Continuing a Legacy of Technical Guidance 

by Emil Sotolongo, CPA, CGMA, CICA 

I founded my practice in 2011 and the majority of my work involves performing audits of not-for-profit entities (NFPs), charter and private schools, mortgage lenders and other small businesses. I perform audits under Generally Accepted Auditing Standards, Government Auditing Standards and Single Audits. In addition to this, I partner with other CPA firms to perform employee benefit plan (EBPs) audits and HUD audits of mortgage lenders, and provide technical assistance on various audits as well. I also participate in peer reviews and aid other firms in preparing for peer reviews. The nature of my practice requires me to stay well informed of the changes and standards being implemented in order to maintain a high level of quality. One way that I do this is through membership in the Center for Plain English Accounting (CPEA).

When I initially joined, Plain English Accounting (PEA) was a company external to the AICPA. I made the decision to join because I had seen Dr. Tom Ratcliffe, CPA, CGMA and the founder of PEA, instructing a number of video courses and I really liked the way he presented technically complicated material. After being acquired by the AICPA and becoming the CPEA, Dr. Tom unfortunately passed away in 2014. However, the CPEA has carried on his legacy and continues to build upon his foundations of excellent member service, quality guidance you can trust, communicating complicated principles in clear and concise terms, and a spirit of innovation.

Timely and Actionable Content

The CPEA’s monthly reports provide useful, practical guidance in a concise manner. They also focus on how the standards apply to situations commonly seen in practice, which I really appreciate. The reports will often feature ‘practice notes,’ which give examples of how you may encounter the standard in your engagements. These notes also illustrate common issues you may come across and provide guidance on how to address them. The reports cover many of the specific industries that I am involved with, such as NFPs and EBPs, and are an extremely valuable resource. The reports and alerts issued by the CPEA are also very timely. For example, EBP guidance is typically issued in May, which is when an auditor would begin preparing for and performing those engagements.

I also appreciate the ‘refresher’ reports that address various technical topics. These allow you to brush up on your knowledge prior to performing an engagement so that you are more prepared to speak with clients and complete the work. For example, the CPEA recently provided a refresher on SOC 1 reports and discussed the common deficiencies that the Department of Labor has encountered in their reviews of EBP audits.

Another benefit of CPEA membership is the access to quarterly webcasts. As a sole practitioner, I wear a lot of different hats at my firm and my schedule can often make it difficult to attend the live webcast events. However, the CPEA offers an archive of these events and presentation materials, so that I am free to download and review them at my convenience.

Avoid Common Mistakes and Deficiencies

Not only does the CPEA help me keep up with the constant changes in accounting and auditing standards, but they also discuss the common deficiencies in peer reviews and provide guidance on how to avoid them. They regularly analyze the AICPA’s Peer Review Information System Manager (PRISM) to look for instances of matters for further considerations (MFCs) and provide further insight into those areas. The CPEA’s peer review series has been especially valuable in my firm’s peer review work and helping to avoid common errors.

The CPEA helps practitioners stay up-to-date with the standards affecting the profession and provides guidance on matters that could likely be occurring in your practice. Most standards guidance is provided on an annual basis, while the CPEA is offering more timely content on a monthly and quarterly basis.  My firm’s membership has been so beneficial to our practice. I would encourage firms to join the CPEA for both guidance on the issues you are currently facing and insight into what’s on the horizon.


Sotolongo & Associates, PA
is a CPA firm based in Miami, FL. Emil Sotolongo, CPA, CGMA, CICA is the president and founder.




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