Scottsdale, Ariz. (May 25, 2004) – Specialty credentials, outsourcing, differential accounting standards and an encouraging response to the newly launched audit quality centers topped the agenda at the American Institute of CPAs’ Spring meeting of Council, here.

All three of the American Institute of CPAs’ specialty designations have made membership gains since the institute’s ruling Council approved keeping them, AICPA president Barry Melancon reported.

During his semi-annual president’s report, Melancon noted that, as of last month, the institute’s Personal Financial Specialist designation had 3,258 credential holders and another 63 applications in process, while the Certified Information Technology Professional designation had 564 credential holders and another 160 applications in process. The Accredited in Business Valuation designation had 1,630 credential holders and another 17 in process.

When it approved retaining the credentials at its Fall meeting in New Orleans last October, the Council set goals for the PFS, which has been around the longest, to achieve 3,627 credential holders by July 2006, and for the CITP and ABV to reach 1,732 and 2,718 credential holders, respectively, by July 2008.

Melancon’s opening-day remarks covered a number of issues that the institute is working on. In addition, he noted that 350 firms have joined the institute’s Employee Benefits Audit Quality Center, which was launched during the first quarter of this year. He noted that about 4,000 firms do pension audits. Some 950 firms have become members of the Center for Public Company Audits, which is the re-tooled version of the AICPA’s SEC Practice Section. A third audit quality center focusing on government audits is expected to be launched in the fall.

Melancon noted that a task force of the institute’s Audit Standards Board, chaired by Harold Monk, is currently developing guidance on what audit reports for private companies should include. In addition, a major project is underway to update the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations framework for controls inside organizations.

The AICPA’s ethics committee (PEEC) is expected to issue an exposure draft formalizing its position on outsourcing. Susan Coffey, AICPA vice president of audit quality and professional ethics, noted that PEEC’s position is that disclosure is “appropriate” and should be “applied broadly,” meaning that any service that is performed by an entity that the accounting firm doesn’t control should be disclosed to the client -- not just services such as tax prep.

Council members will discuss the issue of private company reporting – specifically, whether or not separate accounting standards are needed for private businesses, which number more than 22 million in the U.S. While the profession has debated the issue since the 1970s, Melancon noted that, “As a profession, if we’re to create a different environment for private business standards, this is the opportunity for it to occur.” Melancon also said that the issue isn’t just a domestic concern – Paul Volcker, who heads the group that oversees the International Accounting Standards Board, has slated three forums this summer that will debate the need for differential standards.

— Melissa Aguilar

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