I have talked few practicing chartered accountants who were skeptic regarding forming a website for their CA firm of fear that the same may not be in compliance with the guidelines despite the freedom to have a website albeit following the conditions: “The Chartered Accountants and/or Chartered Accountants’ Firms would be free to create their own Website subject to the overall guidelines laid down by the Council.”
You can use website builders like the ones by GoDaddy or CMS like WordPress, Joomla for this purpose (Clause 1). While website builders make it easy to launch your portfolio website very fast (in under an hour) with no technical knowledge, the same may lack a number of customized features like chat button where clients can not only get their queries solved in real-time but also upload files and screenshots during the process. As per clause 2, you can buy a domain name in your trade name (eg. mytradename.in) or individual name (eg. myname.in).
As per clause 3, “The Chartered Accountants and/or Chartered Accountants’ Firms would ensure that their Websites are run on a “pull” model and not a “push” model of the technology to ensure that any person who wishes to locate the Chartered Accountants or Chartered Accountants’ firms would only have access to the information and the information should be provided only on the basis of specific
To clarify “pull” model, your business is allowed on the organic search results, like if I type on the Google Search engine “CA firms in Kolkata”, the website can show up in the search results. “Push” model means not allowed to go for paid campaigns like Google Adwords.
As per clause 4, you cannot get involved in activities like email marketing or using message button of Linkedin to circulate about your services. You can still use such platforms to followup if any query received.
As per clause 5, you are not allowed to place any online or offline banner or message that asks people to visit your website.
As per clause 6, you are allowed to include your name/trade/firm name along with profile including the year of establishment, address, telephone no., email id. Also job vacancies, nature of assignments handled. However, you are not allowed to disclose the name of your clients or fees charged.
As per clause 7, cannot include CA Institute logo.
As per clause 8, can display passport size photograph.
As per clause 9, “The members may include articles, professional information, professional updation and other matters of larger importance or of professional interest” and clause 10, “The bulletin boards can be provided.”
As per clause 11, “The chat rooms can be provided which permit chatting amongst members of the ICAI and between Firms and its clients. The confidentiality protocol would have to be observed.”
This feature of the website can facilitate the process of interacting with your prospects, clients, partners, employees through chat button.
As per clause 12, “The members/firms can provide on line advice to their clients who specifically
request for the advice whether free of charge or on payment.”
So, you can charge an advisory fee right from your website through forms and payment links. Armed with chat button and forms with payment links, this can be a revenue generator while being online, making the most of digital technologies for your business endeavors.
(13) The listing on suitable search engine should be permitted. However, the field of search should be restricted only to the field of “Chartered Accountants” or “CA” or “Indian CA”, “Indian CPA”, “Indian Chartered Accountant” or any permutation or combination related thereto. The Websites would be subjected to the guidelines contained herein and normally would not be vetted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). ICAI at its sole discretion may vet any of the Websites created by its members or individual Chartered Accountant or firms of Chartered Accountants and would have powers to direct deletion of certain portions and/or issue specific directions. In addition, necessary action can be taken in accordance with the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 and the Regulations framed thereunder, in case there is any violation of the above guidelines.
(14) The details in the Website should be so designed that it does not amount to soliciting client or professional work. In case any content or technical feature of Website is against the professional Code of Conduct and Ethics as well as the restrictions contained in the schedules to the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 or against the guidelines or directions issued by ICAI from time to time, appropriate action will be initiated by the ICAI in terms of its disciplinary mechanism either suo-motto or on complaint as provided under the Chartered
Accountants Act, 1949.
(15) The Website should ensure adequate secrecy of the matters of the clients handled through Website.
(16) A number of Chartered Accountants Societies or other bodies are creating data-bases of Chartered Accountants or Chartered Accountants’ Firms and are offering listing to Chartered Accountants. Such listing would be permitted with or without payment. In case a Chartered Accountant or Chartered Accountants’ Firm is a member of a professional body or association or Chamber of Commerce and they offer listing to the members or firm, the same would be permitted.
(17) The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India will regularly inform the aforesaid guidelines to the members and the Chartered Accountants’ Firms to ensure the strict compliance of the guidelines. The guidelines may be revised from time to time.
(18) No Advertisement in the nature of banner or any other nature will be permitted on the Website.
You are not allowed to place any kind of ads like Google AdSense to your CA website.
(19) The Website should be befitting the profession of Chartered Accountants and should not contain any information or material which is unbecoming of a Chartered Accountant.
(20) The Website may provide a link to the Website of ICAI, its Regional Councils and Branches and also the Website of Govt./Govt. Departments/Regulatory authorities/other Professional Bodies, such as, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales (ICAEW) and The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA).
(21) The address of the Website can be different from the name of the firm. But it should not amount to soliciting clients or professional work or advertisement of professional attainments or services. The Website address should be as near as possible to the individual name/trade name, firm name of the Chartered Accountant in practice or firm of Chartered Accountants in practice. The Ethical Standards Board (ESB) of ICAI will decide in case there is any difficulty.
So, while deciding the doman name, you cannot keep a name such as “HireUsCa.in”.
(22) The Website should mention the date upto which it is updated and the information should not be at material variance from the information as per the ICAI’s records. The website address of the member be obtained on annual basis in the annual form required to be filed by the member while paying fee and the same be taken as entry on record & the website address of the member be provided to members as part of the membership record. If the member chose not to give his website address, it did not prevent the Institute to take suitable action against him in case his noncompliance with the guidelines.
A number of non-Chartered Accountants’ firms, corporate including banks, finance Companies and newspapers have set up their own Websites providing advisory services on taxation and other areas where Chartered Accountants are rendering professional service. Some of such Websites may request Chartered Accountants or Chartered Accountants’ firms to provide consultation and advice through their Websites. This would be permitted subject to the condition that on the Website, contact address of the Chartered Accountant concerned is not provided nor such Website will contain any material which advertises professional achievements or status of such Chartered Accountant except making a statement that they are Chartered Accountants. The name of Chartered Accountants’ firm with suffix “Chartered Accountants” would not be permitted.
The last para actually refers to not the content or designing of your in-house website, but how you can render advisory services on other websites.
For a case study, we are showing how easy it is to launch a website for your CA firm through GoDaddy Website Builder software.
The above demo was using GoDaddy Website Builder software.
In order to avail more advanced options like a chat button with a facility to upload files while interacting with prospects, clients, or employees, WordPress is recommended.