September 17, 2019

AICPA

The AICPA Is Giving Future Accounting Rockstars a Shot at Free Money

Let’s be serious for a moment, who doesn’t want free money? And if you could also advance your own knowledge base, further your career and benefit the profession in the process, why wouldn’t you take it?

The fact that we are facing a shortage of accounting faculty to teach future beancounters is not newsworthy as the AICPA is now in its fourth year of the Accounting Doctoral Scholars program. Launched in July of 2008, ADS provides funding for four years for up to 30 new candidates each year, incubating a total of 120 newly educated PhDs in audit and tax. Thirty candidates with an average GMAT of 718 were selected for funding in 2009 and 2010, with twenty-seven candidates placed in 2009 and 29 in 2010. If you are interested in taking advantage of some $17 miS will begin providing information on applying for fall 2012 in May of this year, stay tuned to their website for more details.

But we aren’t all cut out to be accounting professors. Many of you know this because you learned accounting from folks who had no business teaching. Did you know the AICPA also provides scholarships to minorities, those with little accounting education seeking to get into the industry and outstanding accounting students with a 3.0 GPA or better?


From This Way to CPA, we have four major scholarship programs and deadlines are fast approaching so you better get it together if you want some of this. Each scholarship has different requirements so please read them carefully before applying and you must be an AICPA student affiliate member to qualify. If you haven’t yet joined, you may do so here.

AICPA Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop

Held June 2-4, 2011 at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club in Durham, NC on the Duke University campus, the AICPA Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop is an annual invitational program for minority accounting students who plan to pursue the CPA designation. This event aims to strengthen students’ professional skills and understanding of the limitless possibilities and benefits of earning the CPA credential.

Participants will gain confidences and an enhanced understanding of the varied accounting career paths to help them make better career decisions after graduation. An all-expenses paid event, the AICPA covers the cost of student attendees’ transportation, hotel accommodation and meals.

Deadline to apply:
Fri, May 6 2011

The AICPA John L. Carey Scholarship

The John L. Carey Scholarship was established by members of the accounting profession to honor John Carey upon his retirement from the AICPA in 1969. During his 40-year tenure at the AICPA, Mr. Carey served as administrative vice president; executive director; and as editor and publisher of the Journal of Accountancy. Mr. Carey dedicated his entire career to serving the accounting profession and made it a priority to encourage outstanding students to become CPAs.

Recipients receive $5,000 for one year. Scholarship aid may be used only for the payment of expenses that directly relate to obtaining an accounting education (e.g.; tuition, fees, room and board, and/or books and materials only).

Deadline to apply:
Fri, Apr 1 2011

AICPA Scholarship for Minority Accounting Students

The AICPA Scholarship for Minority Accounting Students provides financial awards to outstanding minority students to encourage their pursuit of accounting as a major and their ultimate entry into the profession. Scholarship funding is provided by the AICPA Foundation, with contributions from the New Jersey Society of CPAs and Robert Half International.

The AICPA Minority Scholarship was created in 1969 with the purpose to increase the representation of ethnically diverse CPA professionals. For over four decades, this program has provided over $14.6 million in scholarships to over 8,000 accounting scholars.

Recipients receive individual awards of $3,000 per academic year.

Deadline to apply:
Fri, Apr 1 2011

AICPA/Accountemps Student Scholarship

The AICPA/Accountemps Student Scholarship program provides financial assistance to outstanding accounting students who demonstrate potential to become leaders in the CPA profession.

Recipients receive $2,500 for one year.

Deadline to apply:
Fri, Apr 1 2011

You’re welcome!

Your Company Smartphone Scares the Crap Out of Your Boss

Let’s be honest here, how many of you use your work-issued phone strictly for work? Promise I won’t snitch anyone out. Some of you might even be lucky enough to be able to tweak your wallpaper, add apps and get your significant other on BBM for all day sexting without the pesky messaging data trail.

The AICPA’s 2011 Top Technology Initiatives Survey is out and shows that IT professionals’ biggest business technology concern is not that they could be replaced with robots but the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices in the workplace.

The 22nd Annual AICPA Top Technology Initiative survey, conducted Jan. 13 to Jan. 26, shows control and use of mobile devices was the No. 1 challenge for IT professionals. The finding was based on responses from nearly 1,400 CPAs nationwide specializing in information technology. In addition to mobile devices, the survey signaled future IT issues will revolve around implementation of touch-screen technology, deployment of faster networks and voice recognition technology.

“The surging use of smartphones and tablets means people are doing business, exchanging sensitive data wherever, whenever they want to,” said Ron Box, CPA/CITP, CFF. “The technology is advancing so rapidly that the capabilities for controlling and protecting the information on mobile devices is lagging behind. What was once as simple as losing your phone, could now create an enormous security risk for organizations.”

Remember back in the day when you might, say, accidentally drop your phone in the toilet at the bar and simply have to worry about recouping your contact list? Now our phones hold pictures, banking information and even client information that is oftentimes carelessly stored on unsecured devices that are taken everywhere. IT professionals can’t be expected to manage the network when the network is in your pocket, and when your pocket sometimes happens to be in the bar (you are a professional, after all).

Some of the top issues identified by CPAs in public accounting included data retention, control and use of mobile devices and privacy.

The complete Top Technology Initiatives list as voted on by CPAs, IT professionals, and others responsible for making or influencing technology decisions includes initiatives and emerging technologies that IT decision makers should be aware of over the next 12 – 18 months.

The AICPA, NASBA and Prometric Announce Successful Launch of the New CPA Exam

Even though only two testing days passed from the time CBT-e launched and the time the press release came out, the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric are very excited to announce the successful launch of the new CPA exam.


Via the AICPA:

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and Prometric today launched the new Uniform CPA Examination, called CBT-e, which includes for the first time questions on International Financial Reporting Standards among other sweeping and significant changes.

Changes were approved by the AICPA Board of Examiners based on input from state boards of accountancy in response to an Invitation to Comment, and a Practice Analysis designed to ensure the exam tests the modern knowledge and skills that are relevant for today’s entry-level CPAs. The new IFRS questions and other changes to the exam are the first major revisions since the CPA exam was computerized in 2004.

Overall, more emphasis is being placed on skills assessment using case study-based questions known as Task-Based Simulations. Authoritative literature in the CPA exam incorporates use of new Financial Accounting Standards Board codifications of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Professional responsibilities including ethics and independence have been added to the Auditing and Attestation section.

“The testing of IFRS knowledge and other international standards is a response to change in the business world in which new CPAs operate,” said Craig Mills, vice president of examinations for the AICPA. “We are proud and excited to be introducing innovations in this evolution of the computer-based test that both validate and update the content of the exam and improve the experience for candidates. The exam is one of three key requirements, along with education and experience, that help state boards and the profession maintain the highest standards and protect the public interest.”

In related news, I will be speaking with the AICPA this afternoon about the new exam and thanks to your input, will be interrogating them on score releases, potential changes to passing scores, the integrity of the exam (since the old timer paper and pencil folks continue to rag on the new exam as too easy) and the continued evolution of exam content beyond 2011. I’d like to ask them when the hell BEC is going to be more than a junk drawer but having seen some of the new 2011 content on that section, I have to say it looks like they are working on consolidating the most random CPA exam section into a more streamlined piece of psychometric awesomeness. It isn’t too late to get me your questions for the AICPA’s exam unit so if you have one that you haven’t gotten to me yet, get on that or drop it in the comments and I’ll try to sneak it in.

I’ve also spoken to at least a handful of candidates who tested last week and so far feedback is positive on the new format as I suspected it would be. For the love of Excel, please don’t get stressed out over international standards as you shouldn’t expect to receive an exam made up of 70% new content. Try 5 – 10% max.

Update to come on Friday.

What Would You Ask the AICPA About the New CPA Exam?

Lucky me, I’ll be speaking with the AICPA about the successful launch of CBT-e as well as grilling them about the new format, their motivation behind the change, and all this nonsense about changing the passing score from 75.

Because you guys are the ones taking the exam and I’m just the one writing about it, I figured it would be appropriate to give you all the opportunity to weigh in on what I should ask. I swear I’m not being lazy as I have plenty of my own questions to ask but thought it might be nice for all of you with questions to have the chance to get them answered directly from the source.

You’re welcome to put your suggestions in the comments or, if you’re embarrassed because your question also makes you look like a big fat failure, please feel free to email me and I promise I’ll guard your identity like Caleb guards his yoga mat.

Don’t Wait at the Mailbox for Your CPA Exam Score This Year

On top of content and cosmetic changes for the CPA exam in 2011, the AICPA has pledged to deliver scores more quickly and efficiently by replacing the current random two wave system with a simple, single release during the blackout month.

Here’s how it has worked up until now: depending on when you sit for the exam, you can get your scores in either Wave 1 or Wave 2. Wave 1 includes most people who tested early in the window and Wave 2 is (supposed to be) released before or during the blackout month (that’s March, June, September and December) so you can get a new NTS and reschedule a failed part in the next window. Anyone who has waited for a score in the last few windows can tell you this system is flawed and obviously under quite a bit of pressure with increased applicant volume in recent months.


But for the first three windows on 2011, the AICPA is going to try out a new score release system that would mean those who test in January/February will receive their scores in one release in March. Apr/May will be released in June and July/Aug will be released in September. That means California applicants better hope scores come out early in the blackout so they have time to submit a reapplication and wait for a new NTS as the Board of Accountancy there has been overwhelmed with new applicants and current CPA exam candidates, with three fewer days a month to process everyone thanks to Furlough Friday. Unfortunately for them, it looks like scores will be released at the end of each blackout month.

For now, a passing score is still 75 but the AICPA plans to take data from the first window of the year as it considers changing that going forward. Better get in those exam parts while you can!

The AICPA claims that those testing in the fourth quarter can expect an accelerated release but with all these changes and fancy new tricks up the AICPA’s sleeve, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Here’s The Only Guide to Your Accounting Career You’ll Ever Need

As many of you already know, when an accountant walks into a room of non-accountants and tells everyone what he does for a living, the first question is usually “can you do my taxes?” That stereotype was exactly what industry veteran Stan Ross hoped to blow to bits when he worked with the AICPA to create the new book The Inside Track to Careers in Accounting.

“The bell rang when the grandkids kept asking ‘what is an accountant and what do you do?'” he told us. Wanting to answer that question without simply printing out a picture of a guy hunched over a 10-key in a green eyeshade, Ross put together a guide to various career paths inorate, government and non-profit accounting. It includes interviews with industry rockstars like Ernst & Young’s Jim Turley and former AICPA chairman Ernie Almonte. Hundreds of industry experts and professionals were interviewed in the development process, with the best of those included in the book and accompanying CD-ROM.

Covering everything from education to licensure, compensation to careers, Ross cut no corners to put together an all-in-one resource for those considering accounting as a career or even accountants looking to switch career paths and take on a new specialty.

The Big 4, et al.

Those interested in a career dedicated to public accounting will find tips on getting hired, moving up the corporate ladder, interning and even dealing with awkward intergenerational exchanges. One excellent piece of advice: “From the moment you start with the firm, try to learn as much as you can in your current position, and learn from your supervisors, the people you work with and others in the firm. Ask questions not just about your current position or work assignments, but about the larger firm, its organization, its services and its people.”

Who needs public?

If corporate accounting is more your style, you can follow the corporate ladder from staff accountant to CFO, working in management accounting (sorry, that means cost accounting too), payroll, A/P, internal auditing, financial reporting, tax or IT. Corporate accountants can also work in forecasting, working closely with department managers, the CFO and/or top executives within the organization to weigh in on the company’s plans and budget forecasts. As of 2007, there are 31 million businesses in the United States and they made a combined $26 trillion in revenue – don’t you think those businesses need sharp talent to crunch their numbers?

Are you good enough for government work?

Let’s not forget about government accounting. Ross told us that he initially did not even plan on putting in a separate chapter for government but in his research for this book, he discovered that there are unlimited possibilities in government and it just made sense to put them in. “When we talked to government people and regulators, we found out how many different career paths were there; city, state, county, all the agencies, the Federal Reserve… it was unlimited!” he said. Those interested in a government accounting career could find themselves working for the State Department, NASA, the FAA, the DOD, the GAO, the FBI, the IRS and many other agencies. You can find more information on opportunities in government (a booming industry when everyone else is hurting, you know) via the AICPA’s website here.

Forget profits

Last but not least, Ross highlights opportunities in non-profit accounting. Non-profit includes public charities as well as universities, private foundations, HMOs, labor unions and business/professional organizations. According to the book, The Conference Board said in a 2007 report that “widespread executive-level and leadership skill shortages currently affecting many nonprofits are predicted to get much worse as the sector expands and experience executives retire.” That means the sector needs qualified accountants who, unfortunately, can expect to earn less than for-profit positions but get reimbursed through warm fuzzy feelings and real world experience with non-profit accounting.

Ross reminds all of us that the best bet is always to seek out a mentor (or several) and use their knowledge to your advantage. Want to switch career paths? Track someone down who already has and ask questions. Want to find out the quickest way to climb the public accounting ladder? Listen to someone who’s done it already and learn from their mistakes and experience. Ross himself mentors hundreds of USC students and you better believe mentored students have a better chance to be promoted as they’ve gotten a broader picture of their future industry outside of the traditional black and white of their accounting school textbooks.

So whether you’re miserable in your current position or just starting out in your accounting career and trying to figure out which path to take, The Inside Track to Careers in Accounting will give you plenty of food for thought and useful information on what lies ahead, regardless of which fork in the road you head down. Accounting is no longer just doing taxes (as if it ever was) and, as Ross says, it is the best foundation for any career path, be that CFO, COO, investment officer or just about any corporate world gig dealing even indirectly with budgeting, finance and economics.

Ya get it? We hope so.

Top Five Resources For CPA Exam Candidates

Since I’m sick of writing about 2011 CPA exam changes and none of you asked any CPA exam questions this week, I’ve decided to be nice and offer you five excellent resources for CPA exam candidates, ranked in no particular order of importance.


CPAnet: The CPAnet forums offer a sense of community, suggestions and that all-too-important sense that you are not alone on your journey. Get tips on passing tricky parts, share your misery or get a kick out of helping other candidates by sharing your knowledge. The forums are a must for any candidate wishing to connect with others on the CPA exam adventure.

Twitter: Connecting with other CPA exam candidates and sources of CPA exam information (like @NASBA) can be incredibly useful. Follow the #CPAexam hashtag for news and views on all things CPA exam.

The AICPA: The AICPA has revamped its website and put together a comprehensive collection of CPA exam information, extensive tutorials and plenty of FAQs for your reading pleasure so you better be using them. Their “Become a CPA” section is jam-packed with useful info for international candidates, students interested in the CPA career path along with salary and career info.

NASBAtools: Access NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library or use CredentialNet to do all the applying for you so you can focus on taking the exam and not worry about being buried in four pounds of paperwork. You can also find more information on licensure from NASBA’s website here.

Me: Wow, what a narcissist right?! In all seriousness, if you aren’t sending in your CPA exam questions or reading previous columns we’ve done on the exam covering everything from simulations to time management, you aren’t using the resources correctly. I don’t write for my own good, I do it so you guys can be informed and prepared for what’s ahead so do me the favor of not making me feel like I’m writing to a wall.

The AICPA Teaches Congress What “Burdensome” Really Means

On July 19, the AICPA sent a letter to the House and Senate condemning new 1099 reporting requirements (said requirements being carefully hidden inside The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a.k.a. Obamacare) as burdensome and annoying. Apparently the AICPA must feel quite strongly about this matter as it is now November and they have sent a very similar letter to Congress, perhaps to show them just how burdensome extra paperwork can really be.


The House letter may be found here.

The AICPA doesn’t like that rental property owners could now be required to keep extensive records and bother with tax issues in typically tax-free January, among other things:

This would be the first time that individual taxpayers owning rental property who are not “engaged in a trade or business,” would be required to provide Forms 1099-MISC. For example, many individuals, who own a vacation property that is rented part of the year to help defray their costs, would be subject to the provisions of the SBJA. We are concerned that (1) keeping records to track expenses by provider, (2) obtaining tax identification numbers and other information from providers of property and services, and (3) providing Forms 1099-MISC during January, a month when taxpayers would not normally be focused on tax issues, would be extremely burdensome. Additionally, the AICPA questions the need for sending information forms to certain providers of services, such as utility companies.

Thankfully the AICPA has everyone’s back and feels as though business owners should be allowed to focus on growing their businesses instead of worrying over filling out massive amounts of paperwork. We’ve got to appreciate that attitude as any other professional organization might salivate over the idea of plenty of billable hours to go around as CPAs line up to hook up business owners with the right paperwork but not the AICPA, who said “businesses do not need the added cost of more regulatory requirements at a time when their efforts must be focused on profitability and sustainability.” Word!

We look forward to the next round of angry letters from the AICPA on this matter and hope that they don’t find fighting Congress too burdensome.

Memo to the AICPA: You Don’t Have To Be In High School To Come Up With Juvenile Acronyms

Some of you seemed less than enthused when we shared an AccountingWEB piece on the AICPA’s new “Clearly Pretty Awesome” campaign two weeks ago so I’m here to get a good hoo-RAH out of you in the hopes that you, our brilliant, bitter and oftentimes inappropriate Going Concern readers, might have 2 or 3 cents to add.


Here’s the deal, the AICPA is giving away cash and prizes (to be used strictly for educational purposes, that is) for whomever (between ages 15 – 19) can come up with the best made-up job title using those all important three letters: C P A. Since the efforts of both the Obama administration and Ben Bernanke seem to be useless in creating jobs, perhaps high schoolers can boast a better success rate in creating new jobs. Sorry, Certified Public Asshole is already taken and frankly, kind of played out. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have similar ideas for made-up jobs, though whether or not anyone actually becomes a Chief Private Asshat remains to be seen.

The obvious inspiration behind the campaign is to plant the seed of public accounting in young little future beancounters’ brains when they are still pliable and easily influenced. After all, it’s easier to get them now, as opposed to later on down the road when they’re bitter and pissed off, overworked and saddled with a family and a career. While we admire the AICPA’s efforts in painting the profession in as cool a light as possible given the circumstances, we don’t quite see the point in rewarding whomever makes up “city park accordionist”.

Instead, here’s what I propose: take your high school student to work day for CPAs. Cops do it, why can’t we? Invite high school students to go on a ride-along to the client and hell, while they’re there why not have them partake in such exciting awesomeness as inventory counts? It will look great on their résumés when the job market looks up in 3 – 7 years!

Or better, encourage students to become forensic accountants by taking them to a real prison to follow a day in the life of Jeff Skilling complete with orange uniform and over-aggressive cellmate. That kills two birds with one stone as the impressionable youngsters could also get a great lesson in sexual harassment from a tattooed dude named Spike and save themselves an employee training or two down the road. Perfect!

So, go on then, what do you think CPA could stand for?

AICPA Launches Clearly Pretty Awesome Campaign to Target High School Students

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has launched the Clearly Pretty Awesome Competition for high school students to introduce them to the CPA profession.

“The CPA designation offers many rewarding career paths,” said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president – students, academics, and membership. “College students are graduating with degrees in accounting at historically high numbers. Decisions regarding career paths are being shaped very early, many at the high school level. It’s important that students have substantial information about accounting careers before they select their majors at colleges and universities.”


The Clearly Pretty Awesome Competition calls for students to devise a job (other than certified public accountant) using the acronym CPA, such as “curb paint applicator” or “city park accordionist.” To enter the competition, students are encouraged to visit Start Here, Go Places and register using the site’s FutureMe tool, and then submit their entries, along with an explanation as to why being a real CPA is a better option than the job they created.

A panel of judges will select the finalists on November 18 and 19. The top submissions will appear on Start Here, Go Places for public voting beginning on November 29. The AICPA will announce the winning entry on or about December 15, and plans to incorporate it in a national advertising campaign.

There will be 1st through 5th place awards:

• 1st place: A laptop for the student, $3,000 grant awarded to the student’s school in his or her name, use of the entry in the ad campaign, and a poster for school display;

• 2nd place: A laptop for the student, $1,500 grant to the school in the student’s name and a poster;

• 3rd, 4th, and 5th places: An iPod touch for the students.

The competition is open to full-time 15 to 19 year-old students who are enrolled in a high school in the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa or the U.S. Virgin Islands. The AICPA will accept entries until Nov. 17.

About the AICPA:
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is the national, professional association of CPAs, with 369,000 CPA members worldwide in business and industry, public practice, government, education, student affiliates and international associates. It sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for audits of private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination.

Accounting News Roundup: America’s Fiscal Conundrum; FASB Attempting to Price Convergence; Rent and Healthcare Are Both Too Damn High | 10.20.10

Pledging Our Way to Fiscal Disaster [Tax Vox]
Three-quarters of Americans believe that entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security “will create major economic problems” over the next 25 years. But two-thirds are opposed to addressing these challenges by reducing benefits, and 56 percent are against raising taxes.

And congressional candidates, who read the polls, are scrambling to pander to the free-lunch beliefs of their respective bases. As a result, they are locking themselves into opposing both reductions in future benefits and tax increases.

NFIB calls for action on Bush tax cuts [On the Money]
“Increasing the individual rates will mean that business owners have less money for business investment and job creation,” the NFIB stated. “One study found that a 5 percent increase in individual tax rates decreases business investment by 10 percent.”

Democratic leaders have repeatedly promised that rate cuts for all but the top two brackets will be extended into next year, allowing most businesses to avoid a tax increase. The NFIB states their plan will still hit small businesses.

FASB Seeking Input on the Costs of Convergence [JofA]
FASB issued a discussion paper to gather input from stakeholders about the time and effort that will be involved in adapting to several anticipated new accounting and reporting standards and when those standards, which are part of the FASB and International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) convergence projects, should be effective. The board said it will use the input it receives to develop an implementation plan that helps companies and other stakeholders manage both the pace and cost of change.

“We issued this discussion paper to gather the information we need to create a realistic, cost-effective plan for transitioning to the new standards,” Acting FASB Chairman Leslie F. Seidman said in a press release.

Paul V. Stahlin Elected Chairman of the AICPA [PR Newswire]
Stahlin said the United States is emerging from a period of economic turmoil that has “driven demand for new business practices, new regulations, new oversight and new solutions,” in his inaugural speech, titled “Seize the Future.” He said CPAs have been finding solutions for more than 100 years.

“We as CPAs have the unique ability to make sense of a constantly changing complex world,” Stahlin said. “Employers, our clients and our country turn to us to make sense of the most complex developments in business and regulation. We best understand how a business ticks.”

Bob Evans Financial Chief To Depart At Year’s End [Dow Jones]
Tod Spornhauer wants to do something different.


Yahoo 3Q profit doubles, revenue still lackluster [AP]
Bartz and CFO Tim Morse are still in process of turning this thing around.

J&J CFO: Healthcare Spending Growth Is Decelerating [Dow Jones]
Certain medical expenses are simply too damn high.

Jimmy McMillan: Rent is Too Damn High! [CBS]
Speaking of, in case you missed it yesterday (or Monday night):

AICPA Announces International CPA Exam Locations

Have you, like many foreigners, been tripping about getting into the US to take the CPA exam, battling with strict post 9/11 Visa rules and other assorted red tape? Trip no more, the CPA exam is about to go international. This is huge because the exam is also about to get an international makeover (like IFRS testing in FAR and international audit standards in AUD) but that couldn’t at all be coincidentally related to this announcement from the AICPA:

The Uniform CPA Examination will be offered outside the 55 U.S. jurisdictions for the first time in its history in 2011. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and Prometric – the three organizations that jointly offer the CPA Examination in the United States – reached an agreement to administer the exam in international locations.

The CPA Examination next year will be offered in Japan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

The international exam will be the same as the one offered in the U.S., using the same computerized format and administered in English. As in the U.S., the purpose of taking the examination will be to qualify for licensure as a CPA through U.S. state boards of accountancy.

Security has been one issue for the AICPA in deciding where to offer the CPA exam even though it will continue to administer the exam through Prometric. International testing will be subject to the same state board or jurisdiction rules that determine eligibility for CPA exam candidates since there is no Dubai Board of Accountancy. Just as now, potential international candidates will have to meet the requirements of whichever jurisdiction they choose to apply. Which I guess makes all the residency-requirement states out of the running to be a part of this epic new spin on the computerized CPA exam?

Some have mentioned on earlier bitch sessions about the AICPA that their motivation is a monetary one. Expanding membership, for example, brings in revenue. Increasing the passing CPA exam score (thereby causing more failures and, one would imagine, more subsequent $$$ retakes after) is another example though that’s just a rumor last I heard. So if one were inclined to postulate as to the motive behind this move and approach it skeptically, you might come to the conclusion that this could equal a pretty significant payday for the AICPA as well as NASBA, Prometric, ChoicePoint and all the CPA review courses who make a living off of this exam. I’m not against it.

I guess we will find out what significance the U.S. CPA exam still holds for the rest of the world. Even if we end up looking pretty bad when international candidates do way better on the AICPA’s new international exam content in 2011.

Is The AICPA Cheapening the Profession with New Membership Rules?

Someone has to ask the question and as a matter of fact Sharon Gubinsky, one of our favorite Maryland CPAs, already has.

Before we get to Sharon’s enlightening comments, however, let’s examine the AICPA’s idea to expand membership to non-CPAs. As is, AICPA membership is limited to those who hold a current CPA certificate. Since the AICPA is a professional organization charged with protecting the protectors, you’d think it would be simple to decide who can and cannot join the organization.

Those of us affiliated with the industry but without CPA certificates are more than welcome to cheer from the sidelines but are rightfully barred from membership in an organization that oversees licensure and sets the overall tone for CPAs across the country. But here are the proposed changes:

In May 2010, the AICPA governing Council unanimously voted for a member ballot on a proposed bylaw amendment to update the requirements for admission to the Institute. This recommendation is a part of the first major comprehensive review of membership requirements since the 1950s. The bylaw amendment would add a provision to the current CPA certificate requirement for voting membership. Therefore, if the ballot measure were to pass, individuals could become voting members of the AICPA if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1. Possess a valid and unrevoked CPA certificate issued by a legally constituted authority, the present requirement for membership.

2. At any time possessed a valid CPA certificate and the certificate was not revoked as a result of a disciplinary action (i.e., the certificate holder allowed the certificate to lapse because they were not providing public accounting services and therefore the certificate was not required by their state board of accountancy).

3. Fulfill the education, examination and experience requirements of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) for CPA certification (see Appendix B) and are of good moral character but have never been granted a right to practice because they do not hold out as CPAs.

Back to Sharon. Not arguing with the first two requirements (nor am I), she and many others take issue with the third. Why on Earth would someone meet every requirement for licensure and choose not to be licensed but still wish to be a member of a large, influential professional organization like the AICPA?

She says:

An additional sore spot for current members opposed to this amendment is that in order to maintain an active CPA license a required amount of continuing education credit hours is mandatory. For the State of Maryland the State Board of Accountancy requires eighty hours of CPE every two years in order to renew your license. Those without a valid license are not subject to this requirement. Not only is the CPE a scheduling issue at times due to billable client work but it is not cheap. The average cost for eight hours of training is approximately $300.00. The positive note is that the CPE requirement does keep us informed and refreshed.

Having a CPA license keeps CPAs incentivized to protect the public and adhere to the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct that gives that credential such weight. There is some level of prestige in saying one has accomplished it and a level of service to the public interest required by those who hold it. So why open up AICPA membership to anyone who could be a CPA if they put in the legwork but haven’t?

I think an associate membership idea – if additional membership revenue is what the AICPA is after – is an excellent idea and I for one would be one of the first non-CPAs to sign up just to show my commitment to what the industry stands for. But that doesn’t mean non-CPAs should be allowed to vote on issues important to CPAs, regardless of how intimately acquainted with the profession and the industry’s professional standards one might be.

Licensed CPAs? Yes.

Inactive CPAs? Yes. They still put in the work to pass the CPA exam and secure experience, they have simply chosen to drop out of public or move into a different line of work. That does not negate their professional experience.

Non-CPAs? NO.

Accountants Still Can’t Not Write Good…or: Improving the Communication Skills of Students

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

“I am not good at writing. I want to be an accounting major so I don’t have to write.”

All of us who teach or advise students have heard this – our students’ dislike for writing papers. These students are under the false impression that accountants do not have to write, or at least not much.

Frequently, our students do not realize that written communication skills are essentiaprofession. As a matter of fact, communication skills are one of the five core competencies outlined in the CPA Vision Project, tested on the CPA Exam and demanded by employers.


The CPA Vision Project

The CPA Vision Project of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) addresses issues we must tackle to keep up with the challenges facing the profession. To remain competitive, CPAs need to demonstrate five core values and five core competencies.

One of the top five core competencies, Communication and Leadership Skills, is the ability to “give and exchange information within meaningful context and with appropriate delivery and interpersonal skills.” These core values and competencies are instrumental in providing the five core services outlined in the CPA Vision Project: Assurance and Information Integrity, Management Consulting and Performance Management, Technology Services, Financial Planning, and International Services.

If we want our students to offer these five core services efficiently and effectively, accounting classes must incorporate the ability to communicate well as a learning objective.

Writing on the CPA Exam

So what about the CPA Exam? Is the profession testing communication skills on the Exam? Yes.

The CPA Exam requires candidates to demonstrate their writing skills. Currently, CPA applicants complete constructed responses on the Auditing (AUD), Regulation (REG), and Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) sections of the exam.

With the introduction of the new CPA Exam format (CBT-e) in 2011, writing will remain an important part. However, instead of testing writing skills in AUD, REG, and FAR, the constructed response portion of the exam will be entirely tested in BEC (Business Environment and Concepts). Starting in 2011, CPA candidates will write three essays in BEC.

Entry-level accountants lack written communication skills

The CPA Vision Project demands communication skills and the CPA Exam tests them. Does that mean employers of new CPAs are pleased with new CPAs’ writing skills? No. Many employers of recent accounting graduates complain that their new employees do not possess the requisite writing skills. While our students may have strong technical skills, their written communication is often ineffective and poor.

In addition, accountants are spending less time on gathering, processing, and reporting information, and more time on interpretation and providing strategy and decision support. Accountants prepare notes to financial statements, interdepartmental memos, plans, and proposal communications with various stakeholders, written personnel evaluations, and articles in professional journals.

According to an article in The Trusted Professional, one-third of the accounting firms surveyed are unhappy with accountants’ writing skills. Correctly using grammar, organizing information, and writing clearly, concisely, and completely are necessary for business writing. In the worst case, poor writing skills can lead to dismissal of the accountant or inability to rise to higher managerial levels in the organization.

Because of the CPA Exam requirement and the needs of future employers, writing in accounting classes is an important part of many schools’ accounting curricula.

Communication: The business of accounting

Accounting is much more than financial statements and debits and credits. Properly and broadly understood, accounting is all about communication. Written and oral communication gives the numbers meaning, context, and focus on a decision.

We need to continue working on improving the writing skills of entry-level accountants, but these skills must be further reinforced once students enter the workplace. Firm training and management programs in which writing is given a high level of consciousness and priority will help ensure users have the best product available.

About the authors:
Gabriele Lingenfelter, CPA, teaches accounting and auditing for the Luter College of Business and Leadership at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Lingenfelter is actively involved on the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Audit & Attestation Subcommittee and the development of future CPA Exams. She also is a member of the VSCPA Editorial Task Force. Contact her at gabriele@cnu.edu.

Phil Umansky, CPA, Ph.D., is associate professor of business at the Sydney Lewis School of Business at Virginia Union University and chairman of the Accounting and Finance Department. Umansky is a CPA Ambassador, a regular contributor to the WTVR Virginia This Morning TV Show on money management topics, and a member of the VSCPA Editorial Task Force. Contact him at pumansky@vuu.edu.

The National Society of Accountants Has a Bone to Pick with the AICPA

A couple weeks back the AICPA gave its members the go-ahead to Crtl+C, Crtl+V its letter to the IRS about how certain parts of the proposed tax preparer regulations were a load of crap.

We just assumed that everyone in the accounting biz was on the same page here but boy we’re we wrong. The National Society of Accountants sent this letter to Treasury honcho Geithner stating that they don’t want any tax preparers exempted from obtaining a PTIN (among other complaints):

NSA Letter Regarding CPA Firm Exemption


What’s especially interesting is that the AICPA is not named in this letter once, however they are named specifically in the NSA’s press release:

Now, at the 11th hour, just before the registration process is scheduled to begin, some – including the American Institute of CPAs – are demanding that staff members of ‘CPA firms’ be exempted from the registration requirements. This flies in the face of why this registration program was set up. The point of the new regulations is to ensure that all tax preparers are accountable for their work in preparing returns, and that should include anyone who paid to prepare all or substantially all of a return, no matter where they may work.

The basic tenet here is that big firms will get away with letting the underlings preparing the returns not be held accountable for their (apparently) shoddy work. The NSA’s position is that if every single legit tax professional is registered then they can track down the shitty ones and the IRS can act accordingly. The NSA claims that the “loophole” proposed by the AICPA will let these amateurs skate the testing and registration requirements and thus won’t be serving taxpayers one iota.

On the one hand you might have been totally against the tax preparer regulations from the start but now that they’re unavoidable, the AICPA’s request for exemptions in some cases may burn the unlucky bunch that wouldn’t get to enjoy waiver.

The AICPA Doesn’t Mind If You Copy and Paste Their Letter for the Expressed Purpose of Telling the IRS That the Preparer Regs Suck

The AICPA is following the ABA’s strategy of mass letter sending by urging its members to inundate the IRS with tearful pleas to reconsider the Service’s Tax Preparer Registration Proposal.

The issue is so serious that the Tax Vice President, Edward Karl, went on the Hill today to testify about the AICPA’s concerns, in what had to have been one raucous hearing:

The AICPA has serious concerns that the proposed IRS regulations are an overreach and would place immense burdens on CPA firms, particularly small- and medium-size firms. Further, the AICPA questions whether the IRS has adequately examined the costs that would be imposed on tax preparers and American taxpayers.

The IRS has proposed four broad new requirements for paid tax return preparers including: mandatory registration, application of enforceable ethical standards, competency testing and continuing education requirements. At [today’s] hearing, the IRS specifically requested comments about registration and the fees tax preparers will be charged for newly required personal taxpayer identification numbers, or PTINs.

While the AICPA has consistently supported the IRS’s efforts to increase tax compliance and elevate ethical conduct through the adoption of a registration process for paid tax return preparers, the AICPA does not believe other elements of the policy are fully justifiable or necessary, according to Karl.

The AICPA is urging all of its 360,000 members to contact the IRS about the proposed regulations to express opposition to elements of the plan.

Adrienne urges everyone to do the copy and paste thing ASAP and since there’s no mention of the IRS being anti-form letter, then we’d probably say that it’s safe to proceed with the letter with the AICPA’s language.

That being said, that’s a pretty boring approach and if you can muster the passion of either side of the fair value debate, we suggest you write from the heart.

Accountants Still Don’t Have the Warm Fuzzies About the Economy

“Uncertainty about the sustainability of the recovery continues to limit planned investment and hiring.”

~ Professor Mark Lang on the results of the AICPA/University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School survey of CPAs in leadership positions.

The AICPA Goes to Bat for Small Business; Requests Repeal of Expanded 1099 Reporting

In these pages last week, we brought up the expanded 1099 reporting requirements that could possibly bury some small busineocumentation. The question remains, how big is this pile? Will it require a shovel to dig out of the pile of paper or a bulldozer?

Based on the AICPA’s letter to the U.S. Senate that made the rounds yesterday, it will require a team of angry Ohioans – all with their own dozer – to unbury small business owners.


Alan Einhorn, the Chair of the AICPA’s Tax Executive Committee wrote the letter and in extremely tactful terms, expresses his discontent, “[W]e believe section 9006 of the Act should be repealed because the provision imposes extremely burdensome information reporting requirements on business taxpayers that cannot be justified in terms of the limited utility such information reports will provide to government.”

Adrienne boils that down in a less tactful manner, “You don’t have to be a CPA to see why this is a completely moronic idea. What happened to paperwork reduction? I love the use of ‘extremely burdensome’ – as most of you probably know, it’s got to be REALLY annoying to get the accountants to bust out the ‘extremely’ in a complaint.”

She makes a good point. Not to get all English-y on you but the adverb “extremely” doesn’t exactly make it a more effective sentence. Alan was clearly going for exaggeration in order to get his point across that this portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the most useless section of the entire act. And for some of you, that’s really saying something.

AICPA Letter to Congress Supporting Repeal of Expanded 1099 Reporting by Businesses

The AICPA Is Jumping on This Audit Committee Trend

“The audit committee is essentially its organization’s financial conscience. The responsibilities have grown demonstrably, and committee members need appropriate guidance to carry out their essential charge. That’s the AICPA’s goal for its first audit committee forum.”

~ Carol Scott, AICPA vice president for business, industry and government thinks it’s about time we got down to business.

AICPA: CFOs Want More Input from Auditors on IT Matters

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

Certified Public Accountants are increasingly being asked to solve information technology problems for clients and prospective clients, according to a survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

But that raises a potential conflict of interest of the sort that led the Securities and Exchange Commission to keep auditing and IT consulting separate. The pressure for auditors to help provide IT solutions will persist nonetheless, says the AICPA.


“The tide has really turned this year with the economy and increasing regulations,” said Joel Lanz, co-chair of the AICPA’s Technology Initiatives task force in a prepared statement.

“As small and medium-sized companies increasingly place IT under their chief financial officers, it’s becoming much more of a broad scope of responsibility,” added Ron Box, Lanz’s co-chair.

With a renewed focus on IT-related issues, the survey makes clear that CPAs need to be literate about information technology in order to collaborate effectively with clients and their IT partners.

Data security clearly is driving the new interest, and CPAs believe the issue will persist in importance for years, the survey suggests.

The biggest surprise from the survey, Lanz told CFOZone, is the fact that “CPAs are not only providing guidance on financial issues, but there is an expectation by audit committees that CPAs could advise on different IT governance issues. CPAs are now commenting to audit committees about business operations in addition to pure financial issues.”

It’s not that CPAs are expected to be the technology expert, but the expectation is that the CPA is able to provide business insight and IT guidance which then enables their clients to effectively leverage their technology to enhance the businesses value, he added.

Is this simply recreating the problem that led to the separation post-Enron and WorldCom of audit services from consulting, much of which was IT oriented? There’s the potential for a conflict of interest here, and a slippery slope toward bad audits as result. SEC rules specifically say audit firms cannot provide IT consulting services on matters that relate to financial reporting for the same client. And the audit committee must sign off on other types of consulting services.

Lanz concedes that CPAs will have to be careful. “It is a fine line,” said Janis Parthun, senior technical manager – IT, for AICPA, but she added that CPAs can help companies avoid problem here. “Sometimes audit committees do need some education in these areas and this is where they can reach out to CPAs that have some understanding of IT to give the audit committee options to make the right decision.”

Lanz adds says that the AICPA has helped on this front with some recent guidelines. “Recent standards provide CPAs with specific criteria for when they need to communicate with audit committees, as well as the type of communication required,” he said.

A spokesman for the Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment on the trend.

Accounting News Roundup: AICPA vs. IRS on Uncertain Tax Positions; Accountants Involved in Haiti Recovery; Taxing Pot Could Yield $400k for D.C. | 06.02.10

AICPA Protests Disclosures of Uncertain Tax Positions [Web CPA]
The AICPA has come out against the IRS’ uncertain tax positions proposal, saying “it should withdraw its proposed rule that would require companies with more than $10 million in total assets to disclose uncertain tax positions on a new schedule.”

The AICPA is not so hot on the idea of the IRS wading into the financial reporting waters, “We understand that the UTP proposal does not change the underlying rules for financial reporting, but believe overlaying a tax disclosure construct on the financial reporting system introduces a dynamic which could work at cross purposes with the original and fundamental purpose of the financial reporting rules.”


Haitian recovery needs accountants [Accountancy Age]
Nearly five months after the Earthquake in Haiti things are recovering slowly. Financial records for the government and private business have had two considerably different experiences:

[T]he finance ministry’s financial controls and systems are now being restored after its headquarters were destroyed. The World Bank has helped this critical process, placing accounting experts with the ministry.

As for the private sector, Laforest said many companies’ financial systems had survived thanks to accounting software packages, whose data had been uploaded to cloud computing remote data sumps on the internet. But bills, receipts and other paper records vital for making tax returns had been lost where offices collapsed.

And creating proper controls around the donations process has been crucial for organizing those funds. According to one volunteer, “[W]ithout proper controls, the money that you and your friends and your government have given might as well be left in a big bucket in the middle of the market with a sign saying ‘biggest at the front, smallest at the back.’”

Pot could bring in $400K for D.C. [Post Now/WaPo]
The District’s Council is expected to vote on June 15th on a provision that would levy a 6% sales tax on ganj sold there. At an approximate price of $350 an ounce, each bag would yield $21 for DC and would be expected to raise $400k in the next 5 years.

Tweedie replacement must juggle dual roles [Accountancy Age]
The candidates for the IASB chair are dwindling but most people seem to agree that having the role split into “Chair” and “CEO” roles might benefit the Board. “Richard Sexton, head of audit at PwC, suggested the role should be split.” And BDO’s sometime blogger and International CEO Jeremy Newman chimes in, “It’s unrealistic to expect one person to cover both.”

Also, whoever fills the big chair can’t be a über double-entry geek or just a crafty political type to heavy one way or the other. Most think that it needs to be a balance of both, although the preference of which is more important is debatable, including one Deloitte partner’s point of view, “If you don’t understand the accounting, you won’t be able to do the diplomacy around the debate,” versus Grant Thornton, “At this stage in the IASB’s life, we would place political awareness ahead of technical [knowledge] for the chair, but of course the chair must be technically astute.”

In Other Words, The Estate Tax Debate Will Continue to Drag On

“The debate becomes what rate to apply, and there’s the Republican view and the Democratic view, and what level of transfer exemption should be there. There are two different camps on that. I think historically that would be ripe for sort of compromising down the middle, but unfortunately, that’s not the political environment that exists right now.”

~ AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon remains optimistic that something will get done.

Accounting News Roundup: Grant Thornton Moves DC Office; CPAs Are Less Clueless on IFRS; The IRS Wins Twice | 05.25.10

Grant Thornton moves D.C. office [Washington Business Journal]
GT DC is moving from its cushy confines of 19,450-square-feet at 1900 M St. NW to 15,190-square-feet at 1250 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Mary Moore Hamrick, the company’s national managing principal of public policy thinks this move is crucial saying, “Grant Thornton’s public policy group is taking a more proactive role in shaping the dialogue on accounting issues. This move will support the public policy group’s expansion as we seek to do our part in restoring confidence in the capital markets.” Better feng shui probably.


AICPA Survey Shows US CPAs Gaining in Awareness of International Financial Reporting Standards [AICPA Press Release]
CPAs are less clueless on IFRS, sayeth the AICPA:

The latest AICPA tracking survey shows a sustained shift toward greater awareness of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) among U.S. accountants. Nearly half, 47 percent, of CPAs in the survey conducted April 20 to May 7 said that they already have basic knowledge of IFRS, an advancement from 39 percent who had basic knowledge in October 2008. At the same time, there has been a continuing decline in the number of CPAs who say they have no knowledge of IFRS; 16 percent in the latest survey, down from 30 percent in October 2008.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds IRS power in tax case [Reuters]
Those super secret corporate legal documents that discuss contingent liabilities? The IRS may be able to request them whenever they like, as the Supreme Court upheld a First Circuit ruling by denying certiorarit in the case.

In U.S. v. Textron, Inc., the company claimed that such documentation was privileged. The First Circuit disagreed:

[I]n its ruling against Textron, set a new test, under which every party in commercial litigation whose opponents file financial statements with contingent liabilities for litigation will be able to obtain documents detailing such exposure, according to Douglas Stransky, an attorney at Sullivan and Worchester in Boston who represents corporate clients.

“The First Circuit’s decision has eviscerated the work product protection that exists to protect exactly the type of attorney analysis that was present in this case,” he said. “It’s surprising that the Supreme Court did not recognize this.”

Florida Keys inmate pleads guilty in IRS scam [Miami Herald]
Shawn Clarke, an inmate at a Florida prison, pleaded guilty to conspiracy yesterday as the ringleader to a tax fraud scam in which he requested bogus refunds from the IRS in the amount of $115,000. It wasn’t exactly a complicated scam, as the inmates and their family members submitted 1040EZ forms along with Form 4852 to request the refunds, all for around $5,000.

Clarke was convinced that this was the best idea ever, allegedly saying, “I’m through with the street crime. I’m strictly white collar from now on. I love the IRS.” He’s looking at an additional 10 years.

What the AICPA’s New Website Means for CPA Exam Candidates

The short answer: not really anything but I spent 3 years slogging through that last design and can I tell the AICPA that it was absolutely awful? I’m not bitter or anything but I can only imagine what candidates felt like trying to find even the simplest bit of information.


They tell you before you take on the CPA exam to check out cpa-exam.org and run the tutorial before you actually sit down for a section so you can familiarize yourself with the computerized format. CPA Review providers cannot duplicate exam content or the environment exactly, as it is proprietary information, so simulations are a must-do and navigating is a skill you’ll pick up along the way if you don’t already have it. So as long as you’ve already done that, your next stop is the redesigned AICPA website.

Watch a PPT on becoming a CPA, learn about joining the AICPA as a candidate member, or check out their many resources on career options in the accounting industry. You’ve seen Start Here Go Places (an AICPA project that markets the exciting career of accounting to high schoolers and beyond), I don’t need to point you to that.

The AICPA is hot on marketing and excellent at it, even if they do make a poor choice every now and then (Benjamin Bankes, I’m talking about you, dude), so it’s no surprise that they are trying to seduce undecided college students and disgruntled finance professionals looking to switch professions. Things are slightly better in accounting so it isn’t all slick marketing, but I digress.

You can check licensure requirements for your state and even find out how much “average” accountants make. I encourage all of you considering accounting as a career to doublecheck those numbers with Going Concern salary threads.

Anyway.

Overall it’s an improvement and hopefully aggregating this information on the AICPA’s website will make it easier for candidates to find what they need. What do you think?

(Remember also that the ultimate authority on your CPA exam experience is your state board, NASBA, or CPA exam administrating company (like Washington), not the AICPA. Always check with your state board et al. before filing applications or forms if you are unsure on any CPA exam information you read.)

Adrienne Gonzalez is a Going Concern contributor and former CPA wrangler. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

The “Red Flags” Rule is Still Useless for CPAs

In more government bureaucracy news, the FTC is granting a reprieve to CPAs when it comes to a new law that deals with identity theft, one which some CPAs say is useless given professional responsibility.

The new FTC rules requires businesses to “develop and implement written identity theft prevention programs to help identify, detect and respond to patterns, practices or specific activities -– known as ‘red flags’ — that could indicate identity theft.” The problem with that, of course, is that the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct already deals with the issue of identity theft in that there is an iron-clad confidentiality rule by which all CPAs must abide. Seems simple, right?


The US District Court has ordered an FTC delay of the rule for AICPA members in public practice, says the Maryland Association of CPAs. Barry Melancon, AICPA President said in 2009 when the AICPA filed a lawsuit against the FTC, “We do not believe that there is any reasonably foreseeable risk of identity theft when CPA clients are billed for services rendered. As trusted advisors, CPAs are personally acquainted with their clients and already adhere to strict privacy requirements governing identifying information.”

Don’t take it personal, Barry, the FTC is just trying to do its job, even if that means overreaching its authority and attempting to place restrictions on professionals who already go above and beyond the intent of the FTC on a daily basis.

In the meantime – and just in case the rule cannot be delayed indefinitely (as is, implementation has been put off until June 1, 2010) – the AICPA has some guidance for CPAs on creating an identity theft prevention program. Keep in mind the new requirements, if implemented, only affect CPAs who bill their clients on a monthly or revolving basis as it is meant to place additional controls in client billing.

The American Bar Association is also fighting the rule.

Another ‘Red Flags’ delay: CPAs get 90 more days [CPA Success]

Accounting News Roundup: Improving the External Audit; Another Accounting Firm Bolts Greensboro, NC; AICPA Opposes Nonsigning Tax Preparer Rule | 04.27.10

Weighing the Worth of an External Audit [Compliance Week]
Does the external audit still have value? Some people have questioned that notion. Despite that grave assessment, there are still many that believe that the external audit has value. However, most have no illusions about the challenges before the profession.

Colleen Cunningham has a post up at Compliance Week with her thoughts:

[W]e need a fundamental shift away from the rules and complex accounting standards we currently use in the United States. The move to International Financial Reporting Standards would certainly help. IFRS is based more on principles and concepts, and while some people worry that these are “lesser” standards than U.S. GAAP, I believe that we will see more transparency about choices, options, and assumptions through enhanced disclosure under IFRS…

Perhaps the audit opinion should be less boilerplate to allow the auditors to provide more information and commentary. This could add needed transparency. Unfortunately, the litigious environment in which we operate would make this a risky proposition.

We like these ideas but more information and commentary would mean…more professional judgment! Hopefully the PCAOB would be okay with that idea because the trend seems to be that auditors can’t be trusted to do their jobs.

Dixon Hughes will close GSO site, shift staff to H.P. [Triad Business Journal]
Dixon Hughes is the latest firm to pull up the stakes in Greensboro, North Carolina. What is going on down there?

Jones Soda Announces Change of External Audit Firm [Market Wire]
Organic soda company drops Deloitte. Peterson Sullivan will take it from here.

AICPA Submits Comment Letter on IRS PTIN Proposal [Journal of Accountancy]
The AICAP submitted a letter to the IRS re: the proposed reg that would, among other things, require Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTIN) for tax professionals that don’t sign the returns. T

he AICPA isn’t so thrilled with this idea, and the JofA reports some of their thoughts, “(1) a successful implementation of registration and use of PTINs, along with the imposition of Circular 230 on all preparers should be sufficient to address unethical and/or incompetent tax return preparation and provide tremendous gains to tax administration in general; (2) it may cause confusion among taxpayers about the relative qualifications of tax return preparers; and (3) the additional burdens to the tax preparers and pass through of these costs to the taxpaying public should be considered.”

Quote of the Day: Dear Abby Should Not Be Giving Advice About Taxes | 04.14.10

Dear Ms. Van Buren:

Your response to “Phobic” about her boyfriend’s tax returns contained a significant error. You characterized enrolled agents as “the only tax specialists licensed to practice before the IRS,” which is not true. The fact is, certified public accountants and attorneys are federally authorized to represent clients before the IRS.


The CPA has long been synonymous with reliable, objective tax preparation and ranks as the preferred tax professional among millions of U.S. taxpayers.

On behalf of the many CPAs who prepare tax returns every year, we would be appreciative if you would print a correction in your column.

~ Tom Ochsenschlager, Vice President – Taxation American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, in response to this.

So You Want to Be a Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting is about as sexy as it gets these days for boutique accounting services. For starters, there’s no shortage of work. And even if you’re too inexperienced to start up your own firm, you might be able to cut your teeth at a Big 4 forensic practice or since the SEC seems to getting serious about doing its job, you could go that route.

Hell, even if you’re currently on the other side of this equation (i.e. the perp) it seems to have worked out for at least a couple people, namely Barry Minkow and Sam Ae–>
The AICPA sees the potential and is on the offensive, offering a
“Certified in Financial Forensics” credential starting in 2008 after demand for such a cred came from its members.

The Institute recently published Characteristics and Skills of the Forensic Accountant, a survey of attorneys, forensic CPAs and academics that presents their “views on the qualities they believed were essential in a forensic accountant.”

Surprisingly, the three groups managed to agree on the most important trait, “All three groups surveyed overwhelmingly cited analytical ability as the most essential characteristic of a forensic accountant: 78 percent of attorneys, 86 percent of CPAs and 90 percent of academics.”

And that’s where the agreement ends:

Attorneys believed oral communications to be the most important skill, reflecting the need to express an opinion effectively in a court of law. CPAs, on the other hand, identified critical and strategic thinking as most important, with written and oral communications as second and third, respectively. The academics agreed with the CPAs that critical and strategic thinking was the prime skill, but, interestingly, rated auditing skills and investigative ability as second and third.

Hard to believe this differing opinions here. Lawyers prefer blabbing? Accountants prefer keeping their heads down and academics take it to an even brainier level? Shock.

We shot a message over to Tracy Coenen, friend of GC, forensic accountant for her thoughts and she notes that all these people surveyed are missing something important – intuition:

I think what they’re missing is investigative intuition. It’s common for people to think that a good auditor makes a good forensic accountant, and that’s simply not the case. Some people have a gift for thinking outside the box and can get a gut feel for what’s wrong. Others only have a gift for reconciling numbers and using checklists. The survey addressed investigative intuition, but it didn’t even make it into the top five of core skills. I think that’s wrong on many levels.

We’d have to agree that there is something to be said for raw talent. You can try and teach someone the necessary skills but if they don’t have that sleuth mentality, forensics probably won’t be a natural fit. Sam Antar agrees, and he laid out his own crucial characteristics for us:

The AICPA likes to talk about the skills of an effective forensic accountant, but it ignores the important personality traits required for them to be successful:

• An effective forensic accountant must have a pair of double iron clad balls and a triple thick skin. Prospective forensic accountants can count on making many enemies in the course of their work and must be unhinged by the retaliation that normally follows uncovering fraud and other misconduct.

• The saying, “It takes one to know one” applies to being an effective forensic accountant. If a forensic accountant is not a convicted felon (like me), there must be at least some degree of larceny wired into their personalities. Effective forensic accountants must at least think like a scumbag to understand criminal behavior, techniques, and countermeasures.

• “Critical and strategic thinking” are relatively ineffective unless the forensic accountant exercises “professional paranoia” in the conduct of their work. Effective forensic accountants must be born cynics and skeptics and never accept any information at face value. A healthy degree of paranoia helps.

Without the personality traits enumerated above, no amount of education can help a person be an effective forensic accountant.

Regardless of the differing opinions, the AICPA wants more people getting into forensics and we think that’s a good thing. However, since the chances of a CSI: Bean Counter are nil, more traditional recruitment measures have to be employed.

AICPA Report Educates CPA Firms, Professors on Forensic Accounting [AICPA Press Release]
AICPA Forensic and Valuation Services Center [Website]

Doug Shulman Takes It as a Compliment That the IRS Is the ‘Go-to’ Government Agency

If you’re a member of the AICPA the biggest benefit you enjoy is not the prestige, not the certificate that you have mounted on your wall but the Journal of Accountancy that shows up in your mail every month. It’s really solid that your firm shells out good money on an annual basis so you can add new Excel tips to your spreadsheet wizard repertoire.

JofA manages to talk to a number of high profile as well, which you would expect from a behemoth professional journal. Case in point, when we received the latest month’s issue we couldn’t help but get a little giddy seeing Doug “Help me, help you” Shulman. We flipped to the Q&A immediately after seeing his handsome mug on the cover only to find the Commish’s picture at right. It makes us think that he’s channeling Monty Burns, which some of you probably find appropriate.


The Q&A is pretty much what you would expect, touching on the new preparer regulations, “We ran a very open, transparent, public dialogue about this,” to threatening offshore tax scofflaws, “The U.S. government is getting very serious about rooting out offshore tax evasion,” and warning whistleblowers not to expect that money any time soon, “[T]his could take multiple years to get the awards out. But I’m a big fan of the program.”

A couple of more interesting statements, include how excited Dougie is that all the assignments that other government agencies don’t want, get dumped on the service, “it’s…a big compliment that we’re seen as a ‘go-to’ agency in government.”

That being said, this particular interview was certainly conducted prior to the passage of the healthcare reform bill and no mention of the IRS’ role in enforcement (or lack thereof) was brought up. Maybe if the JofA had seen the Bill O’Reilly/Anthony Weiner throwndown it would have been a stop the presses moment.

The only other thing worth noting is that pizza parlors around the country might want to tighten up the ship in the coming months, “We will build features into our technology system so if we see, say, a pizza parlor that says they had $90,000 of sales last year and it shows that they had $85,000 of credit card sales and we know that pizzerias have a lot of cash sales, that will be a red flag. We’ll use it to better target our audits, to see where there’s potential noncompliance, and then we’ll use it to better focus our resources.”

Maybe the Commish is just giving an example of what a red flag is but using this particular example rather than say, a celebrity, seem peculiar. Just leave Di Fara alone, okay?

Tax From the Top: Q&A With IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman [Journal of Accountancy]

AICPA Pushing Members, Small Business to Adopt More Cloud Solutions

The AICPA is in the cloud and wants you to join them, accounting industry. Being a preferred financial application for the AICPA can pay off so before you start ripping on accountants remember they (and especially their clients) have a metric shit ton of money.

The technology push came quite some time ago (XBRL anyone?) and CPAs are generally on top of it. You can’t get them to blog (Tracy Coenen can tell you more about that) but you can definitely get them worked into a lather over something that will make their lives easier.


Intacct is learning what being on the AICPA’s good side can do for one’s business.

CFO.com:

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is pushing to accelerate adoption of cloud solutions among its 350,000 members, focusing especially on small and midmarket companies as well as CPA firms. The AICPA’s first official endorsement of a cloud vendor, payroll solutions provider Paychex, came several years ago. But the institute has rolled out more such partnerships with increasing frequency, including with bill.com for invoice management and payment in 2008, financial management and accounting software maker Intacct a year ago, and tax-automation supplier Copanion at year-end 2009.

Intacct president and CEO Mike Braun was beside himself when the AICPA began pushing his product, acknowledging that an endorsement from them meant unprecedented reach in the industry. Awesome, the AICPA has finally joined with technology instead of fearing it. How dare I make broad generalizations about the AICPA’s conduct over the past few years?

A previous example of the AICPA’s tech phobia: It only took them 6 years to figure out what to do with BEC on the computerized CPA exam and they still aren’t sure how to treat it. No one is bitter but it’s a tad disturbing that CPAs were taking a professional licensure exam with paper and pencil up until 2003. They’ve had all this time to assemble BEC into something that isn’t the CPA exam’s junk drawer but still can’t manage to cobble together a storyline for the section.

One can only hope that the cloud can get the AICPA BoE to have an epiphany on that point. In the meantime, this is one hell of an endorsement so good for technology but even more credit is due to the AICPA for getting with 2008.

Then again, you have guys like GNU founder Richard Stallman and Oracle’s Larry Ellison who say cloud computing is “complete gibberish” and nothing but a slick marketing campaign for pricey third-party software. “Somebody is saying this is inevitable – and whenever you hear somebody saying that, it’s very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true,” Stallman told UK’s Guardian. Wait. Are you telling me the AICPA would engage in such shifty behavior just to make a few bucks?!

Nahhhhhh.

Are Too Many People Passing the CPA Exam?

The AICPA recently announced that it would be re-evaluating the CPA exam scoring process and we’ve been wildly speculating awhile as to what that might actually mean. Staying true to the doom and gloom, yours truly immediately thought the AICPA Board of Examiners was convinced you kids would bomb FAR horribly in Q1 and 2 of 2011 with the addition of IFRS and they were just preparing for that.

Upon further reflection, maybe the exam is too easy. Maybe requirements to sit are not strict enough (even though we’re down to 4 states that allow you to sit with 120 units last I checked). Maybe the job market is worse than anyone wants to admit — now wait a minute, what does that have to do with it?


There isn’t raw data that tells us how many would-be CPAs we have on our hands who have passed all four parts of the CPA exam but still can’t get a job, at least none I’ve seen. I’ve spoken to these people and it doesn’t seem to be getting better in the aggregate.

I believe the BLS numbers somewhat concur with this conclusion, if you can believe them. (CPA Trendlines has them)

I hear you guys bitching about it all the time. If you’re still employed and trying to take the CPA exam, you get the extra special designation of ultra-masochist but it’s not you guys the AICPA BoE is worried about, it’s the bottleneck of people who’ve passed the CPA exam trying to squeeze in 2 years in public to get a license.

Case in point, a friend of mine here in the great (broke) state of California decided to take on the CPA exam a tad later in life than some of you. We won’t hate on her for that. She worked her ass off and eventually got through it. She’s a leader of a prestigious accounting society in her community and has the credentials a lot of the kids coming out of school don’t. She can’t find a job. She’s tried every firm in town large and small as well as the surrounding area. I’ve scouted the Bay Area and can’t find anything for her either.

She’d stay more than 2 years and be more than a body filling the chair but they don’t even have a chair for her.

She’s not the only one. So maybe the AICPA BoE caught on and is going to try to change that. They can’t create the jobs so what do you think they’ll do?

Oh, and if anyone has a lead on a public accounting gig in the top half of California for my qualified little friend here, do get in touch.

Three Ways the CPA Exam Could Change in the Near Future

If you’ve been trying to pass BEC since the CPA exam went computerized in 2004 (you can laugh all you want, I know a few people…), rejoice! The AICPA, NASBA, and Prometric have committed to another 10 year contract to administer and oversee the computerized CPA exam in 55 US jurisdictions.

“This 10-year extension of the exam contract from 2014 to 2024 continues the close and highly successful collaboration of the three organizations in the delivery of the computer-based examination for the past six years,” said Barry Melancon, AICPA president and CEO. “The CPA exam is the gateway to the accounting profession and under this arrangement we have seen the exam improve and grow. About 93,000 candidates took the examination in 2009 – a record.”

Now we imagine it must have been editorial privilege to leave out the actual passrates of those 93,000 2009 CPA exam candidates and we’ll not wildly speculate that the record is a direct result of threats that the exam will be jam-packed with IFRS come 2011.

What will the CPA exam of 2024 look like? Obviously no one knows but looking at the evolution of exam content since 2004, we can take a stab at guessing.

BEC will be a big priority – As we move from two simulations in FAR, AUD, and REG to 6 “simlets” (smaller, unrelated simulation problems) with communications being moved to BEC, I imagine it will be a big priority for the AICPA. It’s been notoriously “random” and filled with the bits and pieces that the AICPA couldn’t seem to make relevant in other CPA exam sections; the junk drawer of the exam, as it were.

IFRS – A lot is riding on implementation of IFRS questions (anyone volunteered to write those yet? I think the AICPA is still patiently waiting for help).

Scoring discussions planned after the first two quarters of 2011 – In other words: if you guys do well, the AICPA might leave it alone. Bomb and they might have to consider grading on a curve, invalidating that whole psychometric testing thing they’ve got going now.

Good luck with that. Really.

CPA Examination Contract Renewed in the U.S. Through 2024 [Press Release]

Most Aren’t Ready for IFRS on the CPA Exam

Last year, the AICPA Board of Examiners made it clear that though a roadmap for IFRS adoption in US financial reporting might be a ways off, it intended to start testing IFRS in Financial Accounting and Reporting (mostly, we’ll get to that in a second) in the first window of 2011. Just a friendly reminder, that’s only three testing windows away.

But what gives? According to the 2009 KPMG-AAA Faculty Survey, only 8% of respondents felt as though at least half of their accounting faculty were qualified to teach IFRS. Meanwhile, 70% of professors said their most significant challenge to teaching IFRS was finding room for it in the curriculum.

As far as I am aware, State Boards of Accountancy have not shown a desire to require IFRS coursework to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam at this time.

The Big 87654 committed to pushing IFRS in college classrooms as early as May of 2008 (months before the SEC announced an IFRS adoption roadmap) and they are still tossing millions at the initiative.


In December of 2008, The Summa’s Professor Albrecht insisted that the Big 87654 had certainly chosen the right candidate, lobbying Obama to accomplish their IFRS goals. Why? “Obscene profits,” he says, pointing to campaign contributions and Obama’s subsequent pro-IFRS SEC Chair pick as signs that IFRS doomsday is upon us. A little over a year later, the SEC appears too busy chasing “crime” and playing catch up to issue a clear directive on IFRS in the US.

So? How can the AICPA BoE insist on testing information that A) accounting students still aren’t being taught and B) isn’t widely understood or practiced by most CPAs in the US?

I certainly get what the AICPA is trying to do and if nothing else, they probably want to show off that their awesome psychometric CPA exam technology is OMGamazing! and ready to adapt in a timely and efficient manner. But pushing IFRS on unsuspecting CPA exam candidates isn’t really the way to demonstrate that.

Is it just a coincidence that now the AICPA is prepared to reevaluate their scoring process after the first two testing windows of 2011? Even they know this is an awful idea.

Review Comments | 12.08.09

Allyson_Baumeister.jpgAllyson Baumeister Elected to Board of Directors, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants – The best perk of such a position would be the opportunity to rub elbows with Ben Bankes. [Sanford Baumeister & Frazier Press Release]
Audit Committee Comp Influences Auditor Support – “The study found that audit committee members are more likely to support the auditor, as opposed to management, in an accounting disagreement when audit committee compensation includes long-term stock options.” [Web CPA]
The Mid-Quarter Trap – More year-end wisdom from Joe Kristan. [Tax Update Blog]
GM board moving fast on CEO, CFO hires – Spencer Stuart is on the hunt if you’re interested… [Reuters]
G.M. Will Consider Lump Sum Payment to U.S. – …but you’ll have to deal with this. [DealBook]

Caption Contest Poll: Feed the Pig

ben bankes at the NYC marathon.jpg No doubt Benny Bankes will continue his endeavor to convince everyone in America to start saving money rather than blowing it on Naughtibods. In the meantime, vote on your favorite caption after the jump. The poll closes at 11:59 EST tomorrow night.

Caption Contest Reminder: We’re Feeding the Pig, Just Quit Freaking Us Out

ben bankes at the NYC marathon.jpgIf Orwell had written an allegory of capitalism, we’re sure his vision would have included Benjamin Bankes.
Jump over the original post to leave your caption for Ben’s appearance at the New York City Marathon. We’ll take submissions through the end of the day tomorrow.

Caption Contest Friday: The AICPA Will Convince You to Save Money By Freaking You Out

We don’t know who the hell the AICPA has working in the marketing department but they need to get in touch. We have some questions.
Below is Benjamin Bankes at the New York City Marathon. If you’re not familiar with Ben, he is the spokesswine for the AICPA’s “Feed the Pig” campaign.
We’ve presented three photos for your caption suggestions. See the rest after the jump.
ben bankes at the NYC marathon.jpg


Ben Bankes2.jpg
ben3.jpg
Rules are the same: Submit possible captions for all the photos in the comments. We’ll choose our favorites — with preference given to those with an accounting bent — and then let you vote for the best one.

Would You Like Another Certificate on Your Wall?

Thumbnail image for MelanconBCROP2.jpgWe knew it. Lucky for you, there will be a brand spanking new certificate come May of 2010:

Because members will need to be able to demonstrate a competency in IFRS, the AICPA plans to launch in May 2010 an IFRS Certificate of Accomplishment for CPAs, which will require 72 hours of content to complete.

AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon* is acutely aware of your disdain for paint and wallpaper so this latest certificate should fit in nicely with the myriad of other certificates on the wall of your office.
You’re certainly not ashamed of your handsomely framed “[Name] Has Successfully Completed Auditing Cash – 2004” certificate so an IFRS Certificate of Accomplishment will look damn good up there.
Melancon: Issues Facing CPAs Include Globalization, Economic Recovery [Journal of Accountancy]
*Two things: 1) How long has this guy been the HFMIC at the AICPA? Is it a lifetime appointment like the SCOTUS? and 2) How do you think he gets his hair to do that?

Your AICPA Dues at Work

stephen-colbert.jpgWe know you’re all worried about the financial regulation overhaul because it may just make your lives more of a living hell. PCAOB, IRS, state accountancy boards, etc. are bad enough but no, we could all be looking at more alphabet soup (in this case the Consumer Financial Protection Agency) in the name of political grandstanding.
Fear not. The bastions of accountant lobbying, the AICPA, is all over this like Barry Salzberg at a Rogaine convention.
Continued, after the jump

[AICPA Chairman, Bob] Harris argued that the proposed legislation creating the agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Act, was overly broad.
“The definition of ‘financial activity’ in the bill is so broad as to include many services that CPAs routinely provide to their clients in accordance with a very strict regulatory and oversight regime,” he said. “The bill would result in redundant regulation of CPAs and CPA firms that are already subject to appropriate and significant oversight by the IRS, Treasury, state boards of accountancy, and professional and ethical standards for the AICPA’s members.”

Sweet Jesus, Bob. We actually agree with you on this. The situation sounds oddly similar to the situation the brain trust in DC is trying to fix now. Too many regulators let the sketchy stuff fall between the cracks and now we’re in economic no man’s land. Add more
Who knew that there was common sense being shoveled around in the halls of Congress? The problem is, we’re certain the amount of bullshit being shoveled outweighs the common sense by an exponential margin.
AICPA Wants CPAs Exempted from Consumer Agency [Web CPA]

Talking Pigs Are Obviously More Effective Than Humans in Communicating the Importance of Saving Money

feed-the-pig2.jpgThe AICPA has been running the “Feed the Pig” campaign for some time and, until now, we’ve neglected to tell you how freaked out we are by a talking pig in a suit.
It what appears to be some kind of capitalist version of one of the pigs from Animal Farm, the AICPA has decided that getting through to the American People will take a very serious and well thought strategy. So obviously the strategy ended up being a well dressed and articulate pig.
More advertising genius, after the jump


When you think about it, this is most certainly the best approach, regardless of the biological manufacturing debate. A message from a human in a suit will obviously not appeal to anyone and a non-talking piggy bank will not get the point across clearly enough. Talking horses are nothing new and the thought of talking chickens was just too ridiculous.
So talking pigs it is. However, If we were the AICPA, we’d be a little concerned about spread of the H1N1 which could inadvertently confuse some into thinking that if you save money you will end up with swine flu.
If you’ve got your own ideas about how best to communicate to the masses in this campaign, submit them in the comments.