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Home > Public Accountants > News and Events > Future Changes to the Qualifications Requirement for Registration as a Public Accountant
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Future Changes to the Qualifications Requirement for Registration as a Public Accountant

  • On 1 April 2013, the transitional arrangements for the introduction of the Singapore Qualification Programme (“Singapore QP”) and the Chartered Accountant of Singapore (“CA Singapore”) designation were announced by Minister of State for Finance, Mrs Josephine Teo.  The Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15 set out what current students, graduates and professional accountants in Singapore will need to fulfil in order to be designated a CA Singapore, and the timelines within which such persons may benefit from the transitional arrangements, after which all applicants will need to complete the Singapore QP. 

    [Ministry of Finance’s press release on the Transitional Arrangements can be accessed here]

    In connection, Transitional Arrangements 16 and 17 as set out below were introduced to cater for the future changes to the "Qualifications" requirement for registration as a public accountant with ACRA.

    Arrangement 16:
    (pending legislative amendments)

    That effective from 1 January 2019, the pathway to satisfy the “Qualifications”1 (see Footnotes) requirement for the purpose of registration as a public accountant pursuant to section 10(1)(b)(i) of the Accountants Act, Cap. 2 would be through the professional accountancy qualifications route.

    Arrangement 17:
    (pending legislative amendments)

    That individuals who graduated before 1 January 2019 in any of the final examinations in accountancy as currently prescribed under the Second Schedule to the Accountants (Public Accountants) Rules (see Annex A)  would be deemed to have satisfied the “Qualifications” requirement pursuant to section 10(1)(b)(i) of the Accountants Act, Cap. 2.

    In adopting Transitional Arrangements 16 and 17, ACRA agrees that a person should have a professional qualification to register as a public accountant.  Professional training, in addition to academic training, is important to a public accountant’s responsibility to lead audits and sign audit reports, which require the exercise of professional judgement and play a key role in protecting investors. 

    The move to a professional qualifications pathway is also in line with other jurisdictions that require company auditors to have a professional qualification, such as the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand and South Africa.  In fact, most practising auditors internationally and in Singapore hold a professional qualification because it is expected by employers and clients.

    As Singapore’s own qualification, the Singapore QP will be the benchmark professional qualification through which applicants will become a public accountant in Singapore. ACRA intends to require applicants to have completed the Singapore QP, or a recognised equivalent professional qualification, which is one that has established reciprocity agreements with the Singapore Accountancy Commission (“SAC”) and the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (“ISCA”)2 (see Footnotes).

    Thus, from 1 January 2019, applicants to be registered as a public accountant would need to:

    1. Have completed the Singapore QP or a recognised equivalent professional qualification.  Applicants who passed a currently recognised final examination (see Annex A)  before 1 January 2019, or who was designated a CA Singapore under the transitional arrangements, will be deemed to have met this criterion.
    2. Be a full member of ISCA.  Individuals seeking to become full members of ISCA will need to have:
      1. Fulfilled the ISCA membership requirements that existed before 1 January 2019, including those provided under the Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15, or
      2. Completed the Singapore QP and thus gained ISCA membership, or
      3. Completed the requirements for ISCA membership under any reciprocity agreements between SAC and ISCA with the applicant’s original professional body.
    3. Have completed the practical experience requirements and other requirements (such as continuing professional education requirements) that exist at the time of application.

    This document discusses Transitional Arrangements 16 and 17 relating to public accountant registration only.  Full information about Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15 relating to the Singapore QP and the CA Singapore designation is available at the SAC's website at www.sac.gov.sg.

    ACRA encourages all aspiring public accountants to carefully note the transitional arrangements for the Singapore QP and complete the required steps within the specified timelines.

    QUESTIONS ABOUT REGISTRATION AS A PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT

    1. What do I need to fulfil when applying to be registered as a public accountant BEFORE 1 January 2019?

    At any point in time, applicants will need to meet the requirements to register as a public accountant existing at the date of application. 

    As of 1 April 2013, the requirements to register as a public accountant are set out in s10 (1)(b) of the Accountants Act, Cap. 2. Of these requirements, applicants will need to meet the "qualifications" and "membership" requirements.  Please refer to Question 3 for information on the other requirements.

    To fulfil the "qualifications" requirement before 1 January 2019, applicants will need to have passed any of the final examinations in accountancy as currently prescribed under the Second Schedule to the Accountants (Public Accountants) Rules (refer to  Annex A)

    At the date of application, if your qualification (e.g. Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) is not one of the final examinations in accountancy as currently prescribed under the Second Schedule to the Accountants (Public Accountants) Rules, you will not have met the “qualifications” requirement for registration as a public accountant.

    To fulfill the "membership" requirements, applicants will need to become full members of ISCA.  To become full members of ISCA, individuals will need to have:

    • Fulfilled the ISCA membership requirements that existed before 1 January 2019, including those provided under Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15, or
    • Completed the Singapore QP and thus gained ISCA membership, or
    • Completed the requirements for ISCA membership under any reciprocity agreements between SAC and ISCA with the applicant’s original professional body.

    2. What do I need to fulfil when applying to be registered as a public accountant ON or AFTER 1 January 2019?

    As of 1 April 2013, the requirements to register as a public accountant are set out in s10(1)(b) of the Accountants Act, Cap. 2. Of these requirements, applicants will need to meet the "qualifications" and "membership" requirements.  Please refer to Question 3 for information on the other requirements.

    To fulfil the "qualifications" requirement on or after 1 January 2019, applicants will need to have:

    • Before 1 January 2019, passed any of the final examinations in accountancy as currently prescribed under the Second Schedule to the Accountants (Public Accountants) Rules (refer to Annex A) or
    • Completed the Singapore QP; or
    • Completed a recognised equivalent professional qualification, which is one that has established reciprocity agreements with the SAC and ISCA.

    At the date of application, if your qualification (e.g. Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) is not one of the final examinations in accountancy as currently prescribed under the Second Schedule to the Accountants (Public Accountants) Rules, you will not have met the “qualifications” requirement for registration as a public accountant.

    To fulfill the "membership" requirements, applicants will need to be full members of ISCA.  Please refer to Question 1 on the requirements that individuals need to fulfil to become full members of ISCA.

    3. Besides "qualifications" and "membership", what are the other requirements for registration as a public accountant?

    At any point in time, applicants will need to meet the requirements to register as a public accountant existing at the date of application. 

    As of 1 April 2013, the requirements to register as a public accountant are set out in s10(1)(b) of the Accountants Act, Cap. 2. Besides the "qualification" and "membership" requirements discussed in Question 1 and Question 2, the other registration requirements include:

    4. If I am an existing public accountant, will my registration be affected by the introduction of the Singapore QP?

    You will remain as a public accountant as long as you continue to meet the criteria required for the annual renewal of your registration and your registration has not been cancelled under any provisions of the Accountants Act, Cap. 2.

    5. If I have met all the current registration requirements but am awaiting admission to be a partner of my audit firm, will my future application to be registered as a public accountant be affected by the introduction of the Singapore QP?

    If you have met all the current registration requirements, you are likely eligible to be grandfathered as a CA Singapore under Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15.

    Therefore, the introduction of the Singapore QP will not affect your ability to meet the "qualifications" and "membership" requirements.  But you will still need to meet the other requirements (refer to Question 3) to register as a public accountant existing at the date of application.

    6. How would the new requirements affect the procedures for a public accounting firm wishing to recruit individuals with foreign professional qualifications or foreign practical experience and have him registered as public accountant in Singapore?

    With respect to qualifications, before 1 January 2019, such individuals will need to hold one of the currently recognised professional qualifications  (refer to  Annex A).  On or after 1 January 2019, such individuals will need to hold one of the recognised equivalent professional qualifications that would have established reciprocity agreements with the SAC and ISCA.

    With respect to practical experience, ACRA currently recognises a certain length of practical experience gained in other countries. As currently provided under s10(2)4 (see Footnotes) of the Accountants Act, Cap. 2, applicants may also seek exemption from some of the registration requirements due to their specific circumstances. 

    7. I am a former public accountant but may wish to register again.  Will I still be able to register on or after 1 January 2019?

    If you remained a full member of ISCA (including members in retirement), you are likely eligible to be grandfathered as a CA Singapore under Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15. 

    Therefore, on or after 1 January 2019, you will still have fulfilled the "qualifications" and "membership" requirements.  But you will still need to meet the other requirements to register as a public accountant existing at the date of application.

    QUESTIONS ABOUT QUALIFICATIONS REQUIREMENT

    8. What if the Singapore QP transitional arrangements do not cater for my situation, for example, because I have not yet enrolled to study for a qualification or I hold an unrecognised qualification?

    You will need to either complete the Singapore QP or complete a recognised equivalent professional qualification, which is one that that has a reciprocity agreement with SAC and ISCA. The SAC and ISCA have already commenced discussions with other international professional bodies and any reciprocity agreements concluded will be announced in due course.

    9. I am a student pursuing one of the currently recognised qualifications. What if I have good reasons for not being able to complete my final examination for one of the currently recognised qualifications before 1 January 2019?

    You should study Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15 carefully to ascertain if they are applicable to your situation.  If they are applicable, you should ensure that you complete the required steps within the specified timelines.

    If you have not passed any of the final examinations for one of the currently recognised qualifications before 1 January 2019, to fulfil the "qualifications" requirement when you apply to be registered as a public accountant, you will need to have either:

    • Completed the Singapore QP; or
    • Completed a recognised equivalent professional qualification, which is one that has established reciprocity agreements with the SAC and ISCA.

    QUESTIONS ABOUT MEMBERSHIP REQUIREMENT

    10. I already hold one of the currently recognised qualifications but I am not yet a full member of ISCA.  If I wish to apply to be registered as a public accountant in the future, do I need to become a full member of ISCA before 1 January 2019?

    At any point in time, applicants will need to meet the requirements to register as a public accountant existing at the date of application. 

    If at the date of your application, one of the requirements to register as a public accountant continues to be membership with ISCA, then you will need to become a full member of ISCA by that date.

    If you already hold one of the currently recognised qualifications, you should refer to Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15 which will cater for transitional pathways to become a full member of ISCA before 1 January 2019.

    However, if you do not complete the required steps within the specified timelines of Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15, to become a full member of ISCA, you will need to have:

    • Completed the Singapore QP and thus gained ISCA membership, or
    • Completed the requirements for ISCA membership under any reciprocity agreements between SAC and ISCA with the applicant’s original professional body.

    11. I am a student studying for one of the currently recognised qualifications and had intended to apply to be a full member of ISCA when I complete my studies. With these changes, will I still be able to apply to be registered as a public accountant in the future?

    If you are a student already enrolled to study one of the currently recognised qualifications, you should refer to Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15 which will cater for transitional pathways to become a full member of ISCA.

    However, if you do not complete the required steps within the specified timelines of Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15, to become a full member of ISCA, you will need to have:

    • Completed the Singapore QP and thus gained ISCA membership, or
    • Completed the requirements for ISCA membership under any reciprocity agreements between SAC and ISCA with the applicant’s original professional body. 

    12. For Frequently Asked Questions relating to ISCA membership for students currently pursuing a course with ACCA and CPA Australia, please refer to the Transitional Arrangements InformationBrochure on the following websites: 

    QUESTIONS ABOUT PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENT

    13. Will completing the Singapore QP also mean that an individual has also met the practical experience requirements for registration as a public accountant, given that the Singapore QP includes a three-year training contract with an Accredited Training Organisation (ATO)?

    The practical experience requirements for registration as a public accountant are designed to ensure that public accountants have sufficient experience for the responsibility of leading an audit engagement and signing an audit report.  Experience gained while undergoing the Singapore QP may contribute towards the public accountant registration requirements if it is audit experience that meets the applicable requirements. It is likely that Singapore QP holders will still need to gain some more experience after they have completed the Singapore QP.

    ACRA is currently reviewing the Accountants Act which includes a review of the practical experience requirement for registration as a public accountant. Any changes will be announced ahead of the date of implementation and will give aspiring public accountants sufficient time to meet the revised practical experience requirements.

    OTHER QUESTIONS

    14. My employer is not an Accredited Training Organisation (ATO) under the Singapore QP.  Can I still apply to be registered as a public accountant or do I need to be employed with a firm that is an ATO?

    You should refer to Transitional Arrangements 1 to 15 to ascertain if you will need to complete the Singapore QP in order to apply to be registered as a public accountant in the future.

    If you need to complete the Singapore QP, you will need to gain practical experience with an ATO.  Public accounting firms or any organisation which meet the criteria will be able to apply to be an ATO. Please refer to Question 15 on how an organisation can be an ATO.

    15. How can my employer become an ATO?

    Public accounting firms or other organisations that wish to be an ATO will be required to provide evidence and/or discuss activities that demonstrate commitment to the Practical Experience Principles and Guidelines of the Singapore QP.  Full details can be found at the SAC website here.

    16. I own a public accounting firm but do not wish to become an ATO under the Singapore QP.  Will my staff qualify to register as public accountants in the future?  If not, how will that affect my recruitment of staff?

    If you are already providing training and development to your audit staff, then you should apply for your firm to be accredited as an ATO. This should help with your staff attraction, development and retention because you will be offering your staff the ability to complete the Singapore QP and to qualify for fuure registration as a public accountant.

    Please refer to Question 15 for information on how your firm can be an ATO.

    17. Will requiring a professional qualification restrict the numbers of public accountants in Singapore?

    With the introduction of the Singapore QP, individuals who are not graduates of an accountancy degree will now be able to be qualified as a CA Singapore.  Foreign trained accountants can also be recognised through reciprocity agreements with the SAC and ISCA.

    Hence, the introduction of a professional qualification will not only enhance the standards of public accountants but also allow for more entrants to the public accountancy sector.

    18. Will it become more difficult to become a public accountant in the future?

    Achieving a professional qualification has become an expectation in the public accounting profession internationally and in Singapore. Applicants must be adequately prepared to take on the responsibility because it is an important public role. 

    19. I am a registered public accountant.  Will my sign offs on audit reports be affected by the new CA Singapore designation?

    It is registration as a public accountant that grants the right to audit financial statements in Singapore, not the current CPA Singapore or the new CA Singapore designation. 

    However, we note that many public accountants include their professional designations in their audit reports. With the current CPA Singapore designation being phased out in July 2013 and the introduction of the new CA Singapore designation, the ISCA Audit and Assurance Standards Committee will be reviewing the illustrative audit reports in the relevant Singapore Standards on Auditing. All public accountants should look out for the revised illustrative reports.


    Footnotes

    Note: "Qualifications" requirement for the purpose of registration as a public accountant pursuant to section 10(1)(b)(i) of the Accountants Act, Cap. 2 refers to: 

    Any person who

    1. has attained the age of 21 years; and
    2. satisfies the prescribed requirements relating to - 
      1. qualifications;
      2. practical experience; and
      3. membership in any professional accountancy body or organisation, shall be entitled, on payment of the prescribed fee, to be registered as a public accountant under this Part.

    As a Designated Entity under the SAC Act, ISCA will be responsible for the registration and conferment of the  CA Singapore designation on SAC’s behalf. The Institute is planning to change its name to be aligned with its role in conferring the CA Singapore designation. This will require a consequential change in the Institute’s Constitution and will have to be approved during the ISCA Annual General Meeting on 27 April 2013.

    3 Please refer to the different practical experience route for application to be a public accountant here

    Under s10(2) the Authority may, after consultation with the Oversight Committee and subject to such conditions as it thinks fit, exempt any person from any of the prescribed requirements referred to in subsection (1)(B)]

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Last Updated/ reviewed On 22 Apr 2014   Rate This Site