Chair's Letter July 2010 

by Robert R. Harris, CPA/CFF, Chairman, AICPA Board of Directors 
Published July 01, 2010

At its May meeting, the AICPA governing Council voted unanimously to authorize a membership ballot that would modify the AICPA’s admission requirements for voting members. The recommendation is a part of the first major comprehensive review of AICPA membership requirements since the 1950s. We believe our membership requirements need to acknowledge the dramatic changes that the profession has undergone in the past 50 years and that they should better reflect the profession’s current composition and the many ways that accounting professionals can enter or participate in the profession. As a member, I will cast my “yes” vote and I encourage all of you to do the same when you receive the ballot on the proposed bylaw amendment in August.

Let me explain exactly what you are being asked to vote on. The ballot measure, if approved, would add a provision to the current CPA certificate requirement that would permit people to qualify for admission in the AICPA as voting members if they at one time held a valid CPA certificate and their certificate was not revoked due to a disciplinary action. It also would permit accounting professionals who meet all of the education, examination and experience requirements of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) but who do not have a current CPA certificate to be eligible for membership. The “3 e’s” required for CPA certification under the UAA are 150 hours of education, passage of the Uniform CPA Examination and 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. It is the basis of our successful efforts to secure CPA mobility in 47 states and counting.

Importantly, new members who join under the updated bylaw would be required to abide by the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct and continuing professional education standards. They would continue to be prohibited from holding out as a CPA, in accordance with state board regulations.

Now you’re probably wondering why we are doing this. I’m happy to answer that for you.

Our AICPA membership base is a tremendous asset for the profession. It holds a vast and varied collective knowledge and a diversity of experiences and perspectives. But to continue to be effective, it needs to evolve along with the profession as a whole. For example, the membership once was virtually all in public practice. Today, roughly 50% of our members come from non-public accounting areas – business, industry, nonprofits, government and academia. In addition, while many accountants years ago spent their entire careers with one employer, the younger generation is being told they may have 7 to 10 different careers during their working years.

The crux of the issue is that state boards of accountancy, the licensing bodies for the profession, require a CPA certificate/license when someone holds out to the public as a CPA. Those working in business and industry don’t hold out to third parties; they perform services for their employers. The same is true with accountants working in government or as educators. Or, an individual might have moved from public accounting to a non-public accounting job, such as a chief financial officer at a company or a school district’s controller. As a result, these individuals might not acquire or maintain an active CPA certificate.

In addition, some young people who have passed the CPA exam and fulfilled the UAA’s other requirements for CPA certification choose not to acquire or maintain a certificate or license since it is not mandatory and they do not hold out as a CPA.

Here are the benefits of the bylaw change for you and the profession:
  • These new members, many of whom are critical partners in the financial reporting chain, would have access to the same AICPA resources as the auditors they work with. This helps enhance our mission of protecting the public interest.
  • There would be consistency in admission requirements for accounting professionals from any state as well as for those working in the various areas of accounting.
  • Newer and future generations of accounting professionals would have a closer and earlier affiliation with the CPA profession, which could influence the direction of their careers. It also would enable us to capture their insights and input as the profession grapples with demographic changes and other future challenges.

This is an important decision for our profession, so I invite you to go to our dedicated Web page at to learn more.


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