There are six institutions of professionally qualified accountants currently operating in the UK. All jealously guard their independence and the many attempts to merge over the past few years have all failed.
Chartered Professional Accountants
- institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
- Generally auditing, financial accounting, management consultancy, insolvency and tax advice. However, many work in industry.
- institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland ( lCAl )
- Similar to ICAEW.
- institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
- Similar to ICAEW.
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- Auditing, financial accounting, insolvency, management consultancy, and tax advice. Many train or work in industry.
- Chartered institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Management accounting
- Chartered institute of Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA)
- Accounting within the public sector and privatized industries.
ACCA: The ACCA's members are not so easy to pigeonhole as the other professionally qualified accountants. They work both in public practice as auditors and as financial accountants. They also have an enormous number of overseas students. Many certified accountants train for their qualification in industry and never work in public practice.
CIMA: This is an important body whose members generally train and work in industry. They are found in almost every industry, ranging, for example, from coal mining to computing. They mainly perform the management accounting function.
CIPFA: This institute is smaller than the ICAEW, ACCA or CIMA. It is also much more specialized with its members typically working in the public sector or the newly privatized industries, such as Railtrack. CIPFA members perform a wide range of financial activities within these organisations, such as budgeting in local government.
The main second-tier body in the UK is the Association of Accounting Technicians. This body was set up by the major professional accountancy bodies, Accounting technicians help professional accountants, often doing the more routine bookkeeping and costing activities.
Many accounting technicians go on to qualify as professional accountants. The different accountancy bodies, therefore, all perform different functions. Some work in companies, some in professional accountancy practices, some in the public sector.
The accountant working for a company
The professional accountant in a partnership
The banker, who, while not strictly an accountant, serves much the same ends in a separate and semi-isolated unit
The auditing accountant to whom everything is (officially) revealed, and who then grants absolution.
Limitations of Accounting
Accounting, therefore, measures business transactions in numerical terms. It thus provides useful information for
managers and other users of accounts. It is, however. important to appreciate certain limitations of accounting.
- Accounting tends to measure the cost of past expenditures rather than the current value of assets.
- Traditional accounting does not capture non-financial aspects of business. Thus, if an industry pollutes the air or the water, this is not recorded in the conventional accounts. Nor does traditional accounting measure the human resources of a business or its knowledge and skills base. The accounts can' thus' only give a partial picture of a business's activities.