Bookkeeper legal issues

Female bookkeeper giving a man a blue folder with other folders already on the table

There is a wide range of legislation that can apply to a bookkeeper, 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 a bookkeeper need?

Under the Money Laundering Regulations, accountancy services providers must be supervised by a professional body like the International Association of Book-Keepers (IAB) or the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB). Otherwise they must be registered with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). There is more information about the Money Laundering Regulations on the website.

Members of the ICB must apply for the ICB Practice Licence if they want to offer bookkeeping services to clients. There is an annual fee for the licence.

Note that businesses which keep computerised records of individuals' personal details may need to register as data users with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). You can find out more on the ICO website.

Money laundering regulations

It's important that you're aware of the requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations. Among other requirements, they specify:

  • the anti-money laundering systems you need to put in place
  • the customer identification procedures to follow
  • the records that you'll need to keep
  • the internal reporting procedures you need to set up

You should report any suspicions that money laundering has taken place to the National Crime Agency (NCA - previously the Serious Organised Crime Agency or SOCA). You will also have to train your employees in those procedures, in recognising money laundering transactions and in the law relating to money laundering. The International Association of Book-Keepers (IAB) produces helpful guidelines on how to comply with the Regulations. If you're not supervised by the IAB or a member of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers you'll need to register with and be supervised by HMRC as an accountancy services provider.

You can read more about the Money Laundering Regulations and being supervised in the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) guidance available on the website.

Preventing illegal working

If your business offers payroll services you'll need to be aware of the procedures for checking whether someone from outside the UK is legally entitled to work here. Visit the website for detailed guidance.

Health & safety, fire

You must also make sure that you comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include:

Recruitment and employment contracts

Pay and pensions

Working time: hours, leave, flexible working

Employment policies

Sickness and sick pay

Maternity, paternity and adoption


Managing home workers, remote workers, lone workers

Discipline and grievance

Dismissals and redundancies

Employment tribunals

Insurance for a bookkeeper

When you start up in business you will need insurance cover. Contact an insurer and explain to him or her 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. The International Association of Book-keepers and the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers both offer their members special rates for professional indemnity insurance.

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