Is the AICPA’s idea to internationalize the CPA credential a proactive strategy for the eventual convergence of International Financial Reporting Standards and U.S. GAAP?

Or a Cognitor redux?

That will largely depend on how it’s executed.

At its recent Meeting of Fall Council, the institute asked members to consider offering the CPA Exam to those overseas as well as issuing a non-audit CPA designation for use outside the U.S.

With the inevitable meshing of U.S., and international standards, one longer-range question that begged to be, but was often not, asked, was whether the CPA designation had the “legs” to penetrate international accounting practitioners.

According to institute statistics, roughly 10 percent of the CPA Exam volume is generated from international candidates and some 7,000 folks reportedly come to the U.S. to take it — although the majority are employed in the private sector as opposed to accounting firms.

Obviously the goal here is to extend the reach of CPAs abroad, and elevate the credential’s profile — to be sure a prescient goal in a global, albeit shaky economy.

The joint efforts of the AICPA and NASBA would provide for an international administration of the test and provide the requisite rigor equivalent to that required of CPAs in the U.S.

The proposed model would follow the current state model, while the two bodies have entertained the idea of also issuing and administering a non-audit CPA designation.

The committee expects to present a business plan for approval by the board of directors of NASBA and the AICPA in December or January of next year, with the goal of launching the international program in January 2010.

The institute has to be decidedly clear about its intentions with the overseas CPA brand and subsequently communicate that effectively to its membership. Certainly not the way it tried to ram through the proposed Cognitor designation some seven years ago.

The umbrella credential, which was supposed to encompass a number of business disciplines, was perceived by some institute members as a competitive threat to the CPA brand which may serve to explain why it was DOA when put up for a vote.

But that was then and this is now.

Extending the CPA brand to international markets will certainly not be easy, but on the path to convergence it may be worth the effort.

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