Acting with integrity
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The moment you register as an ACCA student, you become part of a profession that values ethics, integrity, and governance. These qualities are essential for all accountants as the profession moves towards strengthened codes of conduct, regulation, and legislation.
By joining ACCA, both students and members agree to abide by ACCA’s bye-laws and regulations – as detailed in the ACCA Rulebook available on ACCA’s website. These help ACCA ensure that its members and students uphold the high standards demanded of the accountancy profession.
‘ACCA defines professionalism as dedication to a certain type of work,’ says ACCA chief executive Allen Blewitt. ‘The work not only requires a high level of skill, but also a commitment to serving the public interest,’ he adds.
ACCA’s Code of Ethics and Conduct is in line with standards set by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). ACCA members must commit themselves to the five fundamental principles of integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality, and professional behaviour.
‘These principles demonstrate what it means to be a professional accountant – and act as the standard against which our members’ behaviour is measured,’ says Blewitt, who adds ‘the principles guide our members’ judgements, decisions, and actions when acting in a professional capacity, and particularly when faced with ethical dilemmas.’
The introduction of ACCA’s new qualification this year reinforces the focus on professional values, with the inclusion of a Professional Ethics module and the new Paper P1, Professional Accountant. Professional values and ethics will be examined at the highest level in the new ACCA Qualification, and feature in 11 of the 16 papers. They will also form a core element of the practical experience requirements.
Blewitt concludes that standards can only provide a framework. ‘It is you as an individual who decides whether to follow that framework,’ he says. ACCA, like all professional bodies, has a disciplinary system in place for students and members who violate the bye-laws and regulations. ‘This,’ says Blewitt, ‘ensures that the system remains rigorous and independent.’
Common complaints
While the majority of ACCA students act with the highest integrity, inevitably, there is a small minority who break the rules. Common complaints against students include:
  • claiming false exemptions for exams
  • cheating in exams or projects – by bringing unauthorised materials (such as notes) into an exam hall or by collusion with other students
  • performing work of a public practice nature
  • holding themselves out to be a partner, director, or controller of a firm which undertakes work of a public practice nature
  • holding themselves out to be an ACCA member
  • failing to respond to correspondence from ACCA.
Complaints made against students are investigated by the Professional Conduct Department. Complaints are usually referred to an independent disciplinary assessor and then on to the Disciplinary Committee. The ultimate sanction for students found breaking the rules is removal from the ACCA register.
Claiming exemptions
If you hold accredited qualifications prior to joining ACCA as a student you can claim exemptions for certain ACCA exams. However, students who falsely claim to hold qualifications, or submit false documentation (such as a counterfeit certificate), will be referred to a disciplinary assessor.
Cheating in exams or projects
The most common complaint against students is cheating in exams. In addition, cheating in projects such as the Research and Analysis Report (RAR) for the Oxford Brookes BSc in applied accounting also comes within this area.
Students who cheat in exams are most commonly caught using unauthorised materials during an exam. Students who cheat when compiling their RAR are sometimes caught colluding with fellow students, or plagiarising someone else’s work.
Exam guidelines and regulations are included in ACCA’s Student Handbook, previously sent to all students on registration. New ACCA Qualification students can also access the guidelines and regulations on the post-registration CD-rom. The guidelines and regulations are included on the Examination Attendance Docket that students have to take to the exam with them, and are also in the noticeboard section of student accountant. If you are unclear about any of the guidelines you should speak to an invigilator before the exam, or contact ACCA Connect.
The most common examples of cheating include being in possession of unauthorised materials designed to help in an exam. Even if you don’t use the material, just being in possession will result in your behaviour being reported and investigated. Unauthorised materials include notes written on rulers, erasers, the back of calculators, or small pieces of paper hidden in a pencil case.
Collusion, where two or more students attempt to copy or discuss answers in an exam, is also a common form of cheating.
With several invigilators in the exam hall there is an extremely high chance that you will be caught if you attempt to use unauthorised materials, or copy another candidate’s work, and you will be reported to the Professional Conduct Department.
Services to the public
ACCA has to ensure that any services offered to the public by ACCA members are performed to the highest standard. As a result, only ACCA members who hold a practising certificate are allowed to perform public practice work.
Typical complaints involve students performing public practice work without supervision, or claiming to be an ACCA member – both of which are against the bye-laws and regulations listed in the ACCA Rulebook.
What work can I do as a student without being supervised?
This is a common question, particularly for students who want to set up their own business providing accountancy services. As long as you do not refer to the fact that you are an ACCA student, or that you will, one day, be an ACCA member, you are allowed to provide and charge for basic bookkeeping services – for the public or for an accountant. ‘Basic bookkeeping’ includes recording basic accounting data up to, and including, the preparation of accounting records to trial balance stage. Such records include bank accounts, cash sales, and purchase ledgers. Students can also provide payroll services – including wages, PAYE, and National Insurance deductions, and also VAT, or its equivalent.
Any other accountancy services can only be provided by an ACCA student under the supervision of a suitably qualified and experienced accountant. For example, you would be permitted to do these activities if you were an employee of a public practice accountancy firm.
Providing unsupervised, basic bookkeeping cannot form part of your practical experience requirements for membership as the requirements state that any work you do must be supervised. However, if you are supervised by an appropriately qualified person, as an employee for example, then it would count towards the practical experience requirements for membership.
More information on the activities that can be undertaken by ACCA students can be found in Section 2, paragraph 8(2)(a) of the ACCA Rulebook, available on the ACCA website.
What work can’t I do on my own?
There are a number of common misconceptions regarding the work you, as an ACCA student, are not permitted to do. For example, many students think that they can prepare a tax return as long as they do not sign it. This is not permitted. You cannot prepare tax returns or other accounts which will be relied on by third parties – such as banks, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, or Companies House. In addition, ACCA students cannot provide an accountant’s certificate, as part of a mortgage application, for example.
However, you can do these tasks if you are supervised by a suitably qualified person. And because they are supervised, these activities can count towards the practical experience requirements for membership.
What can I call myself while I am an ACCA student?
You should refer to yourself as an ACCA student. You are not permitted to call yourself an ACCA member, ACCA student member, or a part-qualified ACCA member. You are also not permitted to use the designatory ACCA letters after your name until you have been admitted to membership. CAT students can only use the designatory CAT letters after their name after they have completed both the examination element and the practical experience element of the CAT qualification.
Corresponding with ACCA
It is important to respond to correspondence sent to you by ACCA. Failure to do so can in itself result in disciplinary action. A common problem is that students move address without notifying ACCA. It is essential that you keep your address details held by ACCA up to date, you can do this easily via myACCA on the ACCA website.
The Disciplinary Committee
In 2006, half the cases dealt with by the Disciplinary Committee involved students, and a large majority of these students were subsequently removed from the ACCA register. The outcomes of Disciplinary Committee hearings are published on the ACCA website, and also in student accountant, and sent to national and local press.
ACCA is introducing indicative sanctions guidance during 2007, which will indicate the likely sanction students or members will face for each rule broken. In the meantime, previous penalties imposed by the Disciplinary Committee can be found in the disciplinary precedents book on the ACCA website.
Small minority
Only a small minority of ACCA students and members break the rules and regulations. But it is this small minority which potentially discredits the name of ACCA. In order to maintain the high standards required of professional accountants, ACCA disciplinary procedures are there to protect the name and standing of ACCA, its students and members, and the accountancy profession as a whole.
Visit to access the ACCA Rulebook. You can also contact ACCA Connect at for further information about what you can and can’t do as an ACCA student.

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