“Chartered Accountant (CA)” is a very popular designation in Nepal and mostly in South Asia. However, most of us might be unaware that there are so many other designations in the world such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA), Public Accountants (PA) which are similar to CA designation and persons having those designations perform similar works as those done by Chartered Accountants. To clarify the misconceptions and spread the awareness of facts about these designations and the qualifications, I, hereby, have made some common and distinguishing points about some popular professional accountancy qualifications and related designations around the world.
Whether called CA, CPA or ACCA, they all are Professional Accountants or Public Accountants whose primary responsibility is to act in the best interest of the public. CA, ACCA or CPA is also the name given to the Qualification to become a Professional Accountant. There are many other names such as Public Accountant, General Accountants used to refer professional accountants in different countries.
These designations refer to the membership of professional accountancy bodies and those professional bodies are the member of an international body called IFAC (International Federation of Accountants), also known as the mother body of accountants.
All designations mentioned above have the Public Practice Right (what we understand as audit in general sense) in the country of their origin. However, for audit practice, the members need to hold a Certificate of Practice (or other similar certificate) awarded by their professional body. Gaining public practice rights in other foreign countries is only possible if there is a pathway. The pathway may exist as per the Mutual Recognition (bilateral) Agreement of the particular body with the local body or unilateral recognition/exemptions provided by body of the respective country.
Minimum requirement, different structure:
The criteria for awarding membership and practicing certificate vary from body to body but in common, all designation at least requires completion of Specified Examination and Practical Experience. However, the structure of qualification, rules, subject matters, examination pattern, experience eligibility, etc. of each body are different.
Employers who have at least little awareness about these designations treat them as Par. For reference, here are extracts of two vacancies:
Announced by WTO (World Trade Organization) for the Internal Auditor:
REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS (Education):
An advanced University degree in Auditing, Accounting or other related fields with a financial orientation or a combination of a basic University degree with either a professional certification or proven professional expertise. A professional certification such as Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Chartered Accountant (ACCA/CA), or Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Announced by NRB (Nepal Rastra Bank) for Officer 3rd Level:
Varied Recognition :
Though CA, CPA and ACCA are similar qualifications, in each country the value and recognition of one may supersede the other depending upon the market, market share of bodies, awareness amongst & preferences of employers, the legal status and the relationship with the national body, agreement with employers/govt. bodies/universities etc.
The most interesting fact is there is only one body (UK based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) providing ACCA qualification all around the world whereas CPA and CA qualifications are provided by local bodies in various countries (for eg. CPA qualification is provided by American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in USA and by CPA Australia in Australia, likewise, CA is provided by Institute of Chartered Accountants of India in India and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan in Pakistan)
No. of bodies in a country:
In some country there is a sole body which provides its members right for statutory audit however interestingly in some countries, there are two or more than two bodies having access to such right. For instance, in the USA only AICPA is recognized for having statutory auditing rights whereas, in UK ACCA, Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) and Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI) have public practice right.
CA, CPA and ACCA in Nepal:
In Nepal, large no. of CAs from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nepal (ICAN) & Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), hundreds of ACCA members from ACCA, UK and very few CPAs from AICPA are working in industry and in practice. Only the members of ICAN have public practice right in Nepal. As of the date of publication of this article, there is no pathway for new members of ICAI and members of AICPA to get the membership of ICAN. However, ICAN has a mutual collaboration agreement with ACCA, UK which has provided a pathway for members of ACCA for ICAN membership and public practice right. CA education is imparted by coaching centers accredited by ICAN whereas ACCA qualification is imparted by the Approved Learning Providers of ACCA. No tuition providers exist for CPA qualification.