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How many accountancy firms are there in the UK?

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How many accountancy firms are there in the UK?

It’s estimated that there are around 43,250 accountancy firms in the UK. The majority of these are fairly small in headcount—around 80% of them are made up of four or fewer employees, not necessarily surprising given the UK’s well developed freelance professional services market.

Income-wise, roughly 55% of firms generate under £100,000 per year. While these numbers aren’t broken down by size of firm, given an average chartered accountant will earn around £85,000 per year it might be fair to assume the lower end of the market primarily consists of freelance/independent accountants, with perhaps a few 2-3 person businesses (that might include 1-2 non-chartered accountants) at the upper end.

Let’s take a deeper look at the numbers and consider the health of the UK’s accountancy market, which many consider to be among the strongest (and most competitive) in the world.

How many accountancy firms are there in the UK by region?

The UK’s 43,245 accountancy firms are broken down by country as follows:

graph showing the number of firms in the UK by country
RegionNumber of VAT/PAYE registered enterprises
United Kingdom43,245
England39,290
Scotland1,990
Wales1,255
Northern Ireland710

How many accountancy firms are there in England?

There were 39,290 VAT/PAYE registered accountancy-related enterprises in England last year.

Within England, London and the South East account for nearly 50% of the total accountancy firms, reaffirming the status of London and its surrounding areas as a financial hub, both within England and further afield—especially unsurprising given that Lloyd’s of London, one of the world’s leading insurance markets, is based in the capital.

graph showing the number of firms in the England by region
RegionNumber of VAT/PAYE registered enterprises
London11,305
South East7,375
East4,600
North West3,740
South West3,295
West Midlands3,260
Yorkshire and The Humber2,470
East Midlands2,415
North East830

How much do the UK’s accounting firms make?

The median UK accountancy firm would be at the upper end of the £50,000-£99,999 turnover per year band, likely somewhere around the £87,500 mark.

As there aren’t a huge number of firms at the very top of the market, the differences in the size of the turnover bands at the upper end versus the lower (for example, from £10,000,000-£49,999,000 versus from £50,000-£99,999) make any ‘average’ turnover estimate heavily weighted in favour of the top end (assuming a typical firm in each band makes the median value of the band, so £74,500 for our £50,000-£99,999 group). That being said, the average turnover for the data set comes in around £445,000 per year.

graph showing the number of firms in the UK by turnover
Turnover bandingNumber of VAT/PAYE registered enterprises
£0-£49,99912,640
£50,000-£99,99911,935
£100,000-£249,99911,385
£250,000-£499,9993,430
£500,000-£999,9991,940
£1,000,000-£1,999,999940
£2,000,000-£4,999,999545
£5,000,000-£9,999,999185
£10,000,000-£49,999,999185
£50,000,000+60

How many employees does an average UK accounting firm have?

The median UK registered accounting enterprise has between 1-2 employees, likely as a result of the strong freelance accountancy market within the UK. The ‘average’ firm, again as a result of wider upper bands, has just over 5.5 employees.

graph showing the number of firms in the UK by number of employees
Number of employeesNumber of VAT/PAYE registered enterprises
0-434,705
5-94,855
10-192,265
20-49900
50-99260
100-249145
250+115

Number of accountants in the UK

The Central Council of Accounting Bodies (CCAB) has around 275,000 members within the UK and Ireland. The CCAB is made up of five members—ACCA, CIPFA, ICAEW, ICAS and Chartered Accountants Ireland, and represents the qualified chartered accountants of the UK+I.

It’s more difficult to say how many total accountants there are in the UK, as many have never qualified or may have achieved qualifications unrecognised by the CCAB (especially at the junior end of the market). For what it’s worth, the general number of accountants in the market appears to be down, as analysis by the FRC ending 2019 put membership of the 5 CCAB bodies at roughly 289,500—probably unsurprising as the job market begins to recover from COVID-19.

BodyNumber of members (FRC, ending December 2019)
ACCA101,476
CIPFA12,327
ICAEW130,928
ICAS19,366
CAI25,374

Methodology

Figures are taken from the Office of National Statistics, and represent any VAT/PAYE registered enterprises engaged in accounting, bookkeeping/auditing or tax consultancy activities.

Figures include any enterprise that is either PAYE registered, or meets the VAT earnings threshold of £85,000, which might comprise of small/medium/large businesses, partnerships and sole traders.

Comments

The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.