Glossary of Industry Terms

Below is a list of  useful industry terms.


Associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The designatory letters you can use after your name, once you have qualified by passing all of your ACA exams and met the technical work experience required.

ACA qualification

The ACA, is recognised by a diverse spread of organisations – from the biggest professional services firms and major multinationals, through small and medium-sized businesses, to all kinds of public sector bodies. This diversity of recognition means that the ACA has an unrivalled reputation. It consists of paid technical work experience and 15 exams.


Accounting is the systematic recording, reporting, and analysis of financial transactions of an organisation. Accounting allows an organisation to analyse the financial performance of the business, looking at statistics such as net profit. The person in charge of accounting is known as an accountant, and this individual is usually required to follow a set of rules and regulations.


An acquisition, often referred to as a takeover or a buyout, is the buying of one company by another. An acquisition may be friendly or hostile and can be private or public, depending on whether the acquirer or merging company is or isn’t listed in public markets.

Asset-based lending

Asset-based lending is any kind of lending secured by an asset meaning that if the loan is not repaid, the asset is taken. A mortgage is an example of an asset-backed loan. In the corporate world, the phrase is used to describe lending to business and large corporations using assets not normally used in other loans


Audit is a vital part of accounting. Traditionally, audits were associated with gaining information about financial systems and the financial records of an organisation. Nowadays recent auditing is beginning to include other information about the system, such as information about security risks, information systems and environmental performance.


Typical activities that auditors carry out include risk analysis; getting to know the client’s business; building client relationships and checking the items that appear in the financial statements.

Audit manager

Member responsible for coordinating teams when out on audits. Teams can range in size from two to 20. Key responsibilities are management of completion of all audits, maintaining client relationships and developing the audit team to their full potential.

Audit principal

Senior member/partner responsible for ‘signing off’ audits as confirmation that they give a true and fair reflection of the clients accounts.

Big Four

These are the four largest international accountancy and professional services firms: PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young. These firms handle the vast majority of audits for publicly traded companies as well as many private companies, creating an oligopoly in auditing large companies.

Business recovery and insolvency

Frequently businesses encounter problems; for example becoming short of capital, reorganisation or reduced cash flow. In some cases a business recovery expert may be able to help a business in difficulty. In other situations an insolvency expert may guide the business through the insolvency or winding-up process, selling off the business assets and paying creditors. Both areas of work involve high levels of diplomacy and legal and commercial understanding.

Business services

Business services are a combination of accounting and auditing. This type of work tends to involve business advice designed to specifically help clients grow their business and to develop accounting and management systems.


The Chief Executive Officer is at the top of a corporation who provides leadership, direction, and strategy for the organisation.


The Chief Financial Officer controls the financial aspects of a company.

Chartered accountant

Chartered accountants are recognised for their ethics and skills across a full range of accountancy disciplines; background in business, marketing, economics, finance, management and information systems. They work at the highest levels of business across all sectors.

Corporate finance

In the UK, the terms “corporate finance” and “corporate financier” are associated with transactions in which capital is raised in order to create, develop, grow or acquire businesses.

Corporate recovery

Companies that are under performing or in financial difficulty may be turned around by the intervention of a corporate recovery team. Early stage recovery can see the company returned to a profitable state however where this is not feasible the corporate recovery team will sell off assets, handle staff redundancies and wind the company up.

Corporate tax

A levy placed on the profit of a firm; different rates are used for different levels of profits.

CTA – Chartered Tax Adviser

A Chartered Tax Adviser is a specialist in tax who has passed the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) qualification.

Financial accounting

Financial accounting is concerned with maintaining a set of accounting records of economic transactions by a business (book-keeping) and preparing financial statements from those accounts. The emphasis of financial accounting is on providing accounting information to user groups other than management, such as the owners of the business and the Inland Revenue.

Fiscal year

An accounting period of one year, not necessarily coinciding with the calendar year.


The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Income tax

A tax levied on net personal or business income.

Inheritance tax

A tax imposed on the privilege of receiving property by inheritance or legal succession and assessed on the value of the property received.


Usually used to refer to a business, insolvency refers to the inability of a company to pay off its debts. Business insolvency is defined in two different ways: cash flow insolvency where an organisation is unable to pay debts as they fall due. Balance sheet insolvency is where liabilities exceed assets.

Management accounting

Management accounting is concerned with the provision of accounting information to management within a business. Accountants produce regular and specially requested reports to help managers monitor current performance and plan future activities.


Pay As You Earn is the name given to the income tax system where an employee’s tax and national insurance contributions are deducted before the wages are paid.

Private client services

Individually managed accounts for high net worth individuals, offering comprehensive long-term planning and personalised financial management to provide maximum results.

Professional body

A professional body is a non-profit organisation seeking to protect both the public interest and the interests of professionals. Professional bodies often maintain and enforce high standards of training and ethics in their profession.

Public practice

Individual accountant or partnership of accountants that provide accountancy services to a number of clients as independent professional advisers and not as employees.

Public sector

Central government, local authorities and public corporations.


There are two main areas of taxation work which are related and require an ongoing relationship with clients:

There are many specialist areas in taxation, so you are likely to see terms such as indirect taxation (covering VAT), corporate tax and corporation tax for tax work focusing on companies, and personal tax for tax work focusing on the taxation of the wealth and income of individuals.

Tax liability

Legal obligation to pay taxes associated with owning property or earning income.