The chartered accountant (CA) works in many countries, which often have national organizations dedicated to supporting their career goals and offering networking opportunities. Although a CA is an internationally recognized title, the story behind that moniker and other details of the trade are truly unique. We’ll explore that history and the duties of the role in the article below.
History and Etymology
The claim that CAs are the first in the industry to form a unified professional group deserves some credit. It’s in their very title—chartered. In mid-19th century Scotland, the Edinburgh Society of Accountants applied for and received a business charter—or royal permission to do business as a recognized group—from the sitting King of England. Quick to follow were the Glasgow Institute of Accountants and Actuaries (1854) and the Aberdeen Society of Accountants (1867).
While there’s no hard evidence to support the corollary, the Scottish front-runners of this internationally recognized designation possessed a reputation for sobriety, honesty, and meticulous natures often equated with their Calvinist Protestant ideologies and dedication to education. Whatever the case, these perceptive businessmen were soon joined by chapters from Wales and farther afield.
Stock in Trade
A chartered accountant isn’t restricted to a single aspect of the field. They may be found serving in every type of accounting capacity, from auditing to financial management positions. If you’re an American, you may not be familiar with this designation, but that’s not because you’ve never met a person who works as a CA. In the U.S.A, a CA is known as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), likely because authority to organize as a professional group isn’t derived from a monarch as it is for many of Europe’s historical institutions and colonial organizations.
CAs and CPAs both engage in every area of business and finance. They act as public accountants, work for private firms, and are employed by corporations or government bodies. While they do assist individuals with complex tax forms and help them to file them in an appropriate way, they also work in a number of interesting and new fields.
Beyond tax and financial planning, they may consult with private and public entities to maximize benefits to those bodies within the framework of tax law. On the other side of this equation, many CAs and CPAs engage in forensic accounting, which is also called fraud auditing. They scrutinize the records and filings of a company or individual in order to determine that all procedures have been followed and no laws have been violated. CAs with strong computer and data skills are often employed to craft new programs, applications, and work in the IT field. They work in both domestic capacities and international roles, especially when their clients have regular business dealing with foreign or multinational companies or government bodies.
But perhaps one of the most interesting new ways in which they can practice their trade relates to the increasing body of environmental legislation and code. Environmental accounting calls for individuals with expert knowledge of new law and financial practices related to many green policies. They help clients stay abreast of policy while also helping to craft systems that ensure compliance with the laws.
Tax code may not sound like the most stimulating reading material, but those who understand it and can navigate the shifting corridors of international and domestic law provide an edge for private and public entities. A chartered accountant and their American counterpart, the CPA, provides vital assistance and educated guidance in a variety of ways for their all their clients.