In the field of accountancy, a large number of variable titles and specialties exist, each with their own personal connotation signifying the particular branch of accounting said accountant is a member of.
Among these titles are the legally protected chartered accountant, or CA, and that of the CPA, or certified public accountant, both of which are recognized accountants with significant qualifications and proper certification in order to practice their particular line of work beneath a regulating body specifically made for accountants.
However, some confusion may be found in the distinction between the two, as both chartered accountants and certified public accountants are titles used by a variety of certified professional accountants in the accounting industry, oftentimes with practically the same meaning.
What is a Chartered Accountant?
The title chartered accountant refers to the upper echelon of professionally certified and educated accountants, wherein said accountants are legally and ethically qualified to perform tasks and services that are otherwise impossible to do without legal certification.
Individuals without the prerequisite chartered accountant title cannot perform these tasks and services, both legally and because of insufficient training.
However, the caveat and main difference between that of chartered accountants and certified public accountants is simply the geographical location wherein said accountant has received their certification and passed said certification exam.
Countries outside of the United States such as the United Kingdom, Australia and certain countries in south east Asia all utilize the legally protected title of chartered accountant in order to act as a distinction between legally recognized certified individuals and non-certification holders.
Chartered accountants are allowed by these countries to carry out duties such as performing financial audits and approving the disclosure of certain types of financial statements.
What is a CPA?
The term certified public accountant or CPA is a legally protected distinction meant to signify that an individual has been approved to act in a professional accounting capacity, oftentimes after said individual has passed a licensure exam and several years of training or accrued sufficient on the job experience.
Just as is the case with chartered accountants, unlicensed individuals cannot otherwise provide the same tasks and services to prospective clients as a certified public accountant can, both legally and due to a lack of sufficient education or experience.
The primary distinction between the title of CPA or certified public accountant and that of a chartered accountant is that certified public accountants have been approved and licensed within the United States, with the term CPA only rarely being used outside of the United States.
The main purpose of the existence of this certification is to ensure that a professional standard is enforced, ensuring that no harm may be caused by unlicensed and amateur individuals seeking to act as accountants without the required prerequisite skills.
What are the Advantages of Using a Chartered Accountant?
Individuals or financial entities wishing to utilize the services of a chartered accountant may find that there are certain advantages to using a legally recognized professional with relevant qualifications and certifications.
Among these is the formal education in a relevant field possessed by the chartered accountant, of which will reduce the chance of them performing any errors and ensure that their work is of the utmost quality, of which may otherwise be missed if non-certified professionals are instead hired.
Depending on the particular governing body certifying the chartered accountant, the chartered accountant must have undergone at least three to five years of relevant experience in the field of accounting prior to being certified, giving them a level of experience that allows them to act confidently in their duties.
Additionally, individuals holding the title of chartered accountant are oftentimes required to keep up to date with new regulations, practices and methods within their particular field of work, meaning that a legally certified chartered accountant is kept abreast of any changes in the accounting sector, or finance as a whole.
What are the Advantages of Using a CPA?
In the event that the services of a CPA or certified public accountant are required, the individual or entity wishing to procure their services can be assured that the work entailed in their hiring is of a professional standard of quality, owing to the fact that certified public accountants oftentimes undergo a certain level of regulation prior to being licensed.
The exact educational qualifications required to attain the legal title of certified public accountant are somewhat less stringent than that of chartered accountants, owing to the fact that individuals seeking to become a CPA only require the completion of one hundred and twenty hours of undergraduate classes in order to be approved.
Thus, while it is possible to become a CPA without the completion of a college degree, it is likely that individuals legally recognized as certified public accountants have undergone some level of training and education, providing a competency to their services.
This may depend on the particular state and regulatory body the CPA has been approved by, however.
Can Chartered Accountants Work in the United States?
Considering the geographical reasoning behind the distinction between chartered accountants and certified public accountants, it is understandable that there would be some confusion as to the rules pertaining to the working of chartered accountants in the United States, whether temporarily or for good.
It is possible – with several caveats, such as the obvious legal requirement of a work visa or sufficient immigration certifications that are required of all foreign nationals entering and working within the United States.
Specific to chartered accountants, however, individuals wishing to provide their services in a professional capacity while holding the certification of chartered accountant in a different country must first pass an equivalency exam imposed by regulatory accounting organizations situated in the United States.
This is done to ensure that the chartered accountant has sufficient experience of knowledge of the inner workings of United States accounting work, which may be tangentially different from the sort of accounting work done in other countries, especially pertaining to that of tax laws.
Can CPAs Work Outside the United States?
The exact specifics of recognition of a certified public accountant or CPAs qualifications may depend on the particular regulatory bodies found in whatever foreign country they may find themselves working in.
However, a large majority of CPAs are legally qualified to offer their services in many non-U.S. countries owing to the fact that the largest global regulatory accounting organization recognizes their particular type of professional certification.
This equates to many companies actively seeking the services of certified public accountants, both within and outside of the United States, especially in the sort of corporation that performs overseas work in the United States, wherein an expert in the local regulations and laws would be needed.
Though it is important to keep in mind that the sort of training certified public accountants undergo is usually specific to laws and methods primarily used within the United States, making certified public accountants working outside of the U.S. potentially less effective than the local equivalent, depending on their own personal training and experience.
This is not to say that certified public accountants are not capable of performing the same duties as any non-U.S. equivalent accountant, as it is a globally recognized title and as such denotes significant education and qualification possessed by said CPA.
- Unknown Author. (Feb 1987) “The Chartered Accountant, Volume 36” Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, originated from the University of California.
- Gingras, Russell T. “Writing and the Certified Public Accountant.” Journal of Accounting Education, vol. 5, no. 1, Mar. 1987, pp. 127–33. DOI.org
- Will Kenton, Michael J Boyle, Marcus Reeves. (October 2020) “Chartered Accountant (CA)” Investopedia Investopedia.com
- Will Kenton, Khartit Khadija. (August 2021) “Certified Public Accountant (CPA)” Investopedia Investopedia.com