Técnicos Oficiais de Contas (TOC), responsible for producing accounting and tax information, and the Revisor Oficial de Contas (ROC), more related to auditing practices. The TOC certification is exclusively awarded by the professional organization Ordem dos Técnicos Oficiais de Contas (OTOC), and the certification to become an auditor is awarded by another professional organization, the Ordem dos Revisores Oficiais de Contas (OROC).[7] In general, accountants or auditors accredited by OTOC or OROC are individuals with university graduation diplomas in business management, economics, mathematics or law who, after further studies, applied for an exam and received the certification to be a TOC or ROC. That certification is only received after a 1-year (TOC) or 3-years (ROC) internship. Any citizen having a polytechnic degree as a bookkeeper is also entitled to apply for the exam and certification at the OTOC.[8]

United States[edit]

In the United States, licensed accountants are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and in certain states, Public Accountants (PAs). Unlicensed accountants may be Certified Internal Auditors (CIAs) and Certified Management Accountants (CMAs). The difference between these certifications is primarily the legal status and the types of services provided, although individuals may earn more than one certification. Additionally, much accounting work is performed by uncertified individuals, who may be working under the supervision of a certified accountant. As noted above the majority of accountants work in the private sector or may offer their services without the need for certification.

The training time required for accountancy certification in the US requires specific guidelines:

  • Certificate: Several months to a year
  • Associate degree: 1–2 years
  • Bachelor’s degree: 3–4 years
  • CPA: 30 credits plus work experience (varies by state)
  • Master’s degree: 1–2 years
  • Doctoral degree: 3–5 years

A CPA is licensed by a state to provide auditing services to the public. Many CPA firms also offer accounting, tax, litigation support, and other financial advisory services. The requirements for receiving the CPA license vary from state to state, although the passage of the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination is required by all states. This examination is designed and graded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

A PA (sometimes referred to as LPA—Licensed Public Accountant) is licensed by the state to practice accountancy to a similar extent as are CPAs, except that PAs are generally not permitted to perform audits or reviews (Delaware is an exception, in that PAs are permitted to perform audits and reviews). A PA's ability to practice out of state is very limited due to most states having phased out the PA designation. While most states no longer accept new PA license applicants, six states still accept PA applicants for limited practice privileges within the state. As with the CPA, the requirements for receiving the PA license vary from state to state. Most states require a passage of either 2 or 3 (out of 4) sections of the CPA exam or passage of the Comprehensive Examination for Accreditation in Accounting which is administered and graded by the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation (ACAT).

A certified internal auditor (CIA) is granted a certificate from the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), provided that the candidate has passed a four-part examination. One of the four parts is waived if the candidate has already passed the CPA Exam. A CIA typically provides services directly to an employer rather than to the public.

A person holding the Certificate in Management Accounting (CMA) is granted the certificate by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), provided that the candidate has passed an examination of two parts and has met the practical experience requirement of the IMA. A CMA provides services directly to employers rather than to the public. A CMA can also provide services to the public, but to an extent much lesser than that of a CPA.

The United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about one million persons[9] employed as accountants and auditors in the U.S.

U.S. tax law grants accountants a form of accountant–client privilege.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ For example, in 2009 in Ontario, Canada, national firms employ 4,425 Chartered Accountants, which is less than 50% of the members in public practice. (Chartered Accountants in National Firms in Ontario, Canada) As total membership is 33,146, the national firms employ about 13% of all Chartered Accountants in Ontario. (Ontario Chartered Accountants demographics) Most of the members are employed in industry, with the majority in small and medium sized enterprises.
  2. ^ Perks, R.W.(1993): Accounting and Society. Chapman & Hall (London); ISBN 0-412-47330-5. p.16
  3. ^ http://www.auditregister.org.uk/Forms/RSBList.aspx
  4. ^ https://www.frc.org.uk/Our-Work/Conduct/Professional-oversight/Oversight-of-Audit.aspx
  5. ^ http://www.taxclinic.ca/tax-tips/2013/01/05/cpa-canada
  6. ^ A framework for uniting the Canadian accounting profession, CPA Canada, retrieved February 12, 2014 
  7. ^ OROC official site; Access 2008
  8. ^ OTOC official site
  9. ^ BLS.gov