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ICAEW’s regulatory expertise and history

Regulation has been central to ICAEW’s work for more than 130 years.

Since our Royal Charter was granted in 1880, we have been responsible for maintaining the highest professional standards as well as delivering technical excellence in the public interest. 

ICAEW members, students, affiliates, employees of member firms and, where applicable, member firms, in all of their professional and business activities, whether remunerated or voluntary must comply with our bye-laws and regulations and the ICAEW Code of Ethics.

We pioneered the principles-based threats and safeguards approach to codes of ethics in the accountancy profession internationally. Ethics is more than merely complying with laws, rules and regulations; it’s about doing the right thing in the circumstances. This is fundamental to establishing trust – the complexity of the work our members and firms do means that they must be trusted by their clients and anyone else who could reasonably be expected to rely on their work.

Over the last 25 years, our regulatory role has been enhanced by the addition of statutory regulatory roles in the areas of audit, anti-money laundering, insolvency, investment business and probate.

ICAEW is*:

  • the largest recognised supervisory body (RSB) and recognised qualifying body (RQB) for statutory audit in the UK with approximately 3,000 registered audit firms and 8,000 responsible individuals;
  • the largest recognised accountancy body (RAB) and prescribed accountancy body (PAB) for statutory audit in the Irish Republic registering approximately 3,000 firms and 8,500 responsible individuals under the Ireland Companies Act 2014;
  • the largest RSB for local audit in England, registering 8 firms and 84 key audit partners under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014;
  • the largest single insolvency regulator, licensing 813 insolvency practitioners as a recognised professional body (RPB) under the Insolvency Act 1986, out of a total UK population of 1,700;
  • a designated professional body (DPB) under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (and previously a recognised professional body under the Financial Services Act 1986) currently licensing approximately 2,215 firms to undertake exempt regulated activities under that Act;
  • a supervisory body recognised by HM Treasury for the purposes of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, dealing with approximately 13,000 member firms;
  • a regulator of probate services, and a licensing authority for alternative business structures.


  • 296 firms are accredited to undertaken probate services;
  • 422 firms are accredited to perform ATOL returns work under the ICAEW Licensed Practice scheme for ATOL Reporting Accountant work. This was set up in 2016 after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) gave approval for ICAEW to license, register and monitor firms which perform ATOL returns work;
  • 575 firms are registered with ICAEW for supervision under the AML Regulations (and to monitor them under our Practice Assurance scheme).

*Dates correct as at end of 2017.

Our work in these regulated areas is overseen by a number of oversight bodies. In the same way as we monitor the work of our members, students, affiliate and firms, these oversight bodies monitor our work to ensure we maintain the highest standards in our regulation.

We regularly review our regulatory governance processes to make sure ICAEW remains at the forefront of regulation. As a result of the latest independent review carried out at ICAEW’s request by Sir Christopher Kelly, we created a clearer distinction between ICAEW’s representative and regulatory functions. This was achieved through two main changes;

  • the creation of the ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB) whose chair is independent of both ICAEW Board and Council. This board replaced the Professional Standards Board; and
  • an equal or majority numbers of lay members (someone who is not / never been a member, affiliate or employee of ICAEW or any other accountancy body) on all our regulatory and disciplinary committees.

These changes were made to ensure that we can continue to carry out our role of maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards within the accountancy profession in a proportionate, accountable, consistent, transparent and focussed manner, in the current environment.

Supporting our regulated firms

To support the ICAEW commitment to continuously raise the standards of our members and member firms for audit and tax work, we have developed training films to help firms make the right decisions about ethical issues and to avoid potential issues and complaints. To date, over 250,000 people have been training using ICAEW films throughout the world.

The benefits of using a regulated Chartered Accountant

If you are seeking accountancy advice, you want to be reassured your accountant has the appropriate education, experience and qualifications (see Professional services), to provide high quality independent advice and services – after all, you wouldn’t go to an unqualified or unregulated doctor for medical advice. If you select an unqualified or unregulated accountant to handle your finances or tax work, you may have nowhere to turn if there are problems with the quality of their advice, their conduct or their standards of service. This is where ICAEW, ICAEW Chartered Accountants and ICAEW firms can help.