Accountancy on the move: How to take UK qualifications worldwide

Accountancy on the move: How to take UK qualifications worldwide

With accounting qualifications and standards varying around the world, here’s the best way to take your UK credentials with you wherever you go.

Accountancy on the move: How to take UK qualifications worldwide

When the travel bug bites, UK accountants are extremely qualified to take their credentials to nearly any country they desire. However, before any plane tickets are purchased, there are a number of qualification and career differences to consider. 

For instance, every country has a different set of accountancy standards, and it’s important to take this into consideration when making the leap to a new location. Many countries operate under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), but other jurisdictions, like the United States, use generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). 

Additionally, the US allows certain practices that are banned in other countries, like last in, last out (LIFO). Adjusting to these new rules may be difficult, depending on the accountant’s background, so it’s important to note these changes before committing to a specific country. 

There are multiple ways to work internationally, but one of the easiest is receiving a company transfer to an international office branch. This is the first route to go down, particularly for a mid-to-large size firm, but there are plenty of ways to move outside of transferring. 

Before making any major life changes, its important to have the right qualifications to move forward in the new role. Many countries will have their own certification requirements, even for pre-existing qualifications coming from another country, and many outside the UK require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent education level. 

United States of America 

As previously mentioned, the US is one of the few countries to still use GAAP. As such, the majority of accountants seek CPA qualifications over any othersbut these are licensed at a state level, rather than through a membership body or at a national level. Thus, these qualifications are less transferrable. 

ACCA notes that each state board requires 150 hours of education to sit a Uniform CPA exam, and the sitting individual also needs to have a four-year degree. 

There are services which offer ‘credential evaluations’ for international workers, which help to translate foreign qualifications and explain their US equivalency. These can also help mitigate the hours needed to sit the Uniform CPA exam. 

Canada 

There are a few different certifications available in Canada, including being a chartered accountant (CA), certified general accountant (CGA), certified management accountant (CMA), or CPA. The CPA designation is internationallrecognisedso it’s a valuable certification to have as an international traveller. 

For accountants with ACCA qualifications, the association’s mutual recognition agreement with the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA Canada) helps to bolster their credentials. 

However, although the ACCA qualifications are viewed at the same level as a bachelor’s degree, accountants must join the CGA Canada before either studying or working in the country. 

It’s also worth noting is that Canada uses IFRS Standards, but GAAP is permitted in a number of sectors, particularly for companies which also file taxes in the US. For accountants with no GAAP experience, this is not an insurmountable problem, but is worth taking into consideration.   

European Union 

Brexit notwithstanding, UK residents can still work in the European Economic Area (EEA), Norway, Iceland and LiechtensteinAccountants with an ACCA qualification may find this area the easiest to move to, since it’s widely recognised and accepted throughout the EU. 

ACA qualifications are also recognised by EU member states, according to the ICAEW, and accountants can receive their accountancy or audit recognition in these states simply by passing an aptitude test. 

There are also country-specific credentials, such as France’s Expert Comptable or Germany’s Wirtschaftspruefer and Steuerberater qualifications, but many countries within the EU will consider an internationally recognised credential backed by a supporting professional body. 

Australia 

There are several professional qualifications recognised by Australia, including the ever-popular CPA, CA and CMA. 

For accountants bringing their qualifications from overseas, the Institute of Public Accountants, CPA Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia all have the authority to assess accountants’ skills in regard to migration skills requirements. 

Required by the Department of Home Affairs, this assessment weighs an accountant’s degree, educational prowess and English proficiency against Australian standards, determining if the UK standards match up. 

It’s worth noting that while ACA-qualified accountants can take their qualifications with them, thanks to international reciprocal recognition agreements, they should be aware that Australia uses IFRS, supported by the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB). 

As with every country that follows IFRS, there may be regional differences in standards and requirements alongside the international mandates, which will create a learning curve. 

Finding support through professional bodies 

When undertaking a major career change, there are several accountancy membership bodies who offer support to their members, both in the UK and around the world. 

For instance, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (CIMA) has several offices across the globe, so members can receive assistance and support no matter their locale. Additionally, CIMA has a mutual recognition agreement with CMA Canada, granting reciprocal membership to members of both organisations. 

These memberships are handled by provincial offices across Canada and come with a set of stipulationsbut can offer an extra set of accreditations. 

The ACCA also has reciprocal agreements with several professional bodies around the world, so its worth checking what options are available to qualified accountants with country-specific ACCA offices. 

Further support is also available through the ICAEW, which has membership recognition agreements in South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. 

Wellbeing charity CABA also continues to offer support to ICAEW members and their families when they leave the UK, in the form of emotional, financial, and career assistance. 

No matter an accountant’s accreditation body, it is worthwhile to check what resources they provide to those looking to move outside of the UK. While they generally avoid giving advice on visas, they may be able to liaison with professional bodies on an accountant’s behalf, help schedule any required tests, and provide various forms of assistance. 

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