The American Institute of CPAs is mulling the idea of internationalizing the CPA designation.During its recent Fall Meeting of Council and Members, held here, Leslie Murphy, co-chair of the AICPA/National Association of State Boards of Accountancy Joint Committee on the International Administration of the CPA Examination, and Arleen Thomas, senior vice president of member competency and development at the AICPA, presented a proposal asking Council members to consider offering the U.S. CPA Exam to international markets and issuing a non-audit CPA designation for use outside the U.S.

An international CPA title would require the same criteria and ongoing professional commitments as are required for domestic CPAs.

"The U.S. CPA should be one of the premier international licenses or designations," said Thomas. She noted that about 10 percent of CPA Exam volume comes from international candidates, and that approximately 7,000 individuals come to the U.S. or its territories each year to take the exam.

Most of those who receive the designation would not be working at accounting firms. "These candidates typically work in business and industry, do not perform audit or attest work, and never plan to do so," according to the proposal. "For them, a U.S. state-based CPA license is unnecessary. Passing the exam is valuable to them, however, because their employers value the accomplishment."

The proposed model would follow the current state model. NASBA and the AICPA might also jointly issue and administer a non-audit CPA designation, but the name of the designation is still under discussion. The committee proposed that the name build on the value of the CPA designation, but should not be confused with state licenses. The new designation should also be attractive to international candidates, but not attractive to domestic professionals.

Murphy said that the committee has considered that local professional organizations in other countries may object. In addition, there may be issues with test security in other countries, and there may be risks such as marketing costs. The weak economy may also be an obstacle.

The AICPA wants to be able to extend the reach of CPAs abroad. "The goal is to position the U.S. CPA to be one of the influential international designations," said Craig Mills, executive director of the AICPA's examinations team. Once someone from outside the U.S. passes a state CPA Exam, they could apply for a license and practice here, or receive an "acknowledgement of accomplishment," according to Mills. "If they apply for a license, they would have to go through the process like anyone in the U.S."

If they opt for the acknowledgement, they would need to submit proof that they have met the requirements of the Uniform Accountancy Act. They would then agree to a code of conduct, as well as to participate in disciplinary action (if necessary), and to keep up with continuing education requirements.

Those who only received an acknowledgement would not be able to do audit or attest work and they could not use the CPA designation in the U.S.

The committee expects to present a business plan for approval by NASBA and the AICPA in December or January of next year, with the goal of launching the program in January 2010.

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