AICPA Announces Updated Body of Knowledge for CPA Financial Planners

Integrated Tax-Planning Highlights CPA Financial Planners Unique Skillset in Uncertain Legislative Environment

January 10, 2017

Contact: James Schiavone, 212-596-6119,

NEW YORK (Jan. 10, 2017)
– Along with a new administration, 2017 brings the potential for the most significant federal tax reform that Americans have seen in recent history. The impact of taxes on a consumer’s financial planning cannot be overstated and tax strategies are an integral part of every financial plan. These potential changes to the tax code underscore the unique ability CPA financial planners have to work with their clients to make sure their financial plans remain up to date and tax efficient in this dynamic environment. The American Institute of CPAs is looking to the future to ensure evolving financial planning needs.
“CPA financial planners are committed to the core values of integrity, objectivity and competency. They are also best positioned to help their clients navigate the uncertainty that any potential changes to the tax code will bring,” said Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, executive vice-president, public practice at the

Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. “Americans should meet with their CPA financial planners to begin discussing the potential impacts that changes to the tax code will have on all aspects of their financial plans including their retirement, investment and estate plans.”
To help CPA financial planners continue to provide high quality services in their client’s best financial interest, the AICPA today announced the release of an updated Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Body of Knowledge (BOK). The new BOK is a forward-looking document that provides guidance and clarity on the competencies and information that CPAs who provide financial planning services need to know.
One key change to the BOK is to the tax planning component, which has been updated from a stand-alone section to integration throughout all twelve service areas. The integration of tax throughout the BOK is directly related to an increased emphasis on the integrated nature of all financial planning services. Updates to the BOK provide clarity on this integration and highlight the importance of understanding how changes in one area of a financial plan have the potential to impact other parts of a plan. The result is additional guidance to help CPA financial planners take a holistic approach to their client’s planning needs.
“CPA financial planners know firsthand that changes in any area of financial planning, including tax, can impact the other areas. Therefore, when change occurs, we are best able to identify the impact the change has on our clients' personal financial goals, and develop integrated financial planning strategies to keep them on track to reach those goals,” said Susan Tillery, CPA/PFS, chair of the AICPA PFS Credential Committee. “The integrated planning approach in the Body of Knowledge means clients can continue to feel confident that their CPA financial planner can help them proactively address any potential changes to the tax code and adjust their personal financial plan accordingly.”
The new PFP Body of Knowledge has added prominence and provided additional clarity on a number of areas that are increasingly prevalent in today’s planning environment:  

·         Elder, Special Needs, and Chronic Illness Planning.  As the U.S. population continues to age, CPA financial planners increasingly find themselves addressing diminished capacity issues.

·         Closely-held Business Planning.  The area has been revamped to more thoroughly address compensation and benefits for employees, as well as the potential impact of the business decisions upon the owner’s personal financial situation.

·         Education Planning.  With higher education continuing to grow more expensive and an increased awareness of the long-term financial impact of student loans, this area is crucial for CPA financial planners to understand.  

·         Client Relationship Building.  To effectively understand a client’s needs and help them implement a plan suited to their goals, a CPA financial planner must first understand who they are as a person. This area covers essential topics such as the importance of effective client communication, handling conflict, understanding and diagnosing client situations and the impact of family dynamics.

In addition to serving as a benchmark for the competencies CPAs who provide financial planning services to their clients must display, the BOK will inform the updates to the next version of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential exam, which will be launched in July 2017.
Building upon the foundation of the PFP Body of Knowledge, the AICPA will be releasing a Global Personal Financial Planning Body of Knowledge later in 2017. This document will serve as detailed blueprint for CPA financial planners in the U.S. and abroad to incorporate financial planning competencies into the services that they provide their clients.