The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is a professional membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports chartered accountants and students around the world. As of July 2022, it has over 198,000 members and students in 147 countries. ICAEW was established by
royal charter A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under royal prerogative as letters patent. Historically, they have been used to promulgate public laws, the most famous example being the English Magna Carta (great charter) of 1215, b ...
in 1880.


The institute is a member of the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB), formed in 1974 by the major accountancy professional bodies in the UK and Ireland. The fragmented nature of the accountancy profession in the UK is in part due to the absence of any legal requirement for an accountant to be a member of one of the many Institutes, as the term ''accountant'' does not have legal protection. However, a person must belong to ICAEW, ICAS or CAI to hold themselves out as a '' chartered accountant'' in the UK (although there are other chartered bodies of
British qualified accountants British qualified accountants are full voting members of United Kingdom professional bodies that evaluate individual experience and test competencies for accountants. The term ''accountant'' does not have the same legal protection in the United Ki ...
whose members are likewise authorised to conduct restricted work such as
auditing An audit is an "independent examination of financial information of any entity, whether profit oriented or not, irrespective of its size or legal form when such an examination is conducted with a view to express an opinion thereon.” Auditing ...
). The institute is also a founder member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW), an international network of accountancy bodies which represents over 1.8 million members and students in more than 190 countries. ICAEW has two offices in the United Kingdom; at their headquarters, Chartered Accountants' Hall in
Moorgate Moorgate was one of the City of London's northern gates in its defensive wall, the last to be built. The gate took its name from the Moorfields, an area of marshy land that lay immediately north of the wall. The gate was demolished in 1762, b ...
, London and in
Central Milton Keynes Central Milton Keynes is the central business district of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England and a civil parish in its own right, with a town council. The district is approximately long by wide and occupies some of the highest land in Mi ...
at the Hub:MK complex. It also has offices in Belgium (Europe Region), China (Greater China Region), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (Middle East, Africa and South East Asia Region).ICAEW pushes regional expansion in China
Accountancy Age ''Accountancy Age'' is an online trade publication for accountants and financial staff in the United Kingdom. After running from 1969 to 2011 with a circulation of over 60,000 in print, it changed with effect from May 2011 to an online-only publ ...
'', 4 April 2011


Until the mid-nineteenth century, the role of accountants in England and Wales was restricted to that of bookkeepers, in that accountants merely maintained records of what other business people had purchased and sold. However, with the growth of the
limited liability company A limited liability company (LLC for short) is the US-specific form of a private limited company. It is a business structure that can combine the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of ...
and large scale manufacturing and logistic in Victorian
Britain Britain most often refers to: * The United Kingdom, a sovereign state in Europe comprising the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands * Great Britain, the largest island in the United King ...
, a demand was created for more technically proficient accountants to deal with the increasing complexity of accounting transactions dealing with depreciation of assets, inventory valuation and the Companies legislation being introduced. To improve their status and combat criticism of low standards, accountants in the cities of Britain formed
professional bodies A professional is a member of a profession or any person who works in a specified professional activity. The term also describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and ski ...
. ICAEW was formed from the five of these associations that existed in England prior to its establishment by
Royal Charter A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under royal prerogative as letters patent. Historically, they have been used to promulgate public laws, the most famous example being the English Magna Carta (great charter) of 1215, b ...
in May 1880. # The Incorporated Society of Liverpool Accountants, formed in January 1870; # The Institute of Accountants in London was formed in November 1870, comprising 37 members under the leadership of William Quilter. In 1871, standards for membership were established with new members having to show knowledge and aptitude through successfully passing an oral examination. Initially the London Institute restricted its membership to that city, but as other institutes were established elsewhere (for example, in
Manchester Manchester () is a city in Greater Manchester, England. It had a population of 552,000 in 2021. It is bordered by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and the neighbouring city of Salford to the west. The tw ...
Sheffield Sheffield is a city in South Yorkshire, England, whose name derives from the River Sheaf which runs through it. The city serves as the administrative centre of the City of Sheffield. It is historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire ...
) it was decided to remove this restriction and as such in 1872 it simply became known as the Institute of Accountants to reflect its new national coverage; # The Manchester Institute of Accountants, formed in February 1871; # The Society of Accountants in England (1872); # The Sheffield Institute of Accountants (1877). In 1920, following the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, the organisation admitted
Mary Harris Smith Mary Harris Smith (27 November 1844 - 13 October 1934) was an accountant and entrepreneur. She became the first woman to complete the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales qualification but was denied membership because she was ...
, who became the first woman chartered accountant in the world. The headquarters of the institute, Chartered Accountants' Hall, in the City of London, which was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by John Belcher and built by Colls & Sons, was completed in 1892. It is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of
Victorian Baroque architecture The Baroque Revival, also known as Neo-Baroque (or Second Empire architecture in France and Wilhelminism in Germany), was an architectural style of the late 19th century. The term is used to describe architecture and architectural sculptu ...
. Sir William Whitfield designed the 1964–70 extension and new entrance. In 1948, the institute received a Supplemental Charter. In 1957, ICAEW merged with the Society of Incorporated Accountants (founded in 1885 as the Society of Incorporated Accountants and Auditors). In 2019, as part of their celebration of 100 years of women being able to work as Chartered Accountants, ICAEW published a booklet on 100 years of women in Chartered Accountancy and launched a campaign to collect the stories of women members in chartered accountancy. In 2020, ICAEW announced the commissioning of a blue plaque in honour their first female member Mary Harris Smith.

Membership and qualifications

In order to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant, it is necessary to achieve the ACA qualification.

ACA qualification

The ACA comprises four core elements that must be successfully completed. These are; professional development; ethics and professional scepticism; accountancy, finance and business modules; and practical work experience. Professional development prepares students to successfully handle a variety of different situations they encounter throughout their career, improving their ability and performance in areas such as communication, decision-making, problem-solving and technical competence. Ethics is embedded throughout the ACA qualification, developing students’ ethical capabilities to make suitable decisions, This is through an online programme based on the ICAEW Code of Ethics, the integration of ethical issues into all ACA exams and the practical application of ethical skills and behaviours within students’ work experience. Practical work experience is undertaken as part of a training agreement with an authorised training employer or principal. Students must complete 450 days, which normally takes between three and five years. Experience can be completed in at least one of six categories: accounting; audit and assurance; financial management; information technology; insolvency; taxation.

ACA exams

There are 15 exams which are all computer based, spread across the Certificate level, the Professional level, and the Advanced level. Certificate level exams can be sat throughout the year at either dedicated test centres or at the candidate’s own location via remote invigilation. Results of the Certificate level exams are provided to candidates within 24 hours of sitting the exams. The Professional and Advanced level exams are long-form scenario and case based exams, consisting of 2.5-4 hour examinations. Results of Professional and Advanced level exams are provided to candidates some several weeks after sitting the exams, and are published online, although candidates can choose to remain anonymous and have their name excluded from publishing. All of the Certificate level exams are closed book. The Professional level exams are a mixture of fully open book, fully closed book, or permitting approved texts (such as
IFRS International Financial Reporting Standards, commonly called IFRS, are accounting standards issued by the IFRS Foundation and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). They constitute a standardised way of describing the company's f ...
publications or tax tables). All of the Advanced level exams are fully open book, with two of the exams having advanced information

ACA exam prizes

ICAEW awards prizes to high-scoring candidates in the ACA exams, including the Certificate level. There are subject-specific prizes for the best performance in a particular exam, and annual prizes for the highest marks across all the exams for a particular level. The subject-specific prizes can be awarded multiple times per year, reflecting the multiple sittings of exams each year; for the Professional level, there are 3-4 sittings per year for each exam, whilst for the Advanced level, there are 2 sittings per year for each exam. Prizes can be awarded jointly to multiple candidates.

Other ways to membership and affiliations

Some members of professional accountancy bodies within the European Union are eligible to apply for ICAEW membership under either the Statutory Audit Directive or the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (RPQ) Directive. In 2010, ICAEW introduced its "Pathways to Membership" programme, which allows fully qualified members from certain professional bodies to apply for membership based on their experience. There are also various other routes to membership, including reciprocal arrangements, advanced credit arrangements and common content arrangements with other professional accountancy bodies around the world.

Membership categories

Members have the designation ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) or FCA (Fellow Chartered Accountant) after their name. Fellowship is intended to designate those who have achieved a higher level of professional experience. It is awarded on application, and at no additional cost, to those members who have attained at least ten years of membership and who, at the date of application, have complied with the institute's requirements on continuing professional development in the preceding three years and have no outstanding disciplinary charges against them.

Regulation and discipline

As an improvement regulator, ICAEW works to protect the public by making sure ICAEW Chartered Accountants, firms that are regulated by ICAEW and students studying with ICAEW maintain the highest standards of professional competency and conduct. An improvement regulator works to educate as well as monitor the quality of its firms and members’ work and enforce change (change can include restrictions, penalties, exclusion from membership or from working in a regulated area) when needed. To ensure impartiality, the regulatory and disciplinary roles of ICAEW are carried out by a separate department, the Professional Standards Department. All of this work is overseen by several layers of independent governance; an independent board, the (IRB) and regulatory and disciplinary committees (at least half of each board must be lay members (non-accountants)) and oversight bodies including the Financial Reporting Council and the Insolvency Service.


ICAEW has seven faculties, each run by an in-house team working together with members who are experts in their particular sector: # Audit and Assurance # Business and Management # Corporate Finance # Financial Reporting # Financial Services # Tax # Tech The Tax Faculty was the first to be formed in 1990; The monthly TAXline publication started in 1991, and an annual Technical Review (now Tax Planning) was first published in October 1992. The Tax Faculty joined the
Confédération Fiscale Européenne CFE Tax Advisers Europe, formally known as Confédération Fiscale Européenne (CFE), is a Brussels-based umbrella association of European tax advisers. It was founded in 1959. CFE's members are 33 national tax adviser organisations from 26 European ...
(CFE) in 2001.

District societies

The institute has 25 district societies across the UK, the largest of which is the London Society of Chartered Accountants (LSCA) with over 38,000 members. The LSCA was instrumental in the formation of the influential
Hundred Group The Hundred Group, also referred to as "The 100 Group", represents the views of the Finance Directors of FTSE 100 and several large UK private companies. In 2018, their member companies represented around 90% of the market capitalisation of the FT ...
finance director The chief financial officer (CFO) is an officer of a company or organization that is assigned the primary responsibility for managing the company's finances, including financial planning, management of financial risks, record-keeping, and finan ...

See also

British qualified accountants British qualified accountants are full voting members of United Kingdom professional bodies that evaluate individual experience and test competencies for accountants. The term ''accountant'' does not have the same legal protection in the United Ki ...


External links

ICAEW official website

Key Facts and Trends in the UK Accountancy Profession
annual publication by the
Professional Oversight Board The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is an independent regulator in the UK and Ireland based in London Wall in the City of London, responsible for regulating auditors, accountants and actuaries, and setting the UK's Corporate Governance and ...
* Fraud Advisory Panel charity, founder and funding member
ICAEW as Improvement Regulator

ICAEW Regulatory Board

Regulatory and Disciplinary committees
{{DEFAULTSORT:Institute Of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales 1880 establishments in England Accounting in the United Kingdom Business organisations based in London Finance in England Organisations based in the City of London Organizations established in 1880 Milton Keynes Chartered Accountants Member bodies of the International Federation of Accountants Legal regulators of the United Kingdom