AICPA and NASBA consider changes in CPA licensure

The American Institute of CPAs and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy have set up a working group to explore possible changes in how CPAs are licensed and the kinds of skills needed for the license, as more CPA firms look for advanced technology skills like data analytics.

AICPA building in Durham, N.C.

The changes could include testing for such skills on the Uniform CPA Exam as technology proficiency becomes a more desirable trait and firms expand their hiring of candidates with strong technology skills.

The AICPA and NASBA held the second meeting Thursday of the CPA Evolution Working Group, which includes representatives from state boards of accountancy, state CPA societies, CPA firms of various sizes from across the U.S., accounting academia, and NASBA and AICPA volunteer committees. The group has the goal of advising NASBA and the AICPA on actions to position the accounting profession for the future while continuing to protect the public interest.

“Technological innovation and changing client demands are rapidly transforming the skills accountants need to thrive,” stated Working Group chair Cathy Allen, a managing member of Audit Conduct LLC and a member of NASBA’s board of directors. “We want to reimagine the CPA learning and licensure approach. Working Group members recognize the critical role of technological and data analysis expertise needed in firms and businesses today. Our goal is to recommend a strategy that provides the guiding principles for how to build related knowledge and skills into accounting curricula and how to test for those proficiencies on the CPA Exam.”

Over the past year, the AICPA, NASBA, and some of their constituents have talked about some possible alternatives to the current licensing model for CPAs and elicited some initial feedback. One of the main themes they have heard is support for ways to evolve the approach to licensing CPAs.

“We really value the early engagement we’ve seen from the profession’s key stakeholders,” said AICPA executive vice president for public practice Susan S. Coffey in a statement. “Based on what we’ve heard, there is no question that the profession is ready to take action to capitalize on the opportunities that technology presents to us. That includes an evolution in our approach to licensure that embraces the changes and continues our public protection mandate. I’m looking forward to the Working Group’s recommendations and engaging with the profession and our key stakeholders throughout 2019.”

The Working Group plans to meet again this winter, and produce recommendations on a way forward for the licensing model that they intend to share with state boards of accountancy, state CPA societies, CPAs and other constituents in 2019.

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