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Practice names and letterheads

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Published: 01 Jan 2015 Updated: 24 Jan 2022 Update History

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Contents

This helpsheet provides guidance on the selection of practice names and the requirements for use of descriptors, legends etc. for letterheads and other formal stationery.

Introduction

This helpsheet has been issued by ICAEW’s Firms Team to provide guidance to ICAEW members on the selection of practice names and information that must be disclosed on all business letters – including invoices. The same requirements apply if such documents are in electronic format – including business emails.

Members may also wish to refer to the following related helpsheets and resources:

Practice names

A practice name must comply with legal requirements (including Part 41 of the Companies Act 2006 on Business names) and be consistent with the dignity of the profession. It should not be misleading or imply superiority.

The name should not include words or abbreviations denoting a particular type of business unless the business is of that type. For example, a sole practitioner should not call their practice ‘…& Partner(s)’ or ‘…Limited’. Similarly the word ‘Associates’ should only be used if formal arrangements were agreed with two or more consultants or firms.

Traditionally the addition of ‘…& Co’ to a business name is acceptable.

The Companies Act 2006 also restricts the use of certain names such as those implying connections with Her Majesty’s Government or with any local authority and words such as ‘England’, ‘Dental’ and ‘Charity’. ‘Chartered Accountant(s)’ is also restricted, and cannot be used in a firm’s name. Member Firms are not permitted to register domain names or trademarks including or consisting of ‘Chartered Accountants’ ‘ACA’ or ‘FCA’, as these have been registered by ICAEW. The trademark of ‘CA’ has been registered by ICAS and should not be used by ICAEW members.

Trading names

The use of trading names is allowed. However, it is important to remember that the firm should not mislead. To avoid any confusion, we recommend you state that a trading name is being used (eg, XYZ is the trading name of ABC).

Partnerships

If a partnership name is anything other than the names of the partners then the partners’ names must also be shown on the letterhead. The only exception is for partnerships of more than 20 which may instead state ‘A list of partners’ names is available at the above address’ providing that it maintains such a list.

Limited liability partnerships and corporate practices

Limited liability partnerships and companies must display the following information on their business letterhead:

  • place of registration (eg, England and Wales)
  • registered number
  • the address of the LLP’s/company’s registered office
  • if a company is exempt from the requirement to use ‘limited’ in its name, the fact that it is a limited company
  • if an LLP name ends with the abbreviation LLP, the fact that it is a limited liability partnership.

A company does not have to state the directors’ names on its business letters but if it decides to include the names it must ensure that the names of all the directors are shown. However, if the company uses the description ‘Chartered Accountants’ and chooses not to list the directors on its letterhead then it must maintain a list of directors (distinguishing chartered accountants from others) and refer to that list on its letterhead.

Similarly if an LLP includes the name of any member on its business letterheads, other than in the body of the letter or as a signatory to it, it must include all the members’ names on the letterhead.

However if an LLP has more than 20 members it can use the legend ‘A list of members’ names is available at the principal place of business’ providing it maintains such a list.

Additional information that needs to be disclosed

The Provision of Services Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/2999) require service providers, including accountancy firms, to provide certain information about their services and their regulatory status to their clients and prospective clients. For more information see the Services Directive helpsheet.

Practices using the description ‘Chartered Accountant(s)’ and/or the member firm brand mark

Practices entitled to use the description ‘Chartered Accountant(s)’ may automatically use the member firm brand mark.

Member firms can use the member firm brand mark as part of their membership of the Practice Assurance scheme. The regulations on the Use of the description ‘Chartered Accountants’ give a definition of what constitutes a member firm.

The brand mark may be used on its own or accompanied by the legend ‘A member of the ICAEW Practice Assurance Scheme’. If preferred the firm may use ICAEW’s full title ‘The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ in place of ‘ICAEW’.

Any practice using the description ‘Chartered Accountant(s)’ and/or the member firm brand mark must distinguish between chartered accountant(s) and others shown on their letterhead or in the list maintained at their place of business.

Additional descriptions

The description ‘Chartered Accountant(s)’ may be coupled with:

  • business adviser(s)
  • tax consultant(s)
  • management consultant(s)
  • any Chartered title, for example Chartered Tax Adviser(s)

providing that the relevant expertise or qualification is held.

Non-principals

If any non-principals are shown on the practice letterhead they must be clearly distinguished from the principals. Any titles used to describe non-principals should not be misleading. Appropriate titles may include ‘consultant’ or ‘associate’.

Legends for regulated activities

If the practice provides services in any of the reserved areas it may be required to or choose to include a legend on its letterhead to show this.

Audit

If the practice is registered for audit it may use one of the following to refer to that status on its letterhead but must not vary the wording:

  • ‘Registered Auditor(s)’
  • ‘Statutory Auditor(s)’
  • ‘Registered to carry on audit work in the UK by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’.

There is no requirement for the practice letterhead to include such wording.

DPB licensed firm

Practices licensed by ICAEW as a DPB firm are not required to state this on their letterheads. If they choose to do so the following legend should be used:

  • ‘Regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for a range of investment business activities’.

Or, if the practice is also registered for audit:

  • ‘Registered to carry on audit work in the UK and regulated for a range of investment business activities by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’.

FCA regulated activities

If the practice carries on regulated activities authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) it must comply with the FCA’s rules.

In respect of investment business activities, ICAEW has agreed with the FCA that the following legends are acceptable: 

  • ‘Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for investment business’.
  • ‘Registered to carry on audit work in the UK by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for investment business’.

Accredited probate firms

Firms that are accredited for probate are not required to state this on their letterhead. If they elect to do so, the following may be appropriate:

If it is an authorised firm:

  • ‘Authorised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales’.

There is a logo available for ICAEW probate accredited firms, which can be downloaded – together with the guidance.

Alternatively, if it is a licensed firm:

  • ‘Licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales’.

If a firm is authorised to carry out other regulated activities as well as probate, the following may apply as appropriate:

  • ‘Registered to carry on audit work in the UK ; regulated for a range of investment business activities; and licensed to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’.

Insolvency practitioners

All Recognised Professional Bodies under the Insolvency Act have agreed that insolvency practitioners should tell clients, and others with whom they deal, the name of their licensing body at an early stage. This requirement can be met by including the details on the practice letterhead as follows:

  • ‘First name surname’ is licensed as an insolvency practitioner in the UK by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’.

If all the licence holders take their insolvency licence from ICAEW, the following wording can be used:

  • ‘The insolvency licence holders of this practice are licensed as insolvency practitioners in the UK by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’. 

There are two logos available for ICAEW licensed insolvency practitioners – one for individuals and one for firms where all the insolvency practitioners take their licence from ICAEW. These can be downloaded – together with guidance on how to use them.

Use of PO Box numbers or virtual offices

A letterhead should ordinarily show the full practice name and address as registered with ICAEW. The practice may, however, use PO Box numbers or virtual offices as the address provided that:

  • The PO Box address or virtual office has been verified eg, by letter from the Post Office confirming the address
  • A telephone number where the member can be contacted is shown on all letterheads

The member provides the Members’ Registrar with a second full postal address to be kept on ICAEW’s database. (Members should note that although this address would not ordinarily be given to callers we cannot guarantee it would be kept confidential at all times and may be disclosed if, for example, there was a legal requirement to do so).

Free approval service and example letterheads and checklists

Advisory Services offer a free and confidential approval service to review the practice name and letterhead and advise whether it satisfies ICAEW and other requirements. To assist you Advisory Services have also produced letterhead checklists and example letterheads for sole practitioners, partnerships, LLPs and limited companies.

If you would like to use this service please email your draft letterhead (and email template where applicable) to firms.admin@icaew.com.

If in doubt seek advice

Individuals may discuss their specific situation with the Technical Advisory Service on +44 (0)1908 248 250, via webchat, or e-mail firms.admin@icaew.com.

Terms and conditions

© ICAEW 2022  All rights reserved.

ICAEW cannot accept responsibility for any person acting or refraining to act as a result of any material contained in this helpsheet. This helpsheet is designed to alert members to an important issue of general application. It is not intended to be a definitive statement covering all aspects but is a brief comment on a specific point.

ICAEW members have permission to use and reproduce this helpsheet on the following conditions:

  • This permission is strictly limited to ICAEW members only who are using the helpsheet for guidance only.
  • The helpsheet is to be reproduced for personal, non-commercial use only and is not for re-distribution.

For further details members are invited to telephone the Technical Advisory Service T +44 (0)1908 248250. The Technical Advisory Service comprises the technical enquiries, ethics advice, anti-money laundering and fraud helplines. For further details visit icaew.com/tas.

Changelog Anchor
  • Update History
    01 Jan 2015 (12: 00 AM GMT)
    First published
    24 Jan 2022 (04: 47 PM GMT)
    Updated to reflect requirements of the revised ISAs.
    24 Jan 2022 (04: 48 PM GMT)
    Changed date of latest version of ISA (May 2021). Date of specimen letter updated to match helpsheet
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