There is a wide range of legislation that can apply to an accountancy businesses, some of which is likely to be particularly relevant. The following is an overview of some of the key areas that you should be aware of. The list is not intended to be exhaustive.
What licences does an accountant need?
There are no licensing requirements relating specifically to the provision of basic accountancy services.
However, you'll need to be aware of the following:
- under the Money Laundering Regulations, accountancy services providers must register with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) if they are not supervised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or a professional body like the ICAEW
- you will need a licence or authorisation from a professional body to act as an insolvency practitioner
- to undertake public practice as a qualified accountant you will need a practising certificate
- you must be authorised by your professional body to do audit or probate work
- if you plan to undertake mainstream investment business you must obtain authorisation from the FCA. If you are already authorised by the FCA for investment business you must also get authorisation for general insurance and mortgage business
- if you only intend to carry out non-mainstream investment business you must be licensed by a Designated Professional Body (DPB) - such as the ACCA or the ICAEW
- you will need consumer credit authorisation if you carry out work such as credit brokerage, debt adjusting or debt counselling. The FCA is responsible for credit authorisation - but you may be covered by an existing authorisation through your professional regulatory body under the DPB licensing arrangements
- businesses which keep records of individuals' personal details may need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). From May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation has introduced additional protection for personal data
Things to be aware of
- you will need to hold a practising certificate if you want to set up in public practice as a qualified accountant
- you must be authorised by your professional body to undertake probate or audit work
- you will need an insolvency licence to do insolvency work
- a Designated Professional Body - such as your professional accountancy body - can license you to undertake investment business, mortgage business and insurance mediation, but only if it is incidental to your main accountancy work. If you plan to undertake mainstream investment business you will need to obtain authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If you are already authorised by the FCA for investment business you must obtain separate authorisation for general insurance and mortgage business
- you must alert the Solicitors Regulation Authority if you discover any evidence of fraud or theft while you're doing Solicitors' Accounts Rules work
Money laundering regulations
You should familiarise yourself with the requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations. You can find out more about how the regulations affect you on the Gov.uk website. Among other requirements they specify the customer identification procedures to follow, the records that must be kept of those procedures and the internal reporting procedures that must be set up to make sure that your practice is not used for money laundering purposes. You will also have to train your employees in those procedures, in recognising money laundering transactions and in the law relating to money laundering. Any suspicions that money laundering has taken place must be reported to the National Crime Agency (NCA). If you are not supervised by the FCA, or a member of a professional body like the ICAEW, you will need to register with - and be supervised by - HMRC.
If you offer consumer credit services to your clients, you must obtain consumer credit authorisation from the FCA. You can apply online on the FCA website. You may be eligible to offer consumer credit services under the Designated Professional Body regime. Check with your professional accountancy body.
Health & safety, fire
Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include:
Insurance for an accountant
When you start up in business you will need insurance cover. Contact an insurer and explain to them exactly how your business will operate - they will then recommend what cover you should have. This might include:
- professional indemnity insurance
- premises, premises contents
- personal accident and travel
- loss of earnings
- business interruption
- employer's liability
- public liability
- motor insurance
Many insurance companies offer Office Policies which are tailored to the needs of office-based firms.
Members of professional accountancy bodies such as the ICAEW and ACCA may benefit from competitive rates on business insurance.