What's in a name?
Once you have decided on how and where to start your practice it is worthwhile taking a few minutes to look at ACCA's rules on descriptions of firms.
This resource has been developed for the UK market – if you are not based in the UK then you should consider how the information and advice can be applied in your market.
These are fairly straightforward if your practice is in the UK but it's best to be sure before you spend money on marketing, websites, printing etc. You will need to inform ACCA of your firm’s name and details.
You should consider protecing the intellectual property attached to the name of your firm and check that you are not infringing on the registered trade mark of any other firm. In the UK, you can search for a trade mark on the Intellectual Property Office's website.
The ACCA Rulebook states
- If you are a member of another accountancy body, words showing the membership may be used on professional stationery;
- If you belong to two or more accountancy bodies then you have the choice of either using all of the designatory letters on your professional stationery or none at all;
- Civil or service honours (such as CBE, DSO, DFC) can be used on professional stationery.
Rules affecting the practice name
The basic rule is that, subject to the bye-laws and the following rules, a professional accountant may practise under whatever name or title they see fit.
However the practice name:
- Should be consistent with high ethical and technical standards.
- Should not be misleading.
- should not be capable of being confused with the name of another firm, even if the member(s) of the practice could lay justifiable claim to the name.
The rulebook also discusses some issues regarding claims made by the firm, for instance:
- It would be misleading for a firm with a limited number of offices to describe itself as “international” even if one of them was overseas
- A firm can trade under different names from different offices providing that this does not mislead.
Describing the new practice
Some of the strictest rules relate to the descriptions allowed for the firm:
1. The descriptions 'Chartered Certified Accountant(s)', 'Certified Accountant(s)','Statutory Auditor(s)' or 'Registered Auditor(s)' cannot form part of the name of a firm, company or limited liability partnership. (For example, a company shall not include the description in the name which is registered with Companies House in the United Kingdom or its equivalent elsewhere.) Similarly, the designatory letters 'ACCA' or 'FCCA' shall not form part of the name of a firm, company or limited liability partnership.
2. Where the firm is a partnership or has more than one director, it may describe itself as a firm of 'Chartered Certified Accountants', 'Certified Accountants' or 'an ACCA practice' only where:
(a) at least half of the partners (or directors in the case of a company, or members in the case of a limited liability partnership) are ACCA members; and
(b) the principals noted in 2(a) above control at least 51 per cent of the voting rights
This may be an issue where the firm has a mix of say ACCA and AAT partners/directors.
3. A firm in which all the partners are Chartered Certified Accountants may use the description 'Members of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants'. So where the firm has a mix of partners or directors it cannot use this statement. However, a mixed firm may wish to make it clear that some partners (or directors) are Chartered Certified Accountants and others are (for example) ICAEW members. In this case they may use the following statement on its stationery (providing the ICAEW members within the firm have permission from their own Institute to use the statement):
'The partners (or directors) of this firm are members of either the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, of Scotland or in Ireland'.
Can I include ‘ACCA’ in the firm’s name?
A professional accountant is not permitted to do the following:
(a) form or incorporate a firm, partnership, company or limited liability partnership incorporating or consisting of any of the terms:
- 'Chartered Certified Accountant'
- Certified Accountant'
- 'FCCA' or any confusingly similar term; and/or
(b) register a domain name or trade mark incorporating or consisting of any of the terms above or any confusingly similar term.
So for instance 'John Bloggs ACCA members Limited' would breach the rule.
Use of the ACCA logo
The ACCA logo is iconic and can form an important part of the firm’s stationery and website/social media content.
A firm that has at least one ACCA member as a partner or director may use the ACCA logo subject to the restriction that it may not be used unless a firm is controlled overall by holders of recognised accountancy qualifications.
The design and use of the logo is important. The overriding consideration is that the positioning, size and colour of the ACCA logo shall not compromise its recognition. The ACCA logo is square and shall not be cropped or altered in any way. The logo must appear in black or red (Pantone 485).
To get the logo a member in an eligible firm can request the logo artwork and guidelines from us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and providing the member’s practising certificate number and membership number.
ACCA has a supply of 8" x 8" logo window stickers. A member in an eligible firm can request a window sticker by emailing email@example.com and providing a membership number.
Different sizes of firms and their descriptions
Different sizes of firms and their descriptions
When setting up in practice, the size of the new firm leads to some interesting rules:
- A sole practitioner may use the plural form of 'chartered certified accountants'
- or 'certified accountants' and/or 'registered auditors' and/or 'licensed insolvency practitioners' to describe their firm providing they hold the appropriate certificate, and either:
(a) they apply the suffix '& Co.' after their name; or
(b) otherwise trade under a business name which is not the same as their personal name
- A professional accountant who is a sole practitioner may describe himself/herself as a 'member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants'
- It would be misleading for a sole practitioner to add the suffix 'and partners' to their firm’s name. Similarly, it would be misleading for a firm to add the suffix 'and Associates' to its business name unless it has two or more formal associations/consultancies in existence which can be demonstrated to exist.
- The rulebook has no objection to a firm practising under its own name and including a statement on its professional stationery to the effect that it is a member of (a named) accountancy group.
Where the firm wants to demonstrate some specialist services that they provide it may include a list of these on its professional stationery. For example:
‘Tax advisers’, could be used by a firm provided that:
(a) it is competent to provide the specialisms shown, and
(b) the content and presentation of the descriptions do not bring ACCA into disrepute or bring discredit to the firm or the accountancy profession.
What names can go on the stationery and websites?
The basic rule is straight forward - it should be clear from reading a firm’s professional stationery whether any person named on it is a principal in that firm (i.e. a partner, sole practitioner or director).
However, where a firm would like to put other people on its professional stationery, that is allowed providing that the name is clearly described, for instance ‘manager’, ‘Tax Consultant’, etc. The firm should only include such people if they are competent and have the necessary eligibility and qualifications to provide any specialism shown. Obviously, those named as principals should be clearly separated from those of non-principals.
- Other headings on professional stationery
Members based in the UK are encouraged to seek advice from our UK Technical Advisory team if they have any specific queries or would like any further information.