1 Certified public accountants in Austria
2 Index CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS AS RELIABLE PARTNERS IN BUSINESS 4 Competence & experience 4 Confidence & security 5 ACTIVITIES OF CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS 6 Audit of financial statements 6 Limitations of auditing 8 Quality assurance in the audit of financial statements 9 Business consulting 10 Provision of evaluation services 11 Provision of expert advice 11 Trusteeship 11 Tax consulting 11 Consulting on selected legal issues 12 THE AUDITOR S CONTRIBUTION TO GOOD CORPORATE GOVERNANCE 12 Austrian Corporate Governance Code 12 Role of the auditor 13 Strengthening independence 14 Way of appointment 15 Future areas of development 16
3 HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROFESSION OF CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS IN AUSTRIA 16 HOW TO BECOME A CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT 18 Course of studies 18 Internships 18 Professional experience 19 Professional examination for certified public accountants 19 Requirements 19 Preparation 19 Examination 20 Taking the professional oath 20 Registration as auditor 20 PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS 21 Chamber of Public Accountants 21 Institute of Austrian Certified Public Accountants 22 Expert committee for company law and auditing installed at the Chamber of Public Accountants 23 Akademie der Wirtschaftstreuhänder GmbH 23 International memberships 24 IFAC International Federation of Accountants 24 FEE Fédération des Experts Comptables Européens 25 GLOSSARY 26
4 Certifi ed public accountants as reliable partners in business The work of certifi ed public accountants demands a high level of professional expertise. Certifi ed public accountants are constantly faced with new challenges arising from changes in law, jurisdiction, information technology, and international accounting regu lations and auditing standards. The performance of their work requires great commitment, fl exible thinking, and a willingness to embrace innovation. That is what makes them respected partners in business: a survey among Austrian supervisory board members and CFOs confi rmed that certifi ed public accountants increase business confi dence and are of great importance to Austrian companies. In Austria, the profession of certifi ed public accountants is part of the liberal professions. Like tax consultants, it belongs to the public accounting professions. Certifi ed public accountants undergo comprehensive training: they must have a university degree and at least three years work experience as trainee auditors in an audit fi rm or pass the professional examination for tax consultants and have at least two years of full-time professional experience in auditing. Only then are they allowed to take the professional examination. Throughout their career, they must continuously complete further training. Due to the comprehensive training, certifi ed public accountants fi nd job opportunities in top positions in the economy, join large partnerships, work independently and hold executive positions in companies. Certifi ed public accountants also fi nd opportunities in cooperative auditing associations and in the auditing associations of savings banks. COMPETENCE & EXPERIENCE The basis of a free market economy is private enterprise. Despite their private character, companies bear a social responsibility as the well-being of other companies, staff, customers and suppliers depends on the companies economic success. The public has a vital interest that companies, especially large ones, conduct their business properly and professionally. In order to ensure this, the legislator requires joint stock corporations and other large companies to prepare their annual and consolidated
5 No transparency, no trust; no trust, no credit; no credit, no investment; no investment, no growth! So there is a simple logic: fi nancial reporting is an essential building block for fi nancial intermediation, foreign investment and sustainable economic development. Mag. Martin Grüll, CFO Raiffeisen International Bank-Holding AG fi nancial statements in accordance with specifi ed regulations and to have them audited by independent experts. This audit is the main activity of certifi ed public accountants. With their opinion on the legal compliance of the fi nancial statements, they support the supervisory board in its monitoring function and report to shareholders and the public. CONFIDENCE & SECURITY Certifi ed public accountants are independent experts. In their role as auditors, certifi ed public accountants are persons of public trust. They are impartial, independent, diligent and bound to secrecy. Through their auditing work, certifi ed public accountants protect the interests of all those who trust in the acuracy of the accounting and fi nancial reporting of a company, such as shareholders, customers, suppliers and the public. Their work is governed by the strict rules of the Wirtschaftstreuhandberufsgesetz (WTBG or Public Accountants Statute of Professional Practice) and the Abschlussprüfungs-Qualitätssicherungsgesetz (A-QSG or Audit Quality Assurance Act). In order to audit companies properly, certifi ed public accountants must recognize which economic processes are refl ected in the fi gures of a company. Therefore, they also qualify as consultants on general business issues, for instance, when structures or processes of a company can be optimized. To prevent the overlapping of audit and consulting activities, certifi ed public accountants are obliged to strictly separate the two areas of activities. The independence and impartiality of certifi ed public accountants in their work as auditor are key prerequisites for a credible and confi dence-building assessment of the fi nancial reporting of companies. National and international regulations provide a comprehensive regulatory framework. According to this legal framework, auditors must make sure to avoid self-interest and all risks to their independence. They must disclose to the supervisory bodies of a company all circumstances that might give rise to bias or exclusion. The supervisory board or (at very large companies) its audit committee must continuously monitor the independence of its auditor. When auditors are involved in non-audit services at a company, this often has a positive impact on the quality of the audit since the auditor s knowledge of the company is enhanced. The audited companies, in turn, benefi t from the expertise and experience of the auditor. Therefore, the Austrian Corporate Governance Code expressly requires the submission of all advice and recommendations of the auditor also to the supervisory 04 05
6 board. The same goes for the report of the auditor on the assessment of the integrity of the risk management system. The advisory activity has its limitations where auditors audit situations in which they were heavily involved (self-audit). Activities of certifi ed public accountants Certifi ed public accountants may assume various roles and functions. Their primary duty is to audit fi nancial statements at corporations and comparable organizations. However, certifi ed public accountants may also contribute their expertise in business consulting, work as evaluators or experts, assume trustee duties and consult on certain legal issues. AUDIT OF FINANCIAL STATEMENTS Pursuant to Section 268 UGB (Unternehmensgesetzbuch or Austrian Business Code), a certifi ed public accountant must perform the statutory audit of individual and consolidated fi nancial statements of companies and other institutions. Upon conclusion of the audit, the certifi ed public accountant issues an opinion on whether: the individual or consolidated fi nancial statements comply with the statutory provisions and the supplementary provisions of the memorandum or articles of association; generally accepted accounting principles have been complied with; the published fi nancial statements present a true and fair view of the company s fi nancial situation and fi nancial performance; the management report is consistent with the fi nancial statements and the disclosures made in it on the accounting-related internal control and risk management are appropriate.
7 Certifi ed public accountants are independent auditors. The management of a company must submit the fi nancial statements and management report to the auditor. They must allow him to examine the books and documents of the company and the assets and liabilities. The auditor may request all evidence considered necessary for a thorough audit. The auditor reports in writing on the result of the audit. The report must state whether the accounting, fi nancial statements, management report, consolidated fi nancial statements and group management report comply with the statutory provisions and whether the legal representatives have provided the required information and evidence. If the auditor establishes any facts that might jeopardize the company s ability to continue as a going concern or might adversely affect its future development, or that indicate a serious breach of law or of the company s articles of association, the auditor must immediately report them. The same applies if a need for reorganization in accordance with the Austrian Reorganization Act (Unternehmensreorganisationsgesetz, URG) is assumed. In addition, the auditor must disclose any material weaknesses in the internal control of the accounting process (reporting obligation). The auditor must sign the report and submit it to the legal representatives and the members of the supervisory board. If the auditor s judgment is positive, the auditor issues an unqualifi ed audit opinion, the so called auditor s report. If any facts indicate a serious breach of law or raise doubts about the company s ability to continue as a going concern, the auditor may not disclose this to the public due to his duty of secrecy, but must notify the boards. If the auditor cannot agree with the fi nancial statements sub mitted by the management and the presentation of the company s position provided therein, the public learns about it through a qualifi ed or adverse opinion. The statutory audit of fi nancial statements is not a complete audit of all business processes of a company in the past year. Instead, the certifi ed public accountant, based on experience and knowledge of the business activity of the company, independently determines the extent and scope of work in the individual audit areas. This is called a riskoriented audit approach. In the determined areas, the correct presentation of the business activity is then examined on the basis of random samples. Focusing on high-risk areas and using random samples renders the audit feasible since it reduces resources, costs, and time. Since only random samples are examined, the inclusion of the internal accounting and control system in the audit work is of crucial importance, as it contains all procedures and records of the processing of business transactions in accounting and the compliance with Austrian and international accounting principles
8 The work of certifi ed public accountants provides important information and security for the shareholder and the supervisory board regarding proper fi nancial reporting. But not only that: In the performance of their duties, the auditors also contribute their expertise and experience regarding the economic development of a company beyond compliance with legal requirements, and thereby support the supervisory board in its function and responsibility in the best way possible! Dr. Hannes Androsch, Entrepreneur LIMITATIONS OF AUDITING Certifi ed public accountants are sought-after consultants. Based on their risk analysis, certifi ed public accountants must audit areas in which a material misstatement in the fi nancial statements of a company may be possible. Since the audit of the fi nancial statements is not a full audit, the residual risk remains, how ever, that the audited fi nancial statements might contain errors. These might have arisen either intentionally or unintentionally. Certifi ed public accountants must always consider the possibilities of misstatement by the company and falsifi cation of fi nancial statements. If, based on their risk analysis, they identify a potential risk of intentional misstatement, they launch a more comprehensive examination, intensify the approach or broaden the scope of the audit an audit of all business transactions is not, however, feasible, even in cases of suspicion due to the above mentioned reasons. Accounting fraud is characterized by the fact that falsifi ers will do anything to avoid attention. Therefore, even if there are indications red fl ags for increased risk of falsifi - cation, it can nevertheless be diffi cult in specifi c cases to identify whether, where and how a falsifi cation was committed. The audit of fi nancial statements is not an audit of fi nancial management, either, as commonly performed by an internal audit department or the Austrian Court of Audit in the case of public institutions. Errors in fi nancial management are refl ected in the fi nancial statements, but it is not the duty of the auditor to judge whether a business decision was right or whether the fi nancial management of the management board complies with certain principles of effi ciency, effectiveness, etc. It must, however, be examined whether the business transactions are completely and correctly included in the fi nancial statements. A key aspect in the preparation of the fi nancial statements is the future development of a company. The accounting is based on the assumption that the company will be able to continue as a going concern. However, in the preparation of fi nancial statements, management must examine whether it is likely that the company will continue as a going concern in the foreseeable future. Assessing this is diffi cult particularly in economically diffi cult times and in cases of distressed companies. The certifi ed public accountant diligently assesses whether the conclusions of the management are reasonable. The auditor does not, however, make a prediction about the company s ability to continue as a going concern. The fact that an unqualifi ed audit opinion is issued is therefore no guarantee that the company will be able to continue as a going concern.
9 QUALITY ASSURANCE IN THE AUDIT OF FINANCIAL STATEMENTS In the performance of their profession, certifi ed public accountants are subject to strict rules of professional conduct that justify the great confi dence in the profession. These principles are set out in the Wirtschaftstreuhandberufsgesetz (WTBG or Public Accountants Statute of Professional Practice), in the Wirtschaftstreuhandberufs-Ausübungsrichtlinie (WT-ARL or directive on the practice of the public accounting professions) and the provisions of the Abschlussprüfungs-Qualitätssicherungsgesetzes (A-QSG or Audit Quality Assurance Act). The principles relate to the independence, impartiality, diligence, personal accountability, confi dentiality, objectivity, ethical conduct and the compliance with and monitoring of certain quality standards in practicing the profession. In addition, there are provisions for the auditor in various laws, such as in Sections 268ff UGB or Sections 20f Privatstiftungsgesetz (PSG or Austrian Private Foundation Act). The professional environment is complemented by national and international auditing standards that also must be adhered to. Since 2005, certifi ed public accountants that perform audits of fi nancial statements are obliged by law not only to ensure high audit quality in their professional practice, but also to have it reviewed regularly. The measures primarily include a profound training and a continuing education, which is mandated by law not only for certifi ed public accountants themselves, but also for all professional employees, and which is reviewed annually. Further measures include non-engagement-related procedures, as well as engagement-related procedures in a professional practice for the performance of highquality audits. In order to ensure that the quality assurance measures taken are appropriate, the auditor (or the auditing companies, resp.) must undergo an external quality audit. In gener al, this must take place every six years, or every three years for auditors of public interest companies. Experienced certifi ed public accountants and auditors who have at least fi ve years of auditing experience and who can provide proof of special trainings or relevant experience in the area of quality assurance act as quality auditors. The quality auditor issues a report, concluding with an unqualifi ed or qualifi ed fi nal assessment, depending on whether the quality assurance system of the reviewed audit fi rm is appropriate or has weaknesses. If the quality assurance measures turn out to be inadequate, this will result in a negative assessment by the quality auditor. Based on the audit report of the quality auditor, the working committee for external quality audits (AeQ, Arbeitsausschuss für externe Qualitätsprüfungen) issues a certifi - cate on the successful participation in the quality assurance system, specifi es additional 08 09
10 requirements or refuses to issue the certifi cate. The certifi cation is a prerequisite for the performance of an audit of fi nancial statements. The quality audit process is overseen by the Austrian Auditors Supervisory Authority (ASA), which is independent of the profession and composed of experts in the areas of accounting, fi nance and science. This authority is independent of the profession. No members of the Chamber of Public Accountants or auditors may be employed by it. The ASA also acts as the authority of appeal in quality assurance proceedings and can, if necessary, claim jurisdiction over quality assurance proceedings. BUSINESS CONSULTING Due to their practical training, their role in modern business life and their intimate knowledge of business structures, certifi ed public accountants have extensive business knowledge, which makes them sought-after consultants. The audit of fi nancial statements does not relate to the risk management system and the internal control system (ICS); however, both areas are addressed by the auditor in the planning of audits. That is why he is a strong business partner and respected consultant in this area. Key consulting areas of a certifi ed public accountant include supporting companies in establishing and advancing the company-related risk management, as well as the examination, analysis and improvement of the internal control system. Many certifi ed public accountants also provide consulting how modern information technologies can be improved and integrated into the accounting of companies or into corporate controlling systems. They act as strategic consultants in setting up business, and support managers and entrepreneurs in establishing effi cient business systems, processes and structures. As auditors, certifi ed public accountants are not allowed to take a leading role in the implementation of accounting information systems; however, consulting in current business operations, reviewing compliance with certain standards and assisting in the documentation of existing systems are allowed. Due to his professional activity, the auditor has ample knowledge of business processes and their presentation in the accounting of a company. Thus, with regard to business reorganization consulting, certifi ed public accountants are optimally prepared to prepare forecasts of companies ability to continue as a going concern.
11 The contribution of certifi ed public accountants in their role as auditor is crucial for the super vision of a well-functioning company and thus constitutes an important pillar of corporate governance. DI Dr. Robert Schenz, Chairman of the Austrian Working Committee for Corporate Governance, Commissioner for Capital Market Development and Corporate Governance PROVISION OF EVALUATION SERVICES Based on their economic competence, certifi ed public accountants are respected evaluators of business and tax issues. They evaluate companies or parts of companies, they do the credit analysis on a company and they do other evaluations for compensation and ascertainment of damages. PROVISION OF EXPERT ADVICE Certifi ed public accountants are independent experts. Certifi ed public accountants may also be called on as experts in the areas of bookkeeping and accounting, as well as in those areas where an assessment requires expertise in accounting and business administration. TRUSTEESHIP Certifi ed public accountants also act as trustees. In this function, they manage thirdparty assets, take care of loan securities, hold stakes in companies, exercise shareholder rights, and are authorized to make out-of-court settlements. Occasionally, certifi ed public accountants also act as insolvency or settlement administrators, temporary managing directors and liquidators. Certifi ed public accountants are authorized, even outside trust eeships, to assume the management of third-party assets, with the exception of buildings. In doing so, the strict principles of professional ethics for certifi ed public accountants are particularly relevant, which demand the selfl ess performance of the assigned tasks. TAX CONSULTING Like tax advisors, certifi ed public accountants may also provide consulting services in all tax matters. This includes preparing fi nancial statements and tax returns, developing tax structure proposals and representing tax and fi scal penal proceedings before the competent authorities
12 CONSULTING ON SELECTED LEGAL ISSUES Certifi ed public accountants may also advise their clients on legal issues directly related to their other duties. The auditor s contribution to good corporate governance Certifi ed public accountants are highly trained economic experts. AUSTRIAN CORPORATE GOVERNANCE CODE Principles of good corporate governance constitute a framework for the management and supervision of companies. The Austrian Corporate Governance Code refers to internationally accepted standards for good governance, and also emphasizes the important regulations of the Austrian Stock Corporation Act. The consistent implementation of a responsible management and supervision of companies and groups that is focused on sustainability and value creation serves the interests of all those whose well-being is related to the success of a company. In addition to internal monitoring and control measures, the audit of the fi nancial statements ensures effective oversight for external stakeholders and owners. The cooperation of the auditor with all those responsible for the management and supervision of a company is indispensable for the successful development of commercial enterprises. The system of Austrian corporate governance sets out key rules to that effect: The recommendation and the selection of an auditor must be made by the supervisory board, supported by the audit committee. The appointment of the auditor is decided at the shareholders meeting. The audit contract is subsequently concluded by the supervisory board as internal control body with the appointed auditor (external control body).
13 Monitoring of and ongoing communication with the auditor at the meetings of the audit committee are key elements of the cooperation between the auditor and the supervisory board. If the auditor establishes any facts that cast serious doubt on the company s ability to continue as a going concern, identifi es signifi cant breaches of the law by management or employees or identifi es material weaknesses of the internal control, the auditor must immediately report to the boards responsible for management and supervision. The statutory audit report or the reports at the audit committee and supervisory board meetings strengthens the monitoring and reliability of the fi nancial reporting process. The auditor s report addressed to the public provides assurance that fi nancial reports published by the company comply with applicable accounting and reporting standards and give a true and fair view of the economic position of the company. ROLE OF THE AUDITOR The work of certifi ed public accountants as auditors, in addition to the statutory provisions of the commercial law and company law, is set out in detail primarily in various expert opinions of the expert committee for company law and auditing and in guidelines and statements of the Institute of Austrian Certifi ed Public Accountants (iwp) on the performance of audits of fi nancial statements. The expert opinion KFS /PG1, issued by the expert committee for company law and auditing, is the basic standard regulating the principles and procedures for all audits of fi nancial statements of companies and comparable organizations. Thus: The objective of the audit of fi nancial statements is to obtain reasonable assurance that, under generally accepted accounting principles, the fi nancial statements of the company comply in all material respects with the legal regulations; that the articles of association properly complement these regulations; and that, based on the applicable accounting standards, the fi nancial statements provide a true and fair view of the fi nancial position and performance of the company and the management report is consistent with the fi nancial statements
14 The audit of fi nancial statements is therefore primarily a compliance audit stating whether the fi nancial statements have been prepared properly, meaning in accordance with the relevant legal regulations and generally accepted accounting principles. The audit of the fi nancial management or effi ciency of expenses is therefore not the subject of an audit of fi nancial statements since, despite the reporting obligation of the auditor, it is not the purpose of an audit to assess the responsibility of the managing bodies of the audited company with regard to the management of the assets transferred to them. It is not the purpose of the audit of fi nancial statements to detect criminal acts or intentional errors. An auditor s report does not contain a binding judgment on the economic viability and the ability of the audited company to continue as a going concern. STRENGTHENING INDEPENDENCE In issuing his opinion, the independence and objectivity of the auditor is associated with a regular rotation of both the certifi ed public accountant responsible for the audit and the auditing fi rm. To protect the public interest for listed and very large companies, the Austrian legal regulations (in accordance with EU regulations) provide for a rotation after fi ve years (personnel rotation) of the persons primarily responsible for an audit. This regulation is designed to ensure the objectivity and impartiality of the certifi ed public accountants responsible for the planning, execution and reporting on audits of fi nancial statements. By international comparison, regularly changing the entire audit fi rm has not turned out to be useful, which is why, with few exceptions, it has not been implemented. The main reason for this is the importance of the audit fi rm s experience and knowledge for the company resulting from years of audit activities. In the past years, the risk of a possible negative impact over time on the objectivity of an auditor has been prevented by the adoption of strict and comprehensive regulations on the oversight of auditors. These are the same internationally and mainly relate to:
15 Certifi ed public accountants are objective controlling bodies. detailed and very strict regulations for services which a certifi ed public accountant may render in addition to his duty as auditor (with corresponding sanctions for infringements); introduction of grounds for bias and exclusion of auditors who are members in a network; involvement of those charged with governance (supervisory board or the audit committee established there) in the conclusion of the audit contract and in the monitoring of the activity of the auditor; introduction of an external quality audit of all audit fi rms that perform statutory audits; establishment, strengthening and expansion of the competencies of the public oversight of auditors. WAY OF APPOINTMENT The appointment of the auditor is made by the owner (shareholder). This is in line with the provisions of the corresponding directive of the European Commission. The audit of the fi nancial statements and the reporting on the due and proper preparation of fi nancial statements are addressed primarily to the owners/shareholders, whose invested money is managed by the management board/managing director. The activity of the auditor is the primary basis for an assessment of the current position of the company and the business risks the owners/shareholders took with their engagement. An only somewhat different appointment of the auditor (for instance by authorities or courts) would in this sense not be compatible with an open, free-market economic structure. Consequently, the auditor is paid out of the funds of these owners/shareholders. The fee of the auditor is agreed with the body responsible for concluding the audit contract (as a rule, the supervisory board) and is based on the qualifi cation requirement for the assigned auditors and the complexity of the work. The fee must be reasonable considering the complexity and scope of the audit work. Fees for audits of fi nancial statements and audit contracts may not be infl uenced by the provision of additional services and may not be tied to any conditions. Pure contingency fees are not permitted. Starting your career in a small fi rm, after passing the professional examination for certifi ed public accountants, is interesting because in audits of smaller companies you are in direct contact with the business entrepreneurs and get to know their way of thinking. You learn to understand quickly how economic relations are assessed and strategies developed as a result. Charlotte Preilinger, Audit Manager in a smaller practice 14 15
16 FUTURE AREAS OF DEVELOPMENT Certifi ed public accountants are professional and loyal partners. In the future, the duties of certifi ed public accountants will shift towards verifi cations of other company reports and presentations, which up to now have not been assessed by independent experts. In particular for the public, the oversight authorities and other institutions that are recipients of company reports, the quality and reliability of the information received is of crucial importance. Thus, efforts are currently underway to have future company reports on the following topics assessed at least in part by an independent certifi ed public accountant: risk management and equity capitalization (solvency) to supervisory authorities; compliance with corporate governance standards; sustainability in accordance with international standards; the scope and extent of greenhouse gas emissions. The standards required for that, if they do not yet exist, will be created in the near future. Historical development of the profession of certifi ed public accountants in Austria For centuries, the economic landscape of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was characterized by small and medium-sized businesses, so the tax system and control mechanisms were simple. Starting in 1862, uniform regulations for merchants ensured that supervisory boards in public limited companies had to review the balance sheets and proposals for the appropriation of profi t (optional) and be accountable for that to the general meeting. Later on, the Aktienregulativ (administrative regulation on joint-stock companies) of 1899 contained more detailed provisions, such as the requirement for an audit of the annual statements of companies by the supervisory board or by two externally appointed auditors. Although this did not constitute a formal statutory audit, rules on the term of offi ce
17 and certain impartiality principles were laid down in the Regulativ. In addition to the bank ruptcy act, special laws were instituted at the turn of the century regarding the auditing of insurance companies, cooperative societies, industrial and provident societies as well as private limited companies. In Austria, the annual statutory audit was not introduced prior to the annexation to National Socialist Germany; an audit of the fi nancial statements of public limited companies became mandatory only with the adoption of the German Stock Corporation Act. The system of chartered accountants, as was common in England, was considered ideal already at the time of the monarchy; however, commercial school teachers and bank offi cials also worked in this area. In order to ensure that account books, balance sheets, etc. were audited by experts, the Gremium der Buchsachverständigen (panel of accounting experts) was founded in Vienna in In order to become a member, a candidate had to demonstrate extensive expertise and pass a diffi cult exam. This panel and subsequently established professional associations formed the Österreichischen Reichsverband der Bücherrevisoren (Austrian National Association of Auditors) in With the annexation of Austria to the German Reich, the activities of the Austrian professional associations ceased, as Austria was subject to German legislation, also with regard to commercial and trade law. After the Second World War, the former Reichskammern (National Chambers) of tax advisors and public accountants were transformed into the Provisorische Kammer der Wirtschaftstreuhänder (Temporary Chamber of Public Accountants). In 1947, the Wirtschaftstreuhänder-Kammergesetz (Public Accountants Chamber Act) entered into effect; the professional aspects, however, were regulated in the Wirtschaftstreuhänder- Berufsordnung (WTBO) (Public Accountants Rules of Professional Practice) only in As of that time, a distinction was made between three professional groups, which, based on subsequent amendments to the law, were called certifi ed public accountants and tax advisors ( Wirtschaftsprüfer und Steuerberater ), auditors [not allowed to audit large companies] and tax advisors ( Buchprüfer und Steuerberater ) and tax advisors ( Steuerberater ). With the reorganization of the legal basis for public accountants, the Wirtschaftstreuhandberufsgesetz (WTBG or Public Accountants Statute of Professional Practice) and its amendments, the three professional groups were later reduced to two: certifi ed public accountants and tax advisors
18 How to become a certifi ed public accountant COURSE OF STUDIES The starting point for students who seek to become certifi ed public accountants is generally a study course in economics or law. In Austria, the admission to the professional examination as certifi ed public accountant requires a relevant degree from a university or university of applied sciences. Currently, studies at Austrian universities and universities of applied sciences are regarded as relevant if they take at least six semesters to complete (=180 ECTS credits) and consist of at least 800 teaching units of 45 minutes each in the following areas: Certifi ed public accountants are experienced experts. business accounting, including Austrian and international accounting standards; Austrian and international tax law; additional areas of law; and additional areas of economic sciences. A student who wants to become a certifi ed public accountant can choose which university or university of applied sciences he wants to attend. But many universities offer job-related lectures and seminars that specifi cally deal with auditing and trusteeship. It therefore pays to fi rst study the lecture and seminar courses offered by the various universities before selecting a university. INTERNSHIPS Those who wish to work in an auditing fi rm during their studies have the opportunity to do an internship and thereby gain insight into the profession. In order to facilitate the diffi cult search for an appropriate internship, a directory of certifi ed public accountants is available online, which lists all members of the profession. The directory is accessible on the website of the Chamber of Public Accountants at
19 For a group like us, the auditor is an important additional element in monitoring and controlling our investments. Dr. Walter Rothensteiner, CEO & Director General RZB PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE Prior to taking the professional examination for certifi ed public accountants, a candidate must complete his academic studies and three years of professional experience as a auditor-in-training registered with the Chamber of Public Accountants. This professional experience must include at least two years at a certifi ed public accountant s offi ce or an auditing fi rm and must primarily relate to auditing activities. Alternatively, also credited is a three-year training as auditor-in-training at an auditing association of the cooperative societies and industrial and provident societies, or as audit assistant or auditor authorized to sign for the auditing agency of the savings banks auditing association performing auditing activities. PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION FOR CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS REQUIREMENTS Those who wish to become certifi ed public accountants must fulfi ll the admission requirements pursuant to Section 16 WTBG through professional qualifi cation and experience. Corresponding proof must be furnished. The performance of the admission procedure and the subsequent examination procedure is the responsibility of the Chamber of Public Accountants. PREPARATION The scope of the examination is signifi cant since the professional examination for certifi ed public accountants is one of the most demanding in Austria. Preparation courses at the Academy of Public Accountants can be attended at different locations in Austria. The seminar program offerings can be found at akademie.at. The Academy of Public Accountants (address at the end of the brochure) is the offi cial training institute of the Chamber of Public Accountants
20 EXAMINATION The typical way of becoming a certified public accountant: Relevant course of study Professional experience Preparing for examination Professional examination Appointment and taking the professional oath as certifi ed public accountant Performing the profession of certifi ed public accountant The professional examination for certifi ed public accountants consists of a written and an oral part. The written part comprises fi ve tests: accounting, auditing, jurisprudence, business administration and fi scal law. The tests for accounting, auditing and jurisprudence take four and a half hours, while the tests for business administration and tax law take seven hours. In addition to the fi elds already relevant for the written exam, the subjects of the oral exam include the law of professional practice of public accounts; the principles of economics, fi nance, banking, insurance, securities and foreign exchange law; and quality assurance and risk management. Tax advisors and other candidates who have already passed the examination for tax advisors can take the examination for certifi ed public accountants in an abbreviated form. They are not required to sit for the tests in business administration or tax law, and can also skip parts of the oral professional examination. TAKING THE PROFESSIONAL OATH After passing the examination, a certifi cate of appointment is issued to the candidate. Prior to obtaining the certifi cate, the candidates must take the professional oath before the Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth or its representative. The wording of the oath under Section 62 (2) WTBG is: I swear to always faithfully and steadfastly uphold the laws of the Republic of Austria, to diligently fulfi ll the duties and responsibilities of a certifi ed public accountant, to observe my duty of secrecy, and prepare expert opinions requested from me diligently and impartially. REGISTRATION AS AUDITOR Certifi ed public accountants who, in exercising their profession, also intend to act as auditors, must undergo an external quality audit on the non-engagement related quality assurance measures in the auditing fi rm. If, in the external quality audit, the quality auditor establishes the adequacy of the quality assurance measures in the auditing fi rm, the working committee for external quality audits issues a certifi cate of participation in the external quality audit pursuant to A-QSG. Based on this certifi cate, which is a prerequisite for the performance of statutory audits of fi nancial statements, the registration is made in the public register of all auditors and auditing companies maintained at the Austrian Auditors Supervisory Authority (ASA).