The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has confirmed it is applying to become a licensing authority for alternative business structures.

Talks are ongoing with the Legal Services Board (LSB) about putting together a formal application, which is likely to be made in 2012. Felicity Banks, head of business law at the institute, said its members were already experts in various aspects of probate work and would welcome the chance to provide a complete service. Solicitors could be brought into accountancy firms to create multidisciplinary practices under the new regulatory regime.

The confirmation came after the Solicitors Regulation Authority revealed it will start licensing applications for ABSs from 3 January.

The authority was held back by parliamentary delays which prevented it from gaining a licence when the Legal Services Act came into force on 6 October.

Chief executive Antony Townsend said: ‘This is a milestone that we have been working towards for nearly two years. It means the public can have confidence that an ABS providing reserved legal activities will be regulated according to the same rigorous professional standards as traditional law firms.’

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers became the first ABS licensing authority when its application was approved in October.

A spokesman for the LSB said discussions are under way with a ‘number of other regulators’ about their future plans and it expects to receive further applications, although none has been made formally.