Kudos to Professors Paul Miller and Paul Bahnson for their Spirit of Accounting article, "Some evidence that the AICPA's management has lost its focus," (December 2011, page 20).

One would think that the items listed -- from the ill-fated "Cognitor" to the recent letter-writing campaign on an independent board to oversee private standards -- would bring some reaction from the membership.

The people that are most affected by the various efforts to expand the American Institute of CPAs, the smaller practice units, have abdicated their responsibilities to their profession, and themselves, by not speaking out and/or writing to the AICPA management to express their discontent with what the institute is doing.

True, smaller practice units are fighting hard to properly service their clients and hone their professional skills, but they must make their opinions heard.

Over the years, the nature of the profession has changed, largely through the efforts of AICPA president and chief executive Barry Melancon. He has done a magnificent job of promoting the AICPA and the business of some of the major accounting firms.

Back in 1997, recognizing that non-CPAs were making piles of money as consultants, financial advisors, insurance providers and other purveyors of products and advice, Melancon stated, "We have to change the perception of the public as it relates to our profession, and need to change the mindsets of the individuals who make up the profession."

Melancon said that the word accounting has some "limiting" factors. That may be true according to the AICPA in order to best serve the largest firms. But in the context of "CPA," accounting has a very broad meaning. He suggested that the issue "particularly for the smaller firms [is], are we accounting firms or professional service firms?"

It would appear that the AICPA's emphasis is to diminish the prestige, status and standing of the CPA certificate in favor of building the empire of the institute.

Jumping ahead to the February 2012 issue of Accounting Today, I would like to point out to Mr. A. Marvin Strait that he is more than a little mistaken in his lauding the AICPA "about accounting standards that recognize the unique needs of private companies and their financial statement users."

Yes, the AICPA has been talking about it since the 1970s, but that's all it has been -- talk.

It wasn't until the onset of the recent recession that the AICPA and the federal and state governments and others realized that the small businesses of the U.S. were an important segment of the business community and the business health of the country.

To give credit where credit is due, the AICPA recognized an opportunity to get involved in something that they have talked about for years -- small business. It was obvious to small business, and their CPAs, that GAAP was unfair and unjust, and did not serve the small-business arena in any way. In fact, it was harmful in many respects.

So a Blue Ribbon Panel was formed to put forth recommendations on private standards. Again, a segment of the small-business community was ignored. There was no representation by the practitioners who service small business, the trusted professionals who deal with the problems and opportunities of small businesses on a daily basis. The people who served on the panel are all well-known business and professional individuals, distinguished, well-meaning and prominent. They may have been involved with small business in the past, but it is a part of history, not today's trade. The outcome of their research will probably be a warmed-over, modified copy of GAAP, instead of a completely revamped set of rules that small businesses can live with.

Again, I applaud Messrs. Miller and Bahnson for their courage in stating some of the deficiencies of the AICPA.

Edwin J. Kliegman, CPA

Founding partner, Marcum & Kliegman;

Past president, National Conference of CPA Practitioners

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