A chartered accountant is a qualified member of a professional body that has a royal charter.

Chartered accountants provide trustworthy information about financial records. This might involve them in financial reporting, taxation, auditing, forensic accounting, corporate finance, business recovery and insolvency, or accounting systems and processes. Generally, they play a strategic role by providing professional advice, aiming to maximise profitability on behalf of their client or employer. They work in many different settings including public practice firms, industry and commerce, as well as in the not-for-profit and public sectors.

In public practice firms, chartered accountants provide professional services to fee-paying clients who might be private individuals or large commercial or public sector organisations. In commerce, industry and the not-for-profit and public sectors, they may work in treasury management, procurement, financial management or in reporting roles.

Typical work activities

The role of a chartered accountant can cover many aspects of finance work, including:

  • continuous management of financial systems and budgets;
  • undertaking financial audits (an independent check of an organisation’s financial position);
  • providing financial advice.

In public practice, typical work activities include:

  • liaising with clients (individuals or businesses) and providing financial information and advice;
  • reviewing the company’s systems and analysing risk;
  • performing tests to check financial information and systems;
  • advising clients on tax planning (within current legislation to enable them to minimise their tax liability) and tax issues associated with activities such as business acquisitions and mergers;
  • maintaining accounting records and preparing accounts and management information for small businesses (accountancy);
  • advising clients on business transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions (corporate finance);
  • advising clients on areas of business improvement, or dealing with insolvency;
  • detecting and preventing fraud (forensic accounting);
  • managing junior colleagues.

In commerce and industry, and the public and not-for-profit sectors, typical work activities involve:

  • liaising with internal and external auditors and dealing with any financial irregularities as they arise;
  • producing reports and recommendations following internal audits or public-sector audits;
  • preparing financial statements, including monthly and annual accounts;
  • preparing financial management reports, including financial planning and forecasting;
  • advising on tax and treasury issues;
  • negotiating terms with suppliers.