At the AICPA’s May 2010 governing Council meeting, Council unanimously voted for a member ballot on a proposed bylaw amendment. The proposal would modernize the AICPA's requirements for admission to membership, which have not been comprehensively reviewed since the 1950s, and provide greater consistency in admission qualifications by using the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) as a basis. The UAA is the CPA certification/licensure model approved by both the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
Currently the bylaws require that an individual must possess a valid, unrevoked CPA certificate to be admitted to the AICPA as a voting member. Under the proposal, individuals also would qualify for admission if they meet one of the following criteria:
- At any time possessed a valid CPA certificate and the certificate was not revoked as a result of a disciplinary action.
- Meet the education (150 hours), examination (passage of the CPA Exam) and experience (at least one year of work) requirements set out in the Uniform Accountancy Act and are of good moral character and have never been granted a right to practice.
Consistent with our member ballot procedures, we invited members to express their views on the proposed modernization to the admission requirements for AICPA membership in order to share the opinions of those who had comments with other members prior to the ballot.
Common themes appeared in both the proponent and opponent positions presented in the comments and the more than 60 letters received. The following is a summary of members’ views.
Of those in favor of the change to admission requirements, some members simply expressed whole-hearted support. As to those who provided comments, among the reasons cited for voting in favor were:
- The change serves the public interest because it unites both public and management accountants in a professional association that facilitates the exchange of ideas and information, and requires accounting professionals outside of public accounting to adhere to the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct and CPE requirements.
- It provides a universal pathway for participation as a full voting member in the AICPA, as the UAA is the vehicle through which individuals are recognized as accounting professionals in the United States. Following the UAA acknowledges that there are individuals involved in accounting who do not or will not gain the auditing or public accounting experience that a state board may require.
- The proposal would enable the AICPA to benefit from the wide range of information and value that could be added by these non-public accounting professionals. At the same time, such members would have access to important AICPA resources to help them perform high-quality services in their daily work.
- Including these professionals as members would ensure a broader perspective on key professional issues and initiatives as the profession adapts to substantive regulatory and technical changes as well as evolving demographics.
- The addition of these new members would strengthen our advocacy efforts in standard setting, financial reporting, federal legislation, regulatory matters and other areas.
- It would facilitate an affiliation with the CPA profession for younger accounting professionals who want to go directly into business, government or academia.
Among members opposed to the amendment being considered, reasons offered include:
- Concern that there would not be sufficient differentiation between current AICPA members who are CPAs and the new members who would be admitted under the revised bylaw.
- Questions on whether the use of the term “member of AICPA” could be confusing to the marketplace because it might infer the new members are currently licensed CPAs.
- Concern regarding why someone who met all the UAA requirements would not go the extra step to apply for a CPA certificate from a state board.
- Worry that any potential increase in members in business and industry would take resources and focus away from issues facing the public accounting segment.
- Some members said they supported the historical pathway to earning the CPA certificate -- public accounting -- and that such experience should continue to be a requirement for CPAs and, by extension, AICPA membership.
AICPA members will receive their ballot packet in the mail in August. For a member’s vote to be counted, the signed ballot must be received by the independent tabulator before the close of business October 8, 2010, ET. A two-thirds majority of those voting is required for the measure to pass. If you have questions about the proposed bylaw amendment, visit aicpa.org/ballot, email AICPAballot@aicpa.org or call the AICPA Member Service Center at 888.777.7077 (9 a.m. to 6 p.m., ET).