States’ deregulation push poses a threat to CPA profession mobility; AICPA monitoring licensing legislation in 24 states

October 25, 2018

States’ deregulation push poses a threat to CPA profession mobility

Two recent news reports have called attention to the impact of states’ deregulatory push on CPA licensure, with CPAs throughout the United States raising alarms.

Bloomberg Tax on September 25 reported that CPAs are mobilizing against an effort in several states to ease occupational-licensing laws that could include the profession and erode its professional integrity (“Accountants Worry Easing State Licenses Will Undermine Profession”). “The accounting profession is concerned because such bills, which have the support of Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the past, have been overly broad, sweeping up CPAs along with estheticians, barbers, and others,” the report noted.

An earlier story in the Journal of Accountancy (“States’ deregulatory push threatens CPA licensure, September 7”) reported that nearly half of all state legislative bodies – 24 in all – have considered deregulation bills this year. Skip Braziel, AICPA vice president for state regulatory and legislative affairs, told the JofA CPAs are being swept up in a larger political push to reduce state licensing requirements. “The bills are written so broadly to bring us into the bills; that’s why we’ve been engaged,” Braziel said.

Proposals to reduce professional licensing requirements are part of an ongoing debate about limiting government’s reach, according to Braziel. A major consequence of these bills would be the threat they pose to CPA mobility, uniformity, and reciprocity. He explained that bill authors privately acknowledge that they didn’t intend to loop in highly educated professions such as CPAs. But they don’t always want to carve out an exemption for accountants for fear other professions will ask for the same treatment. The “lightbulb goes on” when Braziel and others point out to state lawmakers how a bill may unintentionally include CPAs, he told Bloomberg. 

The AICPA has helped state CPA societies develop strategies for pushing back against the worrisome legislation. “We try to provide some perspective on what’s happening in other states,” Braziel said. He pointed out that actions such as participating in state CPA societies’ annual lobby days at their state legislatures will give opportunities to explain more about the profession and show lawmakers that CPAs are concerned about deregulation.

But those in states that have already seen legislation introduced should be ready for the fight to continue. “Stay vigilant because it’s coming back,” Braziel told the JofA. “This is not an issue that’s going to go away anytime soon.”