How to become licensed through AAT

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Running your own practice can be hugely rewarding. If you’ve decided to make the leap, you’ll need a licence – this article breaks down how to get one.

For the right person, having your own practice brings great benefits. If you want to be self-employed, it’s rewarding, brings freedom, variety, flexibility, job satisfaction and even higher earning potential. However, it also comes with risks. Our Be Your Own Boss guide (PDF) can help you assess if running your own practice would be right for you.

AAT professional members, or those who have applied to become one, are eligible to apply for a licence.

Once you’ve decided it is the way forward, there are important compliance matters you will also need to consider when setting up your business. You must ensure you understand and are able to meet all the regulatory and legal obligations placed on accountancy firms who are providing services to clients.

First of all, we’ll look at whether you need a licence, then we’ll talk about how to get one.

Who needs a licence?

Anyone setting up their own practice and offering accountancy and bookkeeping services to clients in the UK, Chanel Islands or Isle of Man will need a licence. You also need a licence if you’re working as:

  • sole practitioner
  • partner
  • director or principal with at least 5% shares belonging to you, your household or family.

Most AAT professional members offering self-employed services fall under one of these categories. However, there are exceptions:

  • if you’re authorised and regulated by one of the professional bodies within our Licence Exemption Policy
  • if you only provide services on a subcontractor basis and have a written subcontracting agreement in place clarifying the role and responsibilities of each party, along with arrangements in place for professional indemnity insurance, GDPR compliance, and anti-money laundering policies, procedures, and controls.

If you’re unsure whether or not you need one, you can use our licence checker.

What type of licence do you need?

There are two types to choose from depending on the professional membership you hold and the services you want to offer.

AAT Licensed Bookkeepers can provide up to five services:

  1. Bookkeeping
  2. Financial accounts and accounts preparation for sole traders and partnerships
  3. VAT
  4. Computerised accountancy systems
  5. Payroll

AAT Licensed Accountants can provide up to 18 services. A full breakdown is available here.

AAT licensed members are not permitted to carry out statutory audits. Please note, to be a Licensed Accountant you must be an AAT full member (MAAT).

How to apply for your licence

Prepare supporting information in 5 steps

1 – Apply for a Basic Disclosure Certificate if you’re applying for AAT to act as your anti-money laundering supervisor. This must be dated within the last three months. Apply through:

If you are registered with another supervisory authority, you must provide evidence of your alternative AML supervision.

2 – Confirm who will act as your Money Laundering Reporting Officer

  • if you are a sole trader with no employees, you must act as the nominated officer yourself
  • the role should not be held by an external consultant.

3 – Arrange Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII)

  • PII protects both you and your clients, and your application won’t be approved until you have arranged suitable cover. AAT members are eligible for exclusive rates on PII if arranged through AAT’s partner provider.*

*AAT is an introducer-appointed representative of Parliament Hill, who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for non-investment insurance mediation only under registration number 308448. You can check this out at AAT is not in the same group as the provider.

4 – Arrange continuity of practice cover

5 – Register with the Information Commissioners Officer (ICO).

Complete your application form

Tell us about yourself, and the business you want to run. That includes:

  • your personal and registered business information
  • your membership and practice status
  • your business model
  • the services you would like to offer
  • details of any shareholders
  • the number of clients you have and your gross fee income.

Pass the Licensed Application Standards (LAS) tests

There are three LAS tests to pass, covering anti-money laundering, professional ethics and practice management.

These competency-based tests are designed to ensure all members who wish to be licensed are aware of and understand their regulatory and statutory obligations when providing services to the public. More information about our members’ responsibilities, both under AAT’s regulatory framework and the relevant anti-money laundering legislation can be found at

You can find the LAS tests as well as supporting material on the AAT Lifelong Learning Portal. Each consists of multiple-choice questions and takes about 20 minutes to complete.

You have three attempts to pass each test, and the passing score is 71%. If you do not pass the LAS tests within three attempts, your licence application will be withdrawn even if you have passed some of the tests, and you will not be permitted to provide self-employed accountancy or bookkeeping services to the public whilst an AAT member.

Confirm the details you want displayed in the AAT licensed member directory

All AAT licensed members will be displayed on our online ‘Find an AAT Licensed Accountant or Bookkeeper’ directory. This is used by regulatory bodies to check AML supervision and is promoted to the public to help them find licensed members in their area.

At a minimum, you must display your name, business name and town, and the services you are approved to offer, but you can choose to include the business address.

Confirm you are “fit and proper” to be a licensed member

This section includes declaring information regarding any insolvency, criminal convictions, disciplinary sanctions, civil sanctions and other financial and legal issues that we need to be aware of.

If you tick ‘Yes’ to any of the statements, you’ll need to supply extra information on these areas with your application so it can be reviewed by our Professional Standards team against AAT’s ‘Fit and proper’ requirements.

Read our “fit and proper” requirements.

Complete your declaration

You’ll need to complete the declaration to confirm that you will abide by all AAT regulations and policies and relevant government legislation.

Finalising your application


Once we’ve received your licence application we’ll send you an email with a link to pay the one-off admission fee and pro-rata annual licence fee. We’re unable to progress your application until payment has been received. You can pay your membership fees by Direct Debit, you must set up your Direct Debit before you submit your application.

Details of all our fees and information on tax relief are available at:

If your application is unsuccessful or withdrawn, the admission fee is non-refundable but the annual licence fee is refundable.

Respond quickly to our queries

We may need more information from you, depending on the information included on your form. We’ll do our best to contact you about any queries as quickly as possible.

Receiving your licence

That’s it. Once we’re satisfied that you have met all the criteria, we will approve your licence and you’ll receive confirmation by email.

Your licence will be effective immediately. We’ll be in touch when you need to renew your licence and your membership. If you’ve previously renewed your professional membership, your renewal date will remain the same. You’ll receive your licence certificate and licensed member guide within two weeks.

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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