Do You Need a Licence To Be a Bookkeeper in the UK?

1-2 minutes

If you're looking to pursue a career in bookkeeping, you might be wondering if you need a licence to be a Bookkeeper in the UK. In our latest insights piece, we delve into whether a licence is necessary for bookkeeping practices and what qualifications and skills aspiring Bookkeepers need to enter this profession. 

What is the role of a Bookkeeper?

Bookkeepers play a crucial role in helping companies to maintain accurate and up-to-date financial records. Bookkeepers are tasked with a wide range of duties, including:

  • Reconciling bank statements
  • Recording financial transactions
  • Maintaining ledgers
  • Preparing financial reports 

Bookkeepers require excellent attention to detail, as even the smallest record-keeping error can have significant consequences. They must also stay abreast of tax laws and regulation changes, ensuring their clients remain compliant. Ultimately, Bookkeepers are a vital pillar of a company's financial success.

Do you need a licence to be a Bookkeeper in the UK?

The short answer is 'yes'. By law, all practising Bookkeepers in the UK (whether employed or self-employed) must apply for anti-money laundering supervision to comply with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017. Failing to register with an AML supervisor can lead to a prison sentence of up to two years and an unlimited fine.

To gain AML supervision, Bookkeepers must apply directly to HMRC unless a relevant supervisory body supervises them. Some of the main supervisory bodies for Bookkeepers include (but are not limited to) the following:

Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is the world's leading professional body for accounting technicians. It provides anti-money laundering support and compliance to its members. For Bookkeepers, there are several routes to obtain AAT membership, including becoming an AAT Licensed Bookkeeper or obtaining the Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping which provides AATQB status and the right to bookkeeping membership.

 Institute of Accountants and Bookkeepers (IAB)

The Institute of Accountants and Bookkeepers (IAB) is a membership organisation and awarding body providing qualifications in bookkeeping, payroll and finance to members worldwide. For an extra charge, IAB members can apply for AML supervision to ensure their business complies with AML regulations. As of 2023, all supervised members will also gain access to the IAB's AML Complete practice management tool.

 Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB)

The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) offers its members the chance to acquire a Practice Licence to run a bookkeeping business in the UK. Practice Licence holders automatically receive AML supervision at no extra cost. In addition, licence holders can access various guidance and tools to comply with AML regulations.

Skills required to become a Bookkeeper

Although Bookkeepers are legally obliged to gain anti-money laundering supervision to practise in the UK, there are no such requirements in terms of formal qualifications. However, all of the aforementioned professional membership bodies offer various bookkeeping qualifications. 

While professional training will stand you in good stead, on-the-job experience and a variety of different hard and soft skills can go a long way towards achieving success in the industry. 

  • Mathematical aptitude
  • A keen eye for detail
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Demonstrable clerical skills
  • Outstanding customer service
  • Ability to use your initiative
  • A confident grasp of software packages


Latest Bookkeeper jobs at Spencer Clarke Group

If you’re searching for your next Bookkeeper job, why not take a look at all the vacancies currently available at accountancy practices across the UK? 

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Why not upload your CV or contact our accountancy specialist, Matt Byrne-Fraser, to discover more about upcoming opportunities. 

Meet Matt Byrne-Fraser

Who is Spencer Clarke Group? 

Since 2017, we've been changing the face of recruitment. From our employees, to the way we do business, to the culture within our office, we're determined to make a difference and create a positive impact on everyone around us.

Recruitment to us isn't just about matching candidates and clients; we’re passionate about finding candidates the perfect job which has the ability to boost their salary and standard of living, better their work life balance and improve their mental health. 

Similarly, we understand the impact which an experienced and skilled employee can make to a business and we love seeing clients thrive through the hard work of candidates which we have placed with them. 

We operate in two sectors:

Private Sector

Public Sector 

In eleven specialisms:

Accountancy & Finance

Education & SEND

Construction, Trades & Labour

Healthcare, Social Care & Nursing


Corporate Functions & Business Support

HR & Workforce Development

IT & Digital

Property & Asset Management  

Planning, Development & Regeneration 

Highways, Infrastructure & Engineering

If you’re searching for a new role, why not visit our job page to take a look at the latest opportunities? Alternatively, upload your CV and one of our experienced consultants will contact you when a relevant opportunity becomes available. 

If you’re struggling to fill a role, why don’t you give us a call on 01772 954200 to see how we can help? One of our consultants will be happy to listen to the challenges which you are facing and advise on the best possible solution for you. 

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