NASBA votes to advance CPA Evolution initiative with AICPA

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The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy voted to approve the CPA Evolution model, which it has been developing with the American Institute of CPAs, in an effort to require more technology skills from CPAs to pass the Uniform CPA Examination and qualify for state CPA licenses.

The vote Monday by NASBA’s board of directors came after the AICPA’s governing council approved the CPA Evolution initiative in May (see story).

The changes will affect how young accountants train to become CPAs, although many colleges, universities and state boards have effectively been making such changes in recent years as much of the accounting profession has long been leveraging technology to do auditing, financial reporting and taxes.

“It’s going to affect two areas of licensure,” explained Daniel J. Dustin, NASBA vice president of state board relations. “One is with education. We currently have an exposure draft out for comment. It was released on May 26 and the comment period ends on August 31. It’s really to update the Uniform Accountancy Act model rules for the CPA Evolution initiative. What we tried to do was change what we were doing with the model rules to really modify them to be more in alignment with where a lot of state boards are today. In many ways, it doesn’t impact a lot of boards with respect to the rules. The other area of change is the structure of the Uniform CPA Examination. What we’re hoping is that beginning in January of 2024 the examination will consist of three core sections, followed by a candidate passing one of three disciplines. So, it’s still a four-section exam.”

NASBA anticipates the exam will be no more than 16 hours, the same as it is today.

The Uniform Accountancy Act provides a model that state boards of accountancy can use to update their statutes and rules in their own jurisdictions. In May, NASBA released the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) Model Rules exposure draft to propose the various changes in the education requirements for licensure under the CPA Evolution initiative. The goal is to encourage uniformity among the 55 different jurisdictions in the U.S. Once it receives support from the various boards of accountancy for the exposure draft, NASBA will start encouraging the state boards to implement the model statutory and rule changes in education, starting as early as this fall. Ultimately the changes will start to show up in the exam in Jan. 2024.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has led to delays in sittings for the Uniform CPA Exam this year and wider flexibility in how the test is administered, but Dustin doesn’t anticipate that will affect the timing of the CPA Evolution initiative.

“A lot of the preliminary work in the next year or two is going to be involved with task forces, both on the education and the examination side, and certainly technology like Zoom and Webex allows us to hold a lot of virtual meetings,” he said. “So, we don’t anticipate that COVID-19 will inhibit us from evolving over the next few years. We witnessed the fact that Prometric test centers had to close down for about eight weeks because of the pandemic, but certainly by 2024 and the rollout of this initiative, we should be well beyond that and it shouldn’t have an impact.”

Probably the most noticeable update will be in the technology proficiency expected from CPAs in the three core sections of the exam and in each of the disciplines tested. “One of the changes in education is to include more technology, both in the accounting and in the business areas,” said Dustin. “One of the focuses as we evolve the CPA Exam as well as the exam content is to include more technology-related content. Last year, the AICPA’s examination team issued an exposure draft to modify the content to include some technology, but the CPA Evolution initiative will actually mean that we will begin another process with the AICPA examination team to do a practice analysis to determine just how prevalent technology is for individuals with one to two years of experience who work in CPA firms, and then enhance the exam by testing in those areas some more. That will be both in the core and in the discipline.”

He sees the changes as being more relevant to how CPAs actually do their work today. “I think it’s really going to mean the evolution of how the exam is structured, that certainly entry-level CPAs today have to have higher-order skills in order to do the job that they’re required to do when they come into a firm,” said Dustin. “It’s no longer ticking and tying accounts. It’s using higher-order skills and analyzing accounts, to work with clients to help them make key business decisions.”

NASBA plans to offer more resources for accounting educators to help their students learn about what’s needed to pass the exam in 2024. “The Uniform CPA Exam is a national exam that all jurisdictions use, so it’s anticipated right now that the rollout will be in January of 2024,” said Dustin. “We’re working on a lot of other aspects, including resources for educators in the near term.”

The changes received widespread support from state boards around the country. “It was really great to see both at the NASBA meeting last October as well as several webinars we’ve held in the winter and spring the amount of positive feedback that we received form state board members and state board executive directors with respect to the current model of the initiative, so we’ve been really encouraged by the feedback,” said Dustin. “Collectively the AICPA and NASBA have received more than 3,000 comments from various stakeholders, and overall it’s been a very positive process to date. … I just think that a lot of our board members have been very positive with respect to where we are to date, and it’s encouraging to think that it’s going to continue that way as we move forward.”

For more information about the CPA Evolution initiative, visit

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