Chair's Letter November 2010 

by Paul V. Stahlin, CPA, Chair, AICPA Board of Directors 
Published November 10, 2010

Welcome to my first column as the AICPA’s newly elected chair. I believe we will see an exciting, eventful year and move ahead on some critical initiatives. As far as my plans, I will continue to pursue the AICPA’s strategic priorities of private company financial reporting, globalization as it relates to International Financial Reporting Standards for public companies and the CPA as a premier credential around the world, and young CPAs being groomed for leadership. I also am adding a new one that will guide the whole profession for the future: the CPA Vision Process. Let me touch on that one first, as it reflects one of my favorite sayings -- carpe future -- which means “seize the future.”

“CPAs are the trusted professionals who enable people and organizations to shape their future. Combining insight with integrity, CPAs deliver value by translating complex information into critical knowledge, anticipating and creating opportunities, and designing pathways that transform vision into reality.”

Those words are taken directly from the profession’s Vision Statement. The statement was an outgrowth of the CPA Vision Process, an exciting project that the profession began in 1996 and that looked ahead to 2011. Now, the year of 2011 is upon us.

During the next year, I will urge my fellow CPAs to reaffirm the purpose and values of the Vision and address the changing trends around us in technology, economics and finance, regulation and demographics. We also need to see how we can help our clients and employers develop the solutions they need.

Next, a look at what we’ve been addressing and will push for more progress on this year. Top on my list is private company financial reporting. The Blue Ribbon Panel on Private Company Financial Reporting, formed by the AICPA, the Financial Accounting Foundation and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, has made substantial headway in this area. A majority of the panel’s members recently voted to recommend the FAF accept a new model of GAAP with exceptions for private companies and a separate standard-setting board consisting of people with private company experience. We’ve never been this close to differential accounting standards. At its meeting last month, the AICPA governing Council passed a resolution supporting the panel’s progress and declaring the CPA profession ready to help implement those recommendations.

While tackling that financial reporting issue at home, we also are supportive of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Work Plan for a transition to IFRS for U.S. public companies. More and more of our members routinely have international business dealings. As a regional bank president, I can tell you that many of my customers with less than $20 million in sales have a vendor, a supplier or a customer – and sometimes all three – located outside the United States. The AICPA continues to help prepare members for what likely will be eventual adoption. I highly recommend you visit often to see daily news items, articles, case studies, training courses and other resources, including the AICPA’s monthly IFRS Report. And for those of you working with students or family members taking the CPA exam next year, keep in mind that IFRS questions will be on the exam beginning January 2011.

We are also taking steps to ensure that the CPA remains among the premier accounting credentials globally. A recent development that reinforces the value of the CPA worldwide is that starting next year, the Uniform CPA Examination for the first time will be offered in five other countries (Japan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates). The exam will be in the same format as it is here in the U.S. and in English. Those who pass the exam would be eligible to seek licensure from the state boards of accountancy.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about the profession going forward. To ensure we can continue to address the most pressing issues facing both CPAs and the overall economy, we will need a highly qualified new generation of CPA leadership to carry out the profession’s vision.

Fortunately, our pipeline is strong. Our 2009 Trends report shows that more people graduated with bachelor and master’s degrees in accounting than at any other time in history. To guarantee that these talented young people are equipped to become future leaders, we have committed to placing CPAs under the age of 36 on virtually all of our volunteer committees. And young CPAs will be an important part of our revived Vision project.

Speaking of strengthening our membership, I am pleased that AICPA members, by a substantial majority (81.39% of those voting), recently approved a proposal to modernize the admission requirements. In the past, individuals could only become regular members of the AICPA if they possessed a valid and unrevoked CPA certificate. Under the revised bylaw, individuals also are eligible for membership if they at any time possessed a valid CPA certificate (as long as it was not revoked as a result of a disciplinary action), or if they have fulfilled the education, examination and experience requirements of the Uniform Accountancy Act (which includes passing the CPA Exam). These members must of course comply with the Institute’s Code of Professional Conduct and meet the same continuing professional education requirements as current members, further adding to our profession’s public interest mission.

With all that in mind, it’s my honor to take on the role of AICPA chair at such a momentous point in our history. Let’s work together to seize the future.


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