Should the government license professions? It’s not a new question, but states across the country are taking new action in 2019. More than 30 states are considering legislation that would reduce or remove professional licensing requirements. CPAs are not exempt from this legislation.
These proposals represent a huge threat to CPA mobility. Right now, CPAs can work across state lines in 53 U.S. jurisdictions without providing any notification or paying any additional fees. CPA firms can operate the same way in 26 states thanks to CPA firm mobility.
However, this flexibility hinges on the idea that states all have the same requirements for licensure. Currently, every state requires CPAs to meet education, exam and experience requirements. All CPAs take the same exam, and all CPAs are required to maintain continuing professional education. Because of this, consumers can trust that hiring CPAs means hiring qualified and competent individuals. Changing licensure requirements in the states will lead to a higher compliance cost for CPAs and CPA firms. In today’s global economy, it’s an everyday practice for CPAs to have clients in multiple jurisdictions. The cost of obtaining licenses in multiple states would raise the cost of CPA services.
Regulatory reform in the states could change the requirements for licensure or even allow non-licensed individuals to offer CPA services. For example, the West Virginia legislature is considering a bill that would allow non-CPAs to perform attest services as long as customers sign agreements acknowledging that these service providers are not CPAs. This type of legislation is not unique to West Virginia and is gaining steam around the country.
So, what should you as a CPA do? If this legislation comes up in your state, reach out to your state CPA society to see how you can get involved. Policymakers need to hear from you and your fellow CPAs about how this legislation affects the profession and how your clients will be harmed if licensure requirements are taken away.
AICPA is working with state CPA societies, state boards of accountancy and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy to combat this legislation in the states.