Industry sector: Business services

Accountant: Legal matters

You'll need to be aware of the following:

  • you will need to hold a practising certificate if you want to set up in public practice as a qualified accountant
  • you must be authorised by your professional body to undertake probate or audit work
  • you will need an insolvency licence to do insolvency work
  • a Designated Professional Body - such as your professional accountancy body - can license you to undertake investment business, mortgage business and insurance mediation, but only if it is incidental to your main accountancy work. If you plan to undertake mainstream investment business you will need to obtain authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If you are already authorised by the FCA for investment business you must obtain separate authorisation for general insurance and mortgage business
  • you must alert the Solicitors Regulation Authority if you discover any evidence of fraud or theft while you're doing Solicitors' Accounts Rules work

Money laundering regulations

You should familiarise yourself with the requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations. You can find out more about how the regulations affect you on the website. Among other requirements they specify the customer identification procedures to follow, the records that must be kept of those procedures and the internal reporting procedures that must be set up to make sure that your practice is not used for money laundering purposes. You will also have to train your employees in those procedures, in recognising money laundering transactions and in the law relating to money laundering. Any suspicions that money laundering has taken place must be reported to the National Crime Agency (NCA). If you are not supervised by the FCA, or a member of a professional body like the ICAEW, you will need to register with - and be supervised by - HMRC.

Consumer credit

If you offer consumer credit services to your clients, you must obtain consumer credit authorisation from the FCA. You can apply online on the FCA website. You may be eligible to offer consumer credit services under the Designated Professional Body regime. Check with your professional accountancy body.

Health and safety

You must make sure that you comply with health and safety legislation. This covers all aspects of work place health and safety. Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety at work of all their employees. Those with five or more employees must prepare a written health and safety policy statement. Contact your local authority health and safety section for advice and guidance. Further information and guidance leaflets on all aspects of health and safety are available on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) websites.

Fire safety

All employers must comply with fire safety regulations - this means carrying out a fire risk assessment at your premises and putting in place fire precaution measures. These could include fire alarm systems and extinguishers as well as clearly signed escape routes. If you have five or more employees your fire risk assessment must be written down. You're responsible not only for the safety of your staff but also of anyone who might be on your premises, like clients or suppliers. The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced several helpful guides for businesses. You can download these from the website. Information about fire regulations in Northern Ireland is available on the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service website.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important pieces of legislation that you must be aware of include:

  • The Employment Rights Act
  • The National Minimum Wage Act
  • The Working Time Regulations

The employing people section of the website includes information and guidance on all aspects of employment legislation. Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Business Info website.

Equality and discrimination law

You must not discriminate against anyone because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. This applies to every aspect of your business operations, from taking people on to dismissing them. You may need to make reasonable adjustments to your premises and working arrangements so that you don't unfairly discriminate against disabled people.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland websites contain further information on your legal duties.