New York (July 19, 2004) -- Securities and Exchange Commission Chief Accountant Donald Nicolaisen hopes to see the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board take the lead on auditor-independence issues, according to published reports.

"While the commission staff will continue to provide companies and audit committees with guidance on auditor-independence issues, we look forward to the PCAOB expanding its role and becoming the primary standard-setter and the primary source of advice and guidance on these issues," Nicolaisen reportedly said during a PCAOB roundtable last week.

The July 14 roundtable was held to reconsider whether accounting firms should be allowed to offer tax services to their audit clients. While the Sarbanes-Oxley Act prohibits accountants from offering bookkeeping, appraisal and certain other non-audit services to their audit clients, tax services may be provided with the approval of the company’s audit committee.

"As the PCAOB engages more staff with expertise in these areas, I expect that a great number of the independence interpretive issues that currently are handled by my office appropriately will migrate to the PCAOB," Nicolaisen reportedly said.

Under SOX, the PCAOB has the authority to make auditor independence part of its standard-setting, inspection and disciplinary programs, subject to SEC oversight.

-- WebCPA staff

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