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ICAEW’s regulatory expertise and history

Regulation has been central to ICAEW’s work for more than 130 years. ICAEW’s regulatory role and professional standards activities are overseen by the ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB) and are distinct from the ICAEW’s representative role.

Acting in the public interest

ICAEW’s regulatory role is distinct from its representative role. Managed by our Professional Standards department, we act in the public interest by ensuring our students, members, firms and affiliates are competent and act with integrity. Our role is to:

  • authorise and monitor our members, firms and affiliates to undertake work regulated by law (audit, local audit, investment business, insolvency and probate) to the highest professional standards;
  • review and encourage compliance in general accountancy practice through our Practice Assurance scheme;
  • investigate complaints and hold members and firms accountable if they fall short of standards; and
  • provide guidance, advice and award-winning training films to help our students, members, firms and affiliates comply with laws, regulations and professional standards.

The ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB) oversees ICAEW’s regulatory role and professional standards activities. At least half of the board are lay members (someone who is not / never been a member, affiliate, employee of ICAEW or any other accountancy body) and the chair is independent of both ICAEW Board and Council. Our regulatory and disciplinary committees also have an equal or majority number of lay members. This governance ensures we can 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.

Our work in areas regulated by law (audit, anti-money laundering, local audit, investment business, insolvency and probate) is overseen by a number of oversight bodies including the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS), the Insolvency Service, the Legal Services Board (LSB) and the International Standards on Auditing (Ireland) (IAASA). 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Work regulated by law

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. There are 2,561 firms and 7,295 responsible individuals registered with us under the Companies Act 2006;
  • a prescribed accountancy body (PAB) and recognised accountancy body (RAB) for statutory audit in Ireland. There are 38 firms and 253 responsible individuals registered with us 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 101 key audit partners registered under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014;
  • the largest insolvency regulator in the UK. We license over 840 insolvency practitioners (out of a total UK population of 1,550) 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). We license over 1,900 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 over 12,000 firms; and
  • an approved regulator and licensing authority for probate under the Legal Services Act 2007. Over 340 firms are accredited by ICAEW to carry out this reserved legal activity.


  • more than 330 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 12,000 firms to ensure they comply with the Practice Assurance standards.

* Data is correct as at 31 December 2020.

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.