The AICPA is a very complicated and unique entity that continues to amaze me. In large part, it is because of the many roles that it performs with regard to the CPA profession and the significant impact it has on individual CPAs, firms, and companies.

My first significant contacts with the AICPA involved covering a number of failed initiatives. That probably colored my and others’ perception of the Institute for a while. Fast forward many years later, and confirmed further from what I recently observed at the AICPA Spring Council meeting, I believe the AICPA has significantly transformed itself. It is now tackling issues of more immediate relevance to its membership, and its initiatives are more varied and vetted better to obtain great feedback at the initial developmental stages. 

I still freely criticize the AICPA and feel an obligation to do so because of the position it holds, but I also find that I am complementing it more. A recent criticism was the AICPA's Professional Ethics Executive Committee's exposure draft proposing a new Interpretation 101-17, Networks and Network Firms, under Rule 101, Independence, of the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct.  I contrast that with the Reliability Task Force which concludes in the context of small businesses’ financial statements that a user would rather use financial statements in which an external CPA performed nonattest services or procedures for their clients that improve the reliability or accuracy of the statement even if such services impair independence. With the Reliability Task Force, there seems to be a greater desire and effort at getting feedback from all of interested parties even before an exposure draft is issued.

Although I have noticed a change in how AICPA is operating, I’m not noticing changes in how many practitioners deal with the AICPA. A significant number remain actively involved working directly with AICPA on various initiatives, task forces, committees, sections, and centers, while others seem to continue to have very limited membership contact.

I wonder if some of those practitioners who limit their contact and interaction do so because they still have a bad taste in their mouths from those earlier failed initiatives. Looking back, I have begun to believe that those failed initiatives served a very valuable service, providing valuable lessons which the AICPA leadership applied.


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