It may come as a surprise to learn that anyone can call themselves an accountant. It is not a protected title and there are no restrictions around setting up a business as an accountant, or any legal requirements for qualifications.
As a business owner, you don’t have to use a qualified accountant however, at AO Accountants, as a specialist practice that helps creative businesses flourish, we certainly think it’s worth working with an accounting firm that has proven experience.
Qualified accountants, known as chartered accountants, or chartered certified accountants (depending on the professional body) can help business owners navigate the wider complexities of running a business, and provide more in-depth advice on a wide range of financial matters.
It’s worth noting a slight difference in the naming approach to qualifications, depending on which governing body your accountant has gained their qualification from. For firms that are run by a person qualified by ICAEW, their firm is known as a chartered accountant. If a firm is run by a person qualified by the ACCA, the firm is known as a chartered certified accountant. In this article, for readability, we’ll refer to qualified accountants simply as ‘chartered accountants’ but will be alluding to persons qualified by either governing body.
This article discusses the difference between chartered accountants and non-chartered accountants and looks at the benefits and risks involved in using one over the other.
Training and expertise
Whereas anyone with a passing interest in finance or business can call themselves an accountant, chartered accountants are required to pass several exams, become a member of a professional body, and adhere to a professional code of conduct.
These stringent requirements will allow a chartered accountant to develop a deeper knowledge of complex financial issues that can only be attained through becoming professionally qualified. Once qualified as a chartered accountant, individuals can then become a member of either the ICAEW (The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) or the ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).
Experience and insight
In order to become a chartered accountant, individuals are required to study for between three and five years before taking a series of very challenging exams to test their learning and knowledge. A chartered accountant must have a solid understanding of finance, tax laws, financial planning, business strategy and business models among other areas of knowledge.
It, therefore, stands to reason that the qualifications a chartered accountant is required to gain, and the subsequent code of conduct they must operate under, translates into experience and knowledge that can’t be gained otherwise.
Chartered accountants are also required to undertake continuing professional development (CPD), year after year, while non-chartered accountants are not required to keep their knowledge up-to-date, and therefore may not be able to provide accurate, timely advice or information.
Niching and dealing with larger businesses
Chartered Accountants will ultimately be selected by larger businesses with more complex accounting and business needs, allowing them to gain far more experience in dealing with the financial intricacies that come with larger firms.
This is especially apparent if the accounting firm has niched in a certain business sector. At AO Accountants, for example, we specialise in working with businesses in the creative sector which allows us to recognise trends and patterns and appreciate the financial needs of successful creative firms.
Value over price
Beyond simply ensuring a business owner pays the correct amount of tax, a chartered accountant is able to advise business owners on a wider range of financial issues, potentially saving them vast amounts of money.
This advice isn’t simply limited to number crunching, however. A chartered accountant can discuss the personal requirements of the business owner, how the company may grow, take on partners, distribute shares and advise on business strategy. As chartered accountants, we offer a wide range of business services and packages to our clients in the creative sector who range from media production houses to creative studios.
This specialist knowledge will naturally cost more than working with a non-qualified accountant but is often seen as a sound investment given the myriad ways chartered accountants can help their client’s businesses.
For many business owners, it is also vital that their accountants hold Professional Indemnity Insurance. For chartered accountants, it is a requirement from their governing body (such as the ICAEW or ACCA) that they hold PII before they can legally practice.
Professional indemnity insurance acts as a protection for their client’s business, in the unlikely event the accountant makes a mistake in relation to their client’s accounts.
As a business owner whether you choose to work with a non-qualified accountant or a chartered accountant, you’ll no doubt save both time and money by having someone take care of the more intricate financial aspects of your business.
At AO Accountants we offer a wide range of financial services for our clients in the creative sector. If you run a creative business and you’re looking to work with a team of chartered certified accountants who have deep insight into your business sector then get in touch with us today to see how we can help your business thrive.