In early July 2016, the AAT launched their bookkeeping membership; which removes the requirement for students to complete AAT level 4, before they can gain a level of membership of AAT.
With the new bookkeeping membership, a student who has completed their Advanced Diploma in Accounting or, the Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping, can apply for membership of AAT as a bookkeeper. Bookkeeping membership gains you professional recognition, and allows you to put the designatory letters AATQB after your name. You will gain access to a wide range of bookkeeping resources, and access to both online and a face-to-face bookkeeping community. There is no work experience requirement for bookkeeping membership.
Since the money laundering act of 2007, bookkeeping has been a regulated industry. Effectively, this means that as a bookkeeper, you must have someone who regulates you, i.e. someone who you can contact should you need to report any suspicions you may have of a client benefiting financially from breaking the law.
For a number of years, the AAT would only regulate you for money laundering if you were level four qualified, and had six months of relevant experience. If you were not a member of a professional body the only remaining option was be regulated by HMRC. HMRC would take your money, ensure that you are “legal” but offer very little in terms of support. This meant that an individual wanting to be regulated by the AAT, but who just wanted to offer a traditional bookkeeping service, i.e. to go no further than trial balance, had to study the preparation of limited company accounts and tax, even if they had no intention of offering these services.
AAT’s licencing framework has been changed to allow you to apply for a practice licence as a bookkeeping member of AAT; so you can set up your own bookkeeping practice. This enables students to start their bookkeeping practice much sooner in their studies than they were previously able to under AAT.
However, you are restricted in which services you can offer. You will only be allowed to offer:
- Financial Accounts for sole traders and partnerships
- Computerised accounting systems
- VAT returns
You will not be allowed to offer any other service, for example, self-assessment tax returns. With the bookkeeping membership, you do not need any experience. However, to apply for a practice licence, where the AAT would regulate you for money laundering, you must have work experience in the service you wish to offer. This needs to be able to be verified by someone senior to you, who knows your work, this cannot be your tutor.
You also need somebody whom would be willing to act as professional referee. They must have known you in a professional capacity for 6 months, and they cannot be a family member.
If you are qualified with another awarding body, you can apply to gain AAT bookkeeping membership directly if you have obtained any of the following:
- ICB Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping and Accounts
- IAB level 3 Diploma in Bookkeeping
- IAB Level 3 Certificate in Accounting
The AAT bookkeeping membership allows people to start their bookkeeping practice whilst continuing with their studies in order to allow them to offer additional services. It also allows individuals to open a bookkeeping practice without having to study certain subjects, which they perhaps are not interested in studying or in offering them as a service. You receive full support of the AAT as a membership body.
You can apply for bookkeeping membership here: https://www.aat.org.uk/bookkeeping