FAQs - ACCA Practising Certificate
These FAQs help ACCA members in Australia get a better understanding of the requirements for an ACCA practising certificate. If you require further information about applying for a practising certificate please contact:
2 Central Quay 89
Glasgow G3 8BW
tel: +44 (0)141 534 4175
fax: +44 (0)141 534 4237
1. What is ACCA's definition of public practice?
ACCA's definition of public practice is set out in Global Practising Regulation (GPR) 4. The GPRs are contained in the ACCA Rulebook
The definition of public practice extends beyond audit and other regulated work to incorporate all types of work generally associated with an accountancy practice, but excluding bookkeeping services. For example, public practice work will include:
- Producing accounts that a third party relies on.
- Preparing personal or corporate tax returns (even where the client submits them directly to the tax authorities).
- Preparing a report or certificate concerning a person's financial affairs that will be seen by a third party (including, for example, confirmation to a potential lender of a person's income).
If undertaking such work, you will need to hold an ACCA practising certificate.
The definition of public practice also includes 'holding oneself out' as a principal (ie sole practitioner, partner or director) of a firm where public practice is carried out. You may not be (or be regarded as) a principal of an accounting firm unless you hold an ACCA practising certificate.
2. What type of work can I undertake on a self-employed basis without holding an ACCA practising certificate?
Without holding an ACCA practising certificate, the types of work that you can undertake on a self-employed basis are restricted. You may provide basic bookkeeping services, restricted to the recording of basic accounting data. This includes:
- The preparation of accounting records to trial balance stage
- Maintaining clients' records in respect of payroll and employment taxes
- Maintaining basic sales tax records such as GST.
You may also prepare management accounts which are used solely by clients for internal purposes. However, where the management accounts are passed to a third party, most commonly a bank, this is public practice work regardless of whether the third party is aware of your involvement.
ACCA has produced a factsheet entitled 'Do I need a practising certificate?' which outlines some of the common situations where an ACCA practising certificate is required. View this factsheet
3. Does a BAS agent need an ACCA practising certificate?
Yes, a tax agent needs a practising certificate and a BAS service is a tax agent service. In fact, the preparation of any personal or corporate tax return for a client is always public practice work, even if you are not acting as agent, or if the client submits the return directly to the tax authorities. In addition, only ACCA members with practising certificates are permitted to provide taxation advice. For example, to recommend tax-efficient remuneration methods to a client would be considered to be a public practice activity.
4. Do I need an ACCA practising certificate to undertake GST work?
Generally, yes. GST is a BAS service and you need to hold an ACCA practising certificate. Advice concerning GST rates, the benefits of voluntary registration or the advantages and disadvantages of different GST schemes would be deemed to be public practice work. However, an ACCA member without a practising certificate would be allowed to generate certain reports relating to GST arising out of the recording of basic accounting data. Such reports may be generated by the accounting software used, and may include summarised figures suitable for inclusion on, say, a GST return. Alternatively, figures may be summarised manually for inclusion on a return. As a routine exercise, this would be deemed to be basic bookkeeping.
In subsequently transferring the summarised figures onto a GST return, prior to submitting the return to the tax authority, an assessment must be made that the figures appear reasonable. Such an assessment may only be made by the client or an accountant authorised to exercise such professional judgement. Therefore, you do not require an ACCA practising certificate in order to be able to transcribe figures from a management report onto a statutory return, so long as it is clear that your client has considered the management report and approved the figures that have been incorporated into the return prior to its submission.
5. I am in practice, holding a practising certificate from another recognised national accountancy body or regulatory authority. Do I still need to hold an ACCA practising certificate? If so, why?
Yes, you are required to hold an ACCA practising certificate. The GPRs require any member whose work meets the definition of public practice to hold an ACCA practising certificate. This is the case even if you hold a local licence to practise. (See 9 below.)
The requirement to hold an ACCA practising certificate even where members hold equivalent practising certificates from other bodies is not new. It has been at the heart of ACCA's regulatory arrangements for quite some time. The main reason for this requirement is that it is essential for ACCA to be able to demonstrate that all of its members in practice, wherever they are based, are appropriately regulated, whether by ACCA or other recognised bodies. ACCA believes that the public needs to be assured of standards when dealing with ACCA members in practice wherever they work around the world. This is consistent with ACCA's desire to maintain the value of its brand, but which recognises that ACCA is not necessarily itself a regulator. ACCA's approach, rather, is to ensure that appropriate regulation is being applied to its members, wherever they seek to practice.
6. I am an employee in an accountancy practice. Do I need an ACCA practising certificate?
Employees in accountancy practices, working under the supervision of the principals, are not required to hold an ACCA practising certificate, unless they sign any accounts or reports on behalf of the firm, or otherwise allow themselves to be held out as being in public practice.
7. I am a partner in an accountancy practice but I do not undertake public practice work. Do I need an ACCA practising certificate?
Yes. If you are a partner in an accountancy practice you are required to hold an ACCA practising certificate because of the 'holding out' provision. (See 1 above.)
8. Can I undertake audit work if I hold an ACCA practising certificate?
Not necessarily. ACCA cannot authorise you to undertake audit work in Australia or New Zealand but you can undertake audit work if you are authorised to do so by local law and you hold an ACCA practising certificate.
9. How can I obtain an ACCA practising certificate?
There are two routes to obtain an ACCA practising certificate:
1). If you hold a practising certificate from a recognised national accountancy body or regulatory authority, you can forward a copy of the certificate to ACCA together with an abbreviated practising certificate application form. Under this route, your ACCA practising certificate will only be valid in the country where your local licence allows you to practise. Download the abbreviated application form
2). To obtain a globally portable practising certificate you must meet ACCA's practical experience requirements ie three years of supervised experience in an ACCA approved employer, two years of which must be post-membership. Details of this experience must be documented in a Practising Certificate Training Record (PCTR) and submitted to ACCA for assessing. Download the PCTR forms and guidance notes
10. I hold a registration certificate from the Tax Practitioners Board to undertake BAS agent work. Can I obtain an ACCA practising certificate on this basis under option one above?
Yes, you need to complete the abbreviated practising certificate application form and enclose a copy of your registration certificate issued by the Tax Practitioners Board.
11. My employer is not registered as an ACCA approved employer. Can I still apply for an ACCA practising certificate?
Yes, your employer can register as an ACCA approved employer and request that the date of registration be backdated. The registration covers all ACCA employees in the firm who wish to train towards an ACCA practising certificate. Registration is free of charge.
Exceptionally, it may be possible for ACCA to accept your experience based on your PCTR alone, without your employer formally registering as an ACCA approved employer (e.g. if you wish to rely on experience obtained in a firm where you are no longer employed). This is known as an 'administrative backdate'. In this situation, you must still complete a PCTR and it must be signed off by an ACCA practising certificate holder or a practising certificate holder from any other professional accountancy body that is recognised for audit purposes under prevailing legislation in the relevant country. Your PCTR will be assessed to confirm that the experience you have obtained is equivalent to the experience you should have obtained in an ACCA approved employer.
12. My post-membership experience has been obtained in industry but I would like to move into public practice and apply for an ACCA practising certificate. Will my experience in industry count towards the award of an ACCA practising certificate?
Yes, experience towards an ACCA practising certificate can be obtained in any sector (industry, commerce, public sector or public practice). The competencies in the PCTR are designed to be met by an accountant working in any sector. Experience obtained in industry must be signed off by a member of ACCA or a member of any other professional accountancy body that is recognised for audit purposes under prevailing legislation in the relevant country.
13. I have been a principal of a firm for a number of years. Can I document this experience in my PCTR?
No, experience towards an ACCA practising certificate must be supervised ie as an employee or sub-contractor. Experience obtained while a principal of a firm does not count towards the award of an ACCA practising certificate and should not be documented in your PCTR. In this situation you will need to retrospectively complete a PCTR using the post-membership experience you obtained prior to your appointment as a principal. Moreover, you need to do so immediately in order to regularise your position. If you cannot identify sufficient relevant experience, you should contact Authorisation immediately for advice.