Changes in the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) announced Tuesday will update the definition of attest and allow for CPA firm mobility across state borders.
The boards of the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) have approved the changes to the UAA.
While the UAA is nonbinding, it is held up as an example and a reference point by the AICPA and NASBA for best practices in state laws and regulations.
“This new UAA reflects important changes to the way the profession is evolving while also ensuring strong public protections,” AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, said in a statement.
The revision of the definition of attest is a response to the evolution of attest services, which include audits of financial statements, reviews of financial statements, examination of prospective financial information, and any engagement performed under PCAOB standards.
In recent years, CPAs and others have received requests to provide attestation on nonfinancial items such as XBRL-tagged data, greenhouse gases, sustainability reports, controls on service organizations, Big Data, and cloud computing. These services currently can be performed by non-CPAs using AICPA standards. But profession leaders questioned whether non-CPAs are properly qualified to provide these services using AICPA standards and reporting language.
As a result, the definition of attest in the newly amended UAA requires that only CPAs operating within a CPA firm can perform:
- Audits in accordance with Statements on Auditing Standards (SAS);
- Reviews under Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services (SSARS); and
- Examinations, reviews, and agreed-upon procedures under Statements on Standards for Attestations Engagements (SSAE).
- Any engagement performed under PCAOB standards.
An exception would be public officials and public employees, who are not prohibited by the UAA from performing any of their duties. So, for example, state audit organizations would continue to be able to perform engagements under the SAS, SSARS, and SSAE.
Another impetus for the change in the definition of attest was the reissuance of SAS No. 70, Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization, as SSAE No. 16. Because examinations of prospective financial information were the only SSAE covered under the previous definition of attest, this move had the unintended effect of moving Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization outside the services covered by the UAA’s definition of attest, allowing non-CPAs to perform this type of reporting.
Changing the definition of attest brings Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization back inside the services covered by the UAA’s definition of attest.
Over 40% of states already have the revised definition of attest in their statutes. The remaining states are being encouraged by the AICPA and NASBA to modernize their definition in order to address the public protection concerns raised by unregulated individuals using profession standards. In 2014, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Arizona, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been added to the list of jurisdictions to adopt the revised definition.
CPA firm mobility
The UAA also has been updated to provide for CPA firm mobility across state lines under a no-notice, no-fee, no-escape regime.
This would allow firms registered in one state to provide attest services to clients in another state without registering the firm or paying fees in the second state. Under the UAA provisions, CPA firms would be subject to the laws and regulations of both their home state and the second state, and they would have to meet the peer review and CPA ownership requirements of any mobility state in which they are seeking to perform those attest services. CPAs and CPA firms can already provide nonattest services out-of-state without registering.
The CPA mobility campaign builds off the profession’s individual mobility campaign of recent years. Individual CPA laws already have been adopted by 51 jurisdictions—49 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands—eliminating the need for individual CPAs to maintain multiple reciprocal state licenses. CPA firms, however, must currently register in any state in which they have a physical presence or wish to offer attest services.
Sixteen states already have enacted firm mobility laws and do not require eligible out-of-state firms to register or pay fees when providing attest services. The inclusion of firm mobility in the UAA could provide incentive for legislation in more states. However, the AICPA and NASBA have indicated that they understand that each state will have to consider state-specific factors in determining whether to pursue a CPA firm mobility law.
“The AICPA is ready to assist state CPA societies and state boards of accountancy, however it can, as they look at these new issues and assess how they might fit with their respective state accountancy statutes,” said Mat Young, AICPA vice president–State Regulatory & Legislative Affairs.
—Ken Tysiac (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a JofA senior editor.