When selecting or evaluating an accounting firm, one of the factors that needs to be considered is whether or not the firm is a member of a recognised professional accounting organisation. This is an important factor as the title "accountant" is not regulated in Australia. In other words, anyone can call themselves an accountant even if they don't have the educational and professional qualifications.
The three principal and most widely recognised professional accounting organisations in Australia are:
- Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand;
- CPA Australia; and
- Institute of Public Accountants.
These three organisations adopt a strict code of conduct and require their members to:
- Hold an approved undergraduate university degree;
- Have completed a comprehensive postgraduate professional study programme;
- Complete a minimum of three years supervised experience;
- Complete a public practice programme and hold a current practising certificate;
- Undertake extensive continuing professional development each year;
- Have a minimum level of professional indemnity insurance depending on the size of the firm and the type of work that it undertakes;
- Adhere to a strict code of ethical standards; and
- Have their practice reviewed every 5 years or so to ensure that standards of quality are maintained.
Another recognised accounting body is ATMA (Association of Taxation and Management Accountants) which has similar professional and ethical standards.
It is important to always check the qualifications and experience of your accountant as being a member of a professional organisation does not always guarantee that the firm will be able to service your requirements.