It is important to maintain an accurate ICAEW firm record. Use this guide to find out what to consider when changing the structure of your firm.
You must notify us of any changes to the structure of your firm within 10 business days. Please do not use the annual return for this purpose as you will be in breach of the Practice Assurance Regulations.
Your firm’s record on our database is used to populate other records that the public and the profession can view. If your firm's record is inaccurate or out of date, it may constitute a misdescription of your firm and lead to more serious issues such as regulatory or disciplinary action.
If your firm is registered for audit, accredited for probate, licensed for DPB (Investment Business) activities or licensed as an ATOL Reporting Accountant, you will be in breach of the Audit Regulations and Guidance, Probate Regulations, DPB (Investment Business) Handbook and the ICAEW Licensed Practice Handbook.
We record the following information on our database:
The details listed above must be accurate and up to date to ensure the following display current information:
When we issue pro-forma invoices to regulated firms in November (for the following fee-year), they are based on the structure of the firm shown on our database at that time. If you haven't notified us about any principal retirements or ceased offices etc, the amount you are charged may be incorrect and you may incur higher costs.
Firms not working in the specialist areas of audit, ATOL reporting, DPB (Investment Business) and probate
Please inform our members records team about any changes to your firm structure in writing, by post or email.
321 Avebury Boulevard
MK9 2FZ UK
T +44 (0)1908 248 054
Firms working in the specialist areas of audit, ATOL reporting, DPB (Investment Business) and probate
Please inform our regulatory support team of any changes to your firm structure within 10 business days.
There are two useful forms for this purpose:
If you require a printed copy of the form, please contact us and we can send you a copy in the post.
T +44 (0)1908 546 302
The directory of firms is published here. It is updated regularly using the information you provide us with.
The register of statutory auditors is administered by ICAS. We send data updates to ICAS on a weekly basis. This information is also sent to the Companies Registration Office (CRO) in Ireland. These registers are a statutory requirement and it’s essential they display current information about firms.
The registers show the name of the firm, its principals and owners and any trading names used to sign audit reports. The registers also show the first name and surname of every responsible individual – they must use these two names when they sign audit reports. Their signature can be their usual one, but they must print their first name and surname below the signature.
Some individuals do not use their given first name. They may use a middle name or even a shortened name; for example, Mike instead of Michael. The register can show a preferred name if you request this. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to update the information that appears on the register of statutory auditors.
The FCA’s financial services register publishes details of all firms licensed by ICAEW for investment business activities under a DPB (Investment Business) licence, including the firm’s DPB (Investment Business) number. This information is taken from the ICAEW database.
The ICAEW probate register is displayed at icaew.com/probate. It shows a list of accredited probate firms and their details. This information is taken from the ICAEW database.
A directory of insolvency practitioners is administered and published by the Insolvency Service. The information is taken from the ICAEW database. Find an insolvency practitioner provides details of which office an insolvency practitioner is based, along with full contact details. Please note: Any changes received by the Insolvency Service will not be amended on the ICAEW database.
The CAA maintains an online list of ATOL Reporting Accountants. We send updates to the CAA using information held on the ICAEW database.
Regulatory issues can arise where voting rights are held by corporate principals or by corporate owners of the audit firm. The Audit Regulations and Guidance require a firm’s voting rights to be held by audit-qualified individuals or registered audit firms. We can’t look through a group structure when assessing this requirement and only look at the person/body that holds the direct voting rights, rather than any indirect holdings.
It is likely the corporate principal will need to apply for audit affiliate status. However, if the voting rights held by the corporate principal are to be included when assessing the audit-firm’s eligibility, the corporate principal will need to be audit-registered.
Some firms add corporate principals to their firm structure in addition to individuals, some have corporate principals only and others have a combination of the two.
Additionally, some firms add corporate owners above the main accountancy practice. If your main practice is audit-registered, you will need to take into account the requirements of the Audit Regulations and Guidance when you add a corporate holding company.
If a firm’s majority voting rights are held by a corporate owner then for these rights to be included when assessing the audit-firm’s eligibility, the corporate owner will need to be audit-registered. For example, if 100% of the audit-firm’s voting rights are held by a corporate holding company, which is itself controlled by audit-qualified individuals, the holding company must be audit-registered even if it has no audit clients.
Some audit-registered firms may have solely corporate bodies as principals, not individuals. This is acceptable as long as the audit compliance principal is a responsible individual employee and is also a member of the firm’s management board. Such firms should consider whether they have enough responsible individuals in the firm to carry out, and be responsible for, the audit work and to sign audit reports.
When adding corporate principals to a firm that holds a DPB (Investment Business) licence, the DPB contact principal must be a person. The corporate principals may also need to apply for DPB affiliate status if they are not DPB licenced or registered for audit work.
When adding corporate principals to a licensed practice, the licensed practice contact principal must be a person. The corporate principals may also need to apply for licensed practice affiliate status if they are not already registered for audit work, DPB licensed, accredited for probate or holding an alternative ICAEW affiliate status. There must always be at least one licensed practitioner for the relevant category of licensed work.
If the voting rights or shares in an accountancy practice (regulated or unregulated) are held by a corporate body, you need to carefully assess whether it still meets the ICAEW member firm definition set out in the Principal Bye-laws.
You must consider the member firm definition which determines if you are supervised by ICAEW for money laundering (please see the flowchart in PDF version at the end of this webpage) separately from the definition of which firms can use the description ‘Chartered Accountants’ (please see the flowchart in PDF version at the end of this webpage). Please note these are different.
An ICAEW member firm is:
To be in public practice, an entity must provide accountancy services to clients for reward where a substantial part of the activities is the provision of such services. The Council statement on engaging in public practice defines a 'substantial part' as 10%.
Please note: new guidance took effect on 1 January 2017. The new guidance (now called the ICAEW Statement on Engaging in Public Practice) updates and elaborates on the existing Council statement.
ICAEW member firms are automatically subject to Practice Assurance and money laundering supervision by ICAEW.
There are some common situations where firms find that they do not qualify as a ‘member firm’ under the Principal Bye-laws, including:
If your firm is not a member firm under the definition in the Principal Bye-laws, we may still be able to supervise you for anti-money laundering under a contractual arrangement. If you think you might need a contract, you will find an application form at icaew.com/amlr
You also need to ensure your firm is eligible to use the description ‘Chartered Accountants’. The Use of Description Chartered Accountants Regulations set out when a firm may describe itself as ‘Chartered Accountant’ and the procedural rules for principals who are not a chartered accountant who must become a general affiliate. Please note the ‘use of description’ member firm definition is different to the definition in the Principal Bye-laws for an ICAEW member firm.
An accountancy practice (regulated or unregulated) may be part of a corporate group. A group entity (which may be a company or LLP) can only be described as a ‘Chartered Accountant’ in the following circumstances.
In the case of a parent entity, it is:
In the case of a subsidiary entity, it is:
In the case of a company, 50% or more of the directors must be chartered accountants. Any directors in a parent or subsidiary company that uses the description, who are not chartered accountants, need to become affiliates.
If your firm is not eligible to use the description 'Chartered Accountants', it can apply for permission to use the description. Please complete and submit the use of the description form.
When considering a change of legal entity, (for example, sole practitioner to partnership; partnership to limited company; limited company to limited liability partnership), if your firm is registered for audit, licensed for DPB (Investment Business) activities, licensed as an ATOL Reporting Accountant or accredited for probate, you must make new applications for these registrations. Full application details can be found at:
An audit registration, DPB (Investment Business) or probate licence or licensed practice status cannot be transferred between legal entities.
New applications are processed by the Regulatory Support team who will ensure that all of the necessary information is obtained before the application is passed to the case manager team for consideration. Your application will then be allocated to a case manager who will assess the information and may require further information/explanations before the application can be approved. In some cases the case manager will not be authorised to approve the application and it will need to be referred to the relevant regulatory committee to consider.
Please allow six to eight weeks from the date the Regulatory Support team has obtained all of the required application information and has passed your application to the case manager team.
Please note this is only an indication of timing. The actual processing time may vary when the teams are experiencing a large volume of applications, in holiday periods or if the application is complex and needs to be referred to the committee.
The new legal entity can’t carry out regulated work until your application(s) is/are approved. As part of the application, we will transfer any fees paid by the original firm for that fee-year. If you only notify us of a change to the legal entity on the annual return, rather than when the change took place, this may lead to regulatory or disciplinary action as the new entity will not be properly regulated.
The Legal Services Act 2007 opens up new opportunities for ICAEW Chartered Accountants by:
Regulatory advice about when should a firm apply for a probate licence is available at icaew.com/probate . Please note if an ICAEW member firm is found to have been operating outside this regulatory framework then this will be treated as a disciplinary offence.
If your firm is not a member firm, audit registered or DPB (Investment Business) licensed, it may not be able to use ICAEW’s consumer credit arrangements. Any consumer credit activity undertaken has to be incidental to the accountancy services a firm provides. FCA authorised firms can’t use ICAEW’s consumer credit arrangements, even if they meet the other criteria. There’s more information at icaew.com/ccl.
A PDF version of this webpage is available to download, including flowcharts showing how to decide whether an entity is a member firm and can your firm use the description 'chartered accountant'