The American Institute of CPAs has begun offering intermediate and advanced certificates to CPAs who perform “single audits” of governmental entities and grantees and audits of employee benefit plans.

The learning program and certificate exam aims to help auditors improve and demonstrate their competency and quality when conducting such engagements and are the latest part of the AICPA’s Enhancing Audit Quality initiative.

The Department of Labor issued a critical report last year criticizing the quality of employee benefit plan audits by CPAs, and the AICPA has pledged to fix the problem (see AICPA Pushes for Auditing and Assurance Changes). The Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration found serious deficiencies in 39 percent of the audits of employee benefit plans that it examined.

The AICPA’s new single audit certificate programs will offer intermediate- and advanced-level certificates: Intermediate Single Audit Certificate and Advanced Single Audit Certificate.

The AICPA’s employee benefit plans audit certificate programs will include one intermediate- and three advanced–level certificates: Intermediate Employee Benefit Plans Audit Certificate; Advanced Defined Contribution Plans Audit Certificate; Advanced Defined Benefit Plans Audit Certificate; and Advanced Health and Welfare Plans Audit Certificate.

“The launch of these programs helps fulfill the AICPA’s goal of helping auditors of governmental entities and grantees and employee benefit plan auditors improve audit quality by demonstrating their capability and competence,” said AICPA senior vice president for public practice and global alliances Susan Coffey in a statement. “Nearly 80 percent of auditors who took part in a recent AICPA webinar poll expressed interest in a benefit plan audit certificate program. And we believe the certificate programs will generate the same level of enthusiasm among CPAs who are single audit specialists.”

To earn each certificate, professionals will need to pass a competency-based exam. They can enter the program at either the intermediate or advanced level. The AICPA said there is no requirement to sit for the intermediate certificate exams prior to taking an advanced certificate exam. CPAs will be able to select a program for different levels of competency.

The Institute will provide digital badges to visually show the certificate holder’s achievement, demonstrating a commitment to quality and communicating the professional’s knowledge and expertise for clients and peers to see.

The programs are based on the AICPA Competency Framework: Governmental Auditing and the AICPA Competency Framework: Employee Benefit Plan Auditing with a focus on common quality issues in audit practice. To determine which certificate level is appropriate, professionals can review the frameworks to self-assess or take sample exam questions from each level on the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning site.

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