Conduct and ethics

Research has shown that the majority of accountants will come under some form of ethical pressure at some point in their career

A changed political and financial culture means that professionals are more in the line of fire than ever before. Professionals can be useful scapegoats for politicians when things go wrong.

An updated edition of the International Ethical Standards Board of Accountants Code was released in April 2018. The code reinforces the five fundamental principles of ethical behaviour: integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality, and professional behaviour. This most recent update of the code was approved for adoption with effect from 1 November 2018 by the council, and has become CIPFA's Standard of Professional Practice on Ethics.

This means that CIPFA is the first professional accountancy body in the UK to adopt the code. CIPFA has demonstrated its leadership and support to members by also publishing revised materials and a suite of ethical case studies. The case studies were gathered over two days from finance professionals at CIPFA's annual conference.

CIPFA recently conducted an ethics survey. You can read analysis by Public Finance and Don Peebles, CIPFA's former Head of Policy and Technical.

On this page, members of the public and institute members and students will find the ethical and technical standards which apply to members and students.

If you believe that a member or student may have failed to properly uphold these standards then you can use the complaint form to bring the matter to the attention of the institute's disciplinary scheme. The scheme provides a process for complaints to be considered by independent regulatory committees and for disciplinary hearings to be held and sanctions imposed.

Details of the duty imposed on members and students to co-operate with the scheme, details of forthcoming hearings, past decisions and the role of the FRC accountancy scheme in regulating matters that affect the public interest also appear in this section.

Standard of Professional Practice on Ethics

Our Standard of Professional Practice (SOPP) on Ethics applies to all CIPFA members and registered students. It brings into effect the International Ethics Standards Board of Accountants (IESBA) Code of Ethics which is periodically updated. CIPFA's SOPP currently reflects the 2018 IESBA International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants™ (including International Independence Standards™) which in CIPFA has adopted in full. The code is based on five principles:

  • integrity
  • objectivity
  • professional competence and due care
  • confidentiality
  • professional behaviours

The code is split into four parts:

  • all CIPFA members must be familiar with part one
  • most CIPFA members must be familiar with part two
  • although IESBA includes public audit within its definition of "in business", CIPFA members in a national audit agency must be familiar with Parts 4A and 4B and to secure an understanding of how their employing body is applying these parts
  • any CIPFA member working in an audit firm must become familiar with Parts 1, 3 and 4A and 4B
  • part two applies to those accountants in public practice, ie audit/consulting firms, when performing professional activities pursuant to their relationship with the firm

CIPFA has produced Stories that Matter (PDF 1.9MB), a series of case studies to support members facing an ethical dilemma. Members can also contact a sounding board comprised of CIPFA members who can listen and, on a personal basis, advice people who are experiencing ethical dilemmas:

Standards of Professional Conduct

CIPFA members and registered students must comply with the institute's charter and bye-laws. This includes a requirement to comply with the institute's ethical and technical standards, a duty to self-report (if a member or student becomes liable to regulatory action) and a duty to co-operate with the institute. Bye-Law 23 identifies when a member becomes liable to action under the institute's disciplinary scheme.

The CCAB has recently developed guidance which addresses the core principles that all accounting bodies would apply where members had acted in a manner which could discredit the profession in their non-professional life. This guidance has been adopted by CIPFA and can be found below.


CIPFA takes complaints about the professional conduct of current and former members and registered students seriously and, when appropriate, takes matters forward in accordance with the disciplinary regulations. CIPFA provides a complaint form and guidance for those who are contemplating making or have made a complaint. A range of guidance documents are available for those who employ members or registered student, for members or registered students who are or may become the subject of a complaint and for those who may be witnesses in regulatory proceedings.

Regulatory decisions and hearings

CIPFA's disciplinary hearings are generally held in public, although they may exceptionally be held in private once a committee has considered the issues and announced publicly the reasons for a private hearing. Details relating to public hearings will normally be posted 14 days in advance of the hearing.


Whistleblowing is governed by the Provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Download a short review of the legal issues (PDF, 60 KB).