CPAs continue fight against opening ABV credential to non-CPAs

A group of CPAs is stepping up its efforts to force the American Institute of CPAs to change its decision about opening the Accredited in Business Valuation credential to non-CPAs.

AICPA building in Durham, N.C.

The AICPA Council voted in May to allow non-CPAs to qualify for the credential, but the move provoked an open letter in June from 32 CPAs and ABV holders protesting the move, arguing it would confuse the public and harm the reputation of the current credential holders (see CPAs object to AICPA offering ABV credential to non-CPAs). They sent a follow-up email to the AICPA disputing the Institute’s response in a letter of its own and in a webinar.

“The AICPA then published a letter arguing that it followed its process in making the change and presented a timeline of events supporting their process,” said the group. “However, the AICPA made factual errors in the process timeline and, further, it has since changed the timeline several times in an attempt to correct these errors; however, the current version of the AICPA timeline is still incorrect. On July 16, 2018, the AICPA presented a national webinar to the CPA/ABV community (without including any of the signers of the Open Letter) to discuss (after the fact) why it made the change and the purported benefits. However, during this webinar, the AICPA publicly acknowledged that: 1) its process for seeking the change in the credential was flawed and, 2) the published timeline included errors.”

They also pointed to a survey by the business valuation trade publication BVWire of 1,406 of the 3,200 joint CPA/ABV holders that found 94 percent of them voted no when asked if they were in favor of changing the criteria to admit non-CPAs.

The AICPA continues to insist that the change is needed. “With the explosive growth of intangible assets on corporate financial statements has come an increasing demand for valuation services and the need for additional valuation professionals who would be held to the standard of excellence as established by the CPA profession,” said a statement from the AICPA sent to Accounting Today. “So, with careful consideration and approval from AICPA Council, the AICPA decided to extend eligibility for the ABV credential to qualified professionals who meet the high professional and educational standards, have the extensive requisite valuation experience, who pass the rigorous exam, adhere to the AICPA code of conduct and fulfill annual continuing education requirements. This will not only help maintain the high professional and valuation standards established by the AICPA, but it will help elevate the entire valuation profession. The CPA is a great foundation for the ABV credential, but we also recognize that many highly qualified accountants/finance professionals do not to pursue the CPA license. CPA/ABVs will continue to be differentiated by their CPA license, which is recognized for integrity and objectivity. Throughout this long process, the AICPA’s guiding principle has been to increase the quality of valuations to better protect the public interest through increased clarity, consistency and transparency.”

However, one of the CPA/ABVs protesting the move said the AICPA needs to listen to its current credential holders and is planning a boycott of an upcoming AICPA conference. “The CPA/ABV community overwhelmingly disapproves of the AICPA’s actions,” said Donald J. DeGrazia, CPA/ABV/CFF, of Gold Gerstein Group in Chicago. “The Institute’s end-run-around the CPA/ABV membership has energized the thousands of ABV credential holders like nothing else in the past 20+ years, and the credential holders are in the process of considering all available options to counter the actions of the AICPA. As part-and-parcel of that effort a number of prominent ABV credential holders and speakers are going to boycott this year’s AICPA Forensic and Valuation Services conference. Additional tangible actions will be taken in the near future to address this issue. Specific actions will be revealed and communicated to all concerned at the appropriate time. While the AICPA hopes that this issue will soon fade from view, it will not.”

His group is calling on the AICPA to immediately suspend the change to the ABV criteria, redo its internal process of approving any change to the ABV criteria by seeking and considering input from all stakeholders (including current CPA/ABVs) and then have the Council revote. If, after reconsideration, the AICPA still wants to issue a valuation certification to non-CPAs, they want the AICPA to create a second valuation credential separate from the ABV.

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