Confused about the why, when and how of the Audit Qualification? ICAEW Senior Audit Qualification Manager Sarah Muir gives you the lowdown.
Why do I need it?
Audit is a regulated area in the UK. Only a person with ‘Responsible Individual’ (RI) status is allowed to sign off an audit report – and the Audit Qualification is one of the requirements of becoming a Responsible Individual.
“There are other things you need in order to gain audit signing rights – a practising certificate, and to be nominated by your firm as an RI – but the Audit Qualification is the basic requirement,” explains Sarah Muir, Senior Audit Qualification Manager at ICAEW. “It also allows you to count towards what’s known as the ‘control percentage’ in an audit-registered firm – audit firms must have at least 50% of the voting rights effectively owned by somebody with an Audit Qualification.”
Who is it for?
Anyone working in audit can gain the Audit Qualification. Even if you’re in a small general practice that only undertakes a handful of audits each year, any experience you gain can count towards it.
It also makes sense to log as much experience as possible while you’re more junior, explains Sarah: “As an ACA student, you might spend a week doing field work on an audit, whereas when you get more senior you tend to do less in terms of time. Once you’re at the level where you’re reviewing the file, that might only be three or four hours total over the course of an audit.”
Even if you’re not planning to spend your whole career in audit, it’s still worth gaining the qualification – it could make you more attractive to a future employer if you can count towards the control percentage. “And once you’ve got it, it will stay on your record, no matter what area you go on to work in,” says Sarah.
How do I get it?
In order to gain the Audit Qualification, you need to record 240 days of audit experience at an ICAEW authorised training employer that is also a registered audit firm. At least 120 of those days must be in statutory audit – in other words, UK companies and LLPs. For students in audit roles, it’s an achievable target over the course of a three-year training agreement.
“For students in more general practice, they might only get five or six weeks of audit work a year, so they’re not going to get that 240 days within their three-year training agreement,” explains Sarah. “But they should still be logging it – as long as they record it and submit it on time, they won’t lose it and can add to it later.”
How do I record it?
If you’re working in a firm that can provide audit experience, you’ll see a dedicated Audit Qualification tab within your online training file (watch the video for more). Every six months, you should work out the number of days of audit experience you’ve gained and enter it, dividing the total between UK statutory and ‘other’ audit work. You’ll also need to add information such as the names and types of entities you’ve worked on, and a brief summary of your role and responsibilities.
“We’re really looking for progression,” explains Sarah. “You’ll start off as an audit junior, then by the time you’re in your third year you’ll probably be more senior, leading field work and that sort of thing. That’s what we’re looking for in that narrative.”
As with all elements of your training file, make sure you enter the information properly. “It will ultimately be reviewed by a human being at the other end,” says Sarah. “Your employer is going to review it, and somebody at ICAEW will review it too, because it’s such a high-risk qualification.”
Once you’ve completed all the necessary detail, you should submit your file for feedback, either to your Qualified Person Responsible for Training (QPRT) or counsellor, or someone else who is eligible to sign it off (that person must hold the Audit Qualification themselves).
It’s important to record your audit experience regularly, says Sarah: “The feedback should be being provided every six months as well. We can see in the file when the feedback has been provided, and we don’t want that all to have the same date five days before the final sign-off was done. If you’ve been doing it regularly, it also means it’s a quick job at the end to get it signed off.”
How do I submit it?
At the end of your training agreement, you must submit your Audit Qualification section for final sign-off by your QPRT or other eligible person – this is a separate process from the submission of the rest of your online training file.
“It has to be signed off within six months of the end of your training agreement,” says Sarah. “As soon as you reach the end of your training agreement, you should be putting that final entry in and submitting it to us.”
If you haven’t reached the required 240 days by the end of your training agreement, you should still submit it as soon as possible – don’t wait in the hope that you can add in more experience before the six-month deadline. “The online training file only covers that period of the training agreement, so you can’t add anything in there,” she cautions. “If you haven’t got the 240 days and you want to keep adding to it, there is a manual form you can use. There’s no leeway on the deadline – if you don’t submit it on time, you’ll lose any experience you’ve gained so far.
“And finally, do contact us for help at any point. If you’re not sure about something – which category your experience goes in, for example – we’re more than happy for you to get in touch and ask the question.”
Sarah’s dos and don’ts
- Do record all relevant experience
- Do update the Audit Qualification tab every six months
- Do get your employer to add feedback promptly on each entry
- Do submit for final sign-off as soon as your training agreement ends
- Don’t miss the submission deadline
- Do continue to record additional experience manually if necessary
Reach out to the student support team if you have any questions about the Audit Qualification.