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What is the ICAEW Business Advice Service? FAQs for SMEs and start-ups

The ICAEW Business Advice Service enables businesses to receive an initial consultation at no charge from an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. To find a chartered accountant offering the service, you can search the ICAEW Directory of Firms which contains a directory of participating firms, broken down by location.

You will find the directory at businessadviceservice.com. Having located firms in your area, you can decide which one to contact.

How do I contact the firm for the advice?
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Once you have found a firm on our directory (visit businessadviceservice.com) you will need to complete a short ‘Request for advice’ form which includes a question on the particular issue you are seeking advice on.

If the firm lists an email address in the directory you can submit the form online. Alternatively, you can call the firm and ask for their email address.

How will the firm respond?
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On receipt of the ‘Request for advice’ form, the firm should contact you. This might be by telephone or email. The firm may ask you for further information regarding the particular issue. This will help them to decide who is the best person for you to talk to. These firms may also ask you for specific documents which will give them a clearer explanation of the issue.

What would a consultation with the firm involve?
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A consultation with the appropriate person within the firm will enable you to have a detailed discussion about your business issue. To properly advise a business, an ICAEW Chartered Accountant needs to be fully aware of the circumstances of the business as well as its directors or shareholders. We expect that an hour-long discussion would be sufficient to tell you the options available to help solve your issue, although no time limit has been set for your complimentary consultation.

What does advice under the ICAEW Business Advice Service cost?
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Your initial consultation will be free of charge.

What checks does a BAS adviser have to complete?
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As part of their normal client acceptance procedures ICAEW Chartered Accountants will require at the meeting, or subsequently, that you produce proof of identity such as documents, data or information from a reliable and independent source.

What happens after the consultation?
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Following the initial consultation, you are free to end your association with the firm. On the other hand, it is quite possible that a number of business issues will have been identified which the firm can help you with. If that it is the case, your business may find it worthwhile to employ the firm as advisers at a commercial rate agreed between the two of you.

What sort of business advice will ICAEW Chartered Accountants offer?
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The main areas of interest among businesses will probably be related to the specifics of starting a business, taxation, financial management, access to finance and turnaround and restructuring. However, you don’t have to limit your enquiry to these areas. The ‘Request for advice’ form allows the firm to decide how best it can help with the particular problem. Chartered accountants are qualified business advisers and will be able to help you with most issues. They are also well-connected business people and, if your issue falls outside their area of expertise, they should be able to put you in contact with a more suitable expert.

What if I already have an accountant?
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ICAEW firms participating in the scheme must make enquiries to ascertain if your business already has an accountant as its adviser. If you have an existing accountant, a chartered accountant referred to under the BAS will probably need to contact them to see if they have any information relevant to the advice you are now seeking.

Why should I use an ICAEW Chartered Accountant?
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Because you have the assurance that you are in the hands of a financial expert.

Legally, anyone can call themselves an ‘accountant’ without any training, qualifications or experience. To become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and to use the designatory letters ACA or FCA, our members must:

  • undertake a period of at least three years practical training with an organisation that is authorised by ICAEW; and
  • complete rigorous academic training including exams on financial management, financial reporting, auditing, business analysis and strategy, and taxation. This training and experience ensures that ICAEW Chartered Accountants develop communication skills, business awareness and sound professional judgement.

ICAEW Chartered Accountants are expected to maintain the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct. Our Practice Assurance scheme gives a framework of quality assurance principles to help our chartered accountants assess and develop their own practices. It demonstrates their commitment to upholding and developing professional standards.

All members must comply with ICAEW’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements, ensuring that their knowledge and skills are kept up-to-date.

Chartered accountants who offer accountancy services to the public must have professional indemnity insurance. Firms must have a complaints procedure.