Unravel Technical Tangle and Don’t Reinvent the Wheel!

August 3, 2016

Every time a new professional standard is issued, CPAs must determine whether it applies to their practices and understand how it should be implemented. No wonder, then, that standards overload can be a challenge for firms. For smaller firms, which may not have the same resources that are available to larger firms, it can be particularly difficult. The good news is that AICPA members have a variety of resources they can turn to for help in maintaining up-to-date knowledge and ensuring the high-quality of their services.

The Center for Plain English Accounting. I’m passionate about the CPEA, and I wish it had existed just a few short years ago when I was in practice. I’ll share one example of how it recently helped one sole practitioner who was preparing financial statements as a by-product of preparing a tax return for a client. She wanted to know if she was required to follow SSARS No. 21 if she gave the client a copy of those financial statements. She quickly found her answer in a CPEA report that features frequently asked questions about SSARS No. 21 and requirements related to an engagement to prepare financial statements.

The center, which is designed to serve as firms’ national A&A resource center, gives member firms access to a first-class team of A&A experts who can offer written, straightforward technical answers, and advice and guidance on understanding and implementing accounting, auditing, review, compilation and quality control standards. Beyond discussing technical issues, the CPEA professional staff also offer valuable implementation insights that can help you ensure your compliance is efficient and effective. The center is available exclusively to PCPS members and there is a special small firm membership option! For $795 per year, firms with five or fewer professionals will receive monthly technical reports covering a variety of A&A topics, alerts covering recently issued standards and guidance and access to eight NASBA certified two-hour webcasts per year on hot A&A topics for a total of 16 CPE credits annually, at a cost of $25 per seat. I believe you can’t beat the value of this robust resource.

The TIC Alert. The PCPS Technical Issues Committee monitors standard-setting issues on behalf of CPAs who serve private entities and speaks out on their behalf in comment letters and meetings with standard setters. The award-winning TIC Alert updates practitioners on new standards or those in development that will have an impact on private company clients and their CPAs, and offers concise, understandable descriptions of what the standards will mean to them. Turn to the Alert for a succinct summary of the latest standard-setting news.

Timely AICPA tools. Whenever a complicated or significant new standard is issued, be sure to check the AICPA website for timely resources dedicated to helping CPAs make sense of the guidance and put it to work. Two current examples are the AICPA’s site focused on recent Financial Accounting Standards Board guidance on leases and another site that addresses concerns related to new FASB requirements on revenue recognition. In addition to these dedicated sites for specific standards, the AICPA Financial Reporting Center brings together a wealth of news, videos and other tools for practitioners on important developments and how to address them. 

PCPS Invigorate the Focus on Quality Toolkit. Designed specifically for smaller firms, this multifaceted resource is one component of the AICPA’s Enhancing Audit Quality (EAQ) initiative, which looks at quality concerns on a holistic, ongoing basis to improve audit performance. The PCPS toolkit walks users through a range of considerations, beginning with tone at the top and moving on to client evaluation tools, proposals and profitability tools and quality control and peer review. Full of checklists, a client brochure and templates that can be adapted to your needs, it’s a valuable resource to help you ensure you’re maintaining the highest quality in your firm.

What Can They Do for You?

Given the many demands on small firm practitioners, it’s important to be aware of existing resources that can alert you to important new requirements and their potential impact on CPAs and clients. Instead of spending hours on research, you can get the information you need quickly and devote your valuable time to quality client work. I hope you’ll check out all these resources to see what they can do for your practice. 

Carl Peterson, CPA, CGMA, is the AICPA’s Vice President of Small Firm Interests.  Have questions for Carl? Contact him directly at cpeterson@aicpa.org or 651-252-4618, and tune into his free Small Firm Update webcasts.