Bookkeepers become accountants

Bookkeepers become accountants

On 1 June 2019 the new Institute for Tax Advisers and Accountants starts (IBA). The long-awaited merger between the Institute for Accountants and Tax Advisers (IAB) and the Professional Institute for bookkeepers and tax specialists (BIBF) will then become a fact. The existing titles change. All bookkeepers become accountants.

The access to the professions of accountant, bookkeeper, tax consultant and registered bookkeeper-tax specialist are regulated by law. But due to the digitalization, the tighter anti-money laundering legislation and the rapidly changing legislation, these professions require modernization. The merger proposal between IAB and BIBF was already unanimously approved by the National Council of the BIBF and the Council of the IAB in the fall of 2017. The then legislative proposal received a 'go' from the Council of Ministers on 13 June 2018. Due to the fall of the government end last year, the approval of a number of legislative proposal was delayed. But after all the merger of both professional institutes IAB and BIBF is now definitively approved.

New titles for the accounting professions

The titles for the accounting professionals for the future are the following:

accountants become certified accountants

tax consultants become certified tax advisors

accountant-tax consultants become certified tax accountants

bookkeepers become accountants

bookkeepers-tax specialists become tax accountants

Tasks of the professionals do in principle not change

A certified accountant will perform the same activities as an accountant (bookkeeper). He organizes the accounting and provides advice on the accounting organization of companies. He drafts annual accounts, controls the accounting documents and corrects them. He supports the tax payer with all his tax obligations (representation assignment) and provides advice. He performs special assignments such as legal investigations regarding the bookkeeping; he can also organise administrative services with companies. Only certified accountants can assist shareholders during the general meeting.

Both private persons and legal entities can hold the title of certified accountant.

A certified accountant can also hold the title of (internal) certified tax accountant. A (certified) accountant or auditor can however not hold the title of certified tax advisor.

A certified tax advisor provides tax advice. He assists tax payers fulfilling their tax obligations and represents them with the tax authorities.

The titles of accountant and tax accountant are reserved for the former BIBF members. They assure general services on accounting and tax for their clients.

Auditors cannot hold the title of tax accountant. The titles of certified bookkeeper and certified bookkeeper-tax specialist cease to exist.

Access to the profession: entrance exam, traineeship and qualifying exam

The admission requirements for (whether or not internal) certified accountant or certified tax accountant remain the same (law of 22 April 1999 on accounting and tax professions). After taking the entrance exam and a traineeship of at least three years (currently three years with IAB and one year with BIBF), candidates should take a qualifying exam. In case the trainee does not pass this exam within the maximum eight-year period, he will be suspended. The trainee can restart the traineeship at the soonest after three years and after again passing the entrance exam (the so-called cooling-off period).

After passing the qualifying exam the oath should be taken with the companies court. If the oath is not taken, he can hold the title of 'internal certified accountant' or 'internal certified tax advisor'.
Access to the profession based on a professional experience of seven years is still possible. In this case, taking the qualifying exam is sufficient.

Enrollment in the public register

The IBA will hold a public register so all companies can consult the list of persons allowed to perform the profession or hold the professional title. Every professional, both individual and legal entity, is enrolled in this register, with his capacity. Also trainees will be enrolled.

Organization chart of the IBA

The new Institute will be named Belgian Institute for Tax Advisors and Accountants. It is the merger of the existing institutes IAB and BIBF. There remains the possibility for the auditors (IBR) to join the new institute in the future.

The IBA will consist out of:

a general meeting

the Institute's Council

the executive committee

the commissions

It is the intention to have the formal foundation and the dissolution of the old institute at the same date on 1 June 2019, together with the institution of a transitional council for four years. This should still be ratified by Royal Decree. The results of the current elections with the merging institutes will determine the composition of this transitional council.