1. How many members voted and what percentage supported the proposed bylaw amendment?
More than 86,000 AICPA members voted (86,484 votes were cast). An overwhelming majority—81.39%—were in favor of the measure. A two-thirds majority (66.66%) was required for passage. AICPA members agreed with the profession’s leadership that the change to membership admission was good for members, the profession, the public and the AICPA. Updating the membership admission bylaw was an integral step in ensuring that the AICPA’s membership continues to represent the diversity within the profession, and that it retains its influence on standard setting, financial reporting, legislative and regulatory advocacy, and protection of the public interest.
2. What are the AICPA’s new membership requirements?
Individuals are eligible to become voting members if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Possess a valid and unrevoked CPA certificate issued by a legally constituted authority (the admission requirement before the recent bylaw change)
- At any time possessed a valid CPA certificate, as long as the certificate was not revoked as a result of a disciplinary action.
- Fulfill the education, examination and experience requirements of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) for CPA certification. This involves completing 150 hours of education, passing the CPA Exam and having at least one year of work experience. The UAA is the certification/licensure model approved by both the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the AICPA.
3. What’s the major change?
Prior to the bylaw change passed by the membership, admission to membership required that an individual have a valid and unrevoked CPA certificate at the time of application for membership. This prohibited membership for individuals who did not need to have or did not need to maintain the CPA certificate for their employment under regulations from their state board of accountancy.
4. What prompted the change?
The new provisions recognize that the profession is now equally apportioned between public accounting and accounting professionals in business, industry, nonprofits, academia and government. Advocacy on behalf of the profession is a key responsibility of the AICPA on behalf of the profession. It’s critical that the membership reflect the composition of the profession as a whole.
In addition, although required at the time of application, the CPA certificate is not required to be maintained to continue as an AICPA member. This created an unequal membership privilege scenario whereby an individual who held a certificate at the time of admission, and later dropped that certificate, could be an AICPA voting member and another individual with the same credentials and licensure status could not.
Also, in some states accountants employed in business and industry, government or education are unable to obtain certification/licensure because of their inability to meet the state’s public accounting experience requirement. The UAA’s broad definition of experience includes non-public accounting work. By using the UAA as a basis for AICPA membership criteria, there is uniformity for membership regardless of what state an individual is employed in. In fact, the UAA is the major reason for the profession’s success in achieving interstate practice privileges (mobility).
Many state boards do not require a CPA certificate/license for accountants who do not provide services to the public. Some individuals who have passed the CPA Exam and obtained a certificate and who work in in business and industry, government or education allow their certificates to lapse (due to cost and other factors). The new provisions enable these professionals to continue their affiliation with CPAs and the CPA profession.
New members admitted under the new provisions also have to abide by the same AICPA Code of Professional Conduct and AICPA CPE requirements as other voting members.
5. Do the new rules change the requirements to become a CPA?
No, just the requirements to become a voting member of the AICPA.
6. Can members admitted under the new requirements hold themselves out as CPAs?
No. The proposal does not change the criteria for “holding out” as a CPA. The CPA title and credential are generally controlled by state boards of accountancy. All voting AICPA members must adhere to the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct. Purporting to be a CPA, or putting “CPA” after your name without having a CPA certificate/license, is a violation of the Code.
7. Won’t the AICPA membership now include people who do not have a current CPA certificate?
Yes, just like before the bylaw was passed. The AICPA bylaws have always required applicants to have a valid CPA certificate at the time of application. The bylaws do not specify that the CPA certificate must remain active after being granted membership.
8. Will the AICPA be verifying the membership applications for members applying under the new rules?
Yes, as has always been the case. Those whose CPA certificates have lapsed and are applying for AICPA membership must provide the certificate number, state and date of issuance. Those applying under the UAA provision must demonstrate that they meet the education, examination and experience requirements. All documentation will be verified before membership is granted.
9. When would membership be opened to those who qualify under the new requirements?
The AICPA will begin accepting these new members by January 10, 2011.
10. How will dues levels for these newly admitted members compare to those for current members?
Dues levels will be the same as those for members of similar levels who qualified under the original definitions.
11. How many members will the AICPA gain from this change?
We have no reliable way of forecasting the membership changes, since there is no consistent data resource available to determine the total pool of accounting professionals who would qualify under the new guidelines. The changes recently approved by the AICPA membership provide additional options for accounting professionals who work for public accounting firms, but may not hold licenses (those in the process of sitting for the CPA Exam, non-CPA professionals serving firm clients, non-CPA owners, etc.) and those who may be employed outside of public practice in business, government or education. We recognize that the accounting profession continues to be very diverse and our goal is to effectively advocate on behalf of the entire profession. The Institute and our members continue to protect the public interest by creating meaningful professional networks and communities and providing access to essential technical resources. As the profession expands and evolves, so too will the AICPA’s membership base.
12. What will be the process for joining under the new provisions?
The AICPA application process will not change for most membership categories, except that those joining based on meeting UAA requirements for licensure will need to download a series of forms and submit them with the requested documentation. All applicants will be asked to attest to compliance with new membership requirements that now exist. Upon beginning the application process, applicants will be guided to the appropriate business category.
13. Will this new category have CPE requirements?
Yes – members admitted under the new provisions must meet all CPE requirements that current CPA members must meet.
14. Isn’t the AICPA concerned these changes make membership less prestigious?
No – these changes are being made to reflect the composition of the accounting marketplace and will make the profession even stronger and more unified.
15. Will these changes help gain more international members? The changes to the international membership requirements actually tighten the conditions under which an international accounting credential holder can become affiliated with the AICPA. The AICPA Board of Directors must approve which professional credentials issued by an international entity might qualify for admission as an International Associate member.
16. How do Associate Members who meet the UAA requirements upgrade their membership?
Current and prospective members alike must apply for regular membership and follow the guidelines that pertain to this category. This means providing all required educational transcripts, proof of passage of the CPA Exam, and a statement from a CPA verifying appropriate work experience that meets the UAA requirements. This rigorous process will ensure that AICPA members continue to meet the requirements of the UAA and requirements for affiliation with AICPA. The plan is to have this process in place by January 10, 2011.
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