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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, registering approximately 2,800 firms and 7,500 responsible individuals under the Companies Act 2006;
  • the largest prescribed accountancy body (PAB) and recognised accountancy body (RAB) for statutory audit in Ireland, registering approximately 2,800 firms and 7,500 responsible individuals under the Republic of Ireland’s Companies Act 2014;
  • the largest recognised supervisory body (RSB) for local audit in England. We have eight firms and over 80 key audit partners registered under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014;
  • the largest insolvency regulator in the UK. We license over 800 insolvency practitioners (out of a total UK population of 1,600) as a recognised professional body (RPB) under the Insolvency Act 1986;
  • 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, we license approximately 2,100 firms to undertake exempt regulated activities under this Act;
  • a supervisory body recognised by HM Treasury for the purposes of the Money Laundering Regulations 2017, dealing with approximately 11,000 firms;
  • an accredited body under the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Retail Distribution Review (RDR) arrangements;
  • an approved regulator and licensing authority for probate under the Legal Services Act 2007. Over 300 firms are accredited to carry out this reserved legal activity;


  • more than 400 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.
  • Our Practice Assurance scheme provides ICAEW members working in practice with a framework of principles-based quality assurance standards. We monitor over 11,000 firms to ensure they are complying with the Practice Assurance standards.

* Data is correct as at December 2018.

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.