As the chief executives of four state CPA societies from different regions of the country, we have seen firsthand the positive impact that has been made on the issue of improving mobility for qualified CPAs to practice across state lines without notification or additional fees.We also know that the significant progress on improving mobility over the past two years did not happen by chance. Rather, it has been due to the hard work and energy of countless CPA volunteer leaders and staff within state CPA societies, state boards of accountancy, the American Institute of CPAs and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. The success on this important issue for the profession has clearly been a team effort and is a dramatic example of the progress that can be made when the profession harnesses its collective efforts and resources to focus on achieving a common goal.
Less than two years ago, the state CPA society executives convened a meeting in Chicago to focus on the issue of improving mobility for our members. Our interest in the issue was driven by events that had transpired over the preceding years in a number of states that demonstrated the need to minimize, if not eliminate, barriers to the ability of CPAs to easily practice across state lines.
Since that meeting in the fall of 2006, we are happy to report that 27 states, including our own, have adopted some type of legislation or regulations that permit CPAs to practice in other states using the license from their home state of licensure, without the need to register or pay additional fees. Three states are still awaiting governors’ signatures on legislation passed, and one state, Georgia, has a limited mobility provision that is only available to CPAs from states that also provide for mobility. (See the map on page 8 for details.) CPAs who utilize this “practice privilege” under the mobility concept are subject to the laws and rules of the state they enter (physically or virtually), and they are subject to the disciplinary authority of the state board of accountancy in that state.
As we write this article, a number of other states also have mobility bills being considered in their legislatures that will likely add to this list of successful states. We are hopeful that by the end of this year’s legislative season, 30 states, or well over half, will have enacted meaningful mobility legislation.
This is truly an incredible success rate on an issue of this nature. To put the results of the CPA profession’s effort in perspective, one need only look at another profession that has also been working on the same issue for their members: registered nurses. In 1998, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing approved a policy goal relating to mutual recognition, which included the goal of removing state regulatory barriers to increase access to safe nursing care. Between 1998 and 2007, 22 states enacted nurse compact legislation/regulation, with only 19 being eligible, as two states adopted incompatible language under the compact. Thus, over roughly 10 years, the nurses have succeeded in implementing in 20 states, just three of which were in the past two years. By comparison, the CPA profession can rightfully be proud of the progress it has been able to achieve on its own mobility issue over the past few years. While the nursing profession’s solution to the challenge of enabling cross-border practice appears to have stalled, the CPA profession has momentum that is continuing to grow.
We certainly aren’t implying that the CPA profession can now rest on its laurels. There is much work ahead, and our achievements are only a beginning. True success on the mobility issue will not be realized until all 50 states have implemented mobility language in their state accountancy statutes and regulations. We encourage readers to take a personal interest in mobility. If your state society is not currently working on the issue, encourage them to do so. If they are working on it, find out how you can help.
For us, the issue of mobility has tested our normal way of doing business and our historical relationships with other states. As state entities, we typically look inward and only take action on issues that affect our respective members. We work on those matters within the structures — political and otherwise — within our state borders. We think and act locally.
That traditional thought framework doesn’t work when it comes to mobility. Instead, we are challenged to change our paradigm of thinking. With the issue of mobility, our members are affected by what transpires in other states, and we cannot effectively serve our members solely through activity within our respective state borders. Success on mobility is dependent on all states doing their part. We must “think globally and act locally” if we are to achieve the final result that will best meet the needs of our members and the public they serve.
It’s good to pause and reflect on the success we have had in achieving cross-border mobility over the past few years. Many individuals in many states are responsible for the progress to date, and we thank them all for their hard work, global thinking and perseverance.
At the same time, we must redouble our efforts to finish the task. Our race is not over. We have not yet reached the finish line of mobility success. With the momentum we have achieved thus far, however, we are confident that we will get there. The reality of coast-to-coast adoption is now in sight, and we must make that final push to reach it. With a continued spirit of cooperation and effort on the part of all licensing boards, state societies and their members, we are confident that we will.
Tom Hood is chief executive officer of the Maryland Association of CPAs; Rich Jones is CEO of the Washington Society of CPAs; Clarke Price is CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs; and John Sharbaugh is CEO of the Texas Society of CPAs.
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