AICPA updates guidance for CPA personal financial planners

The updated Body of Knowledge takes a holistic approach.

The AICPA updated its guidance on the competencies and information that CPAs who provide financial planning services need to know.

The updated Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Body of Knowledge puts an increased emphasis on the integrated nature of all financial planning services. Income tax planning, for example, is now incorporated throughout the document, while before it was addressed in a stand-alone section.

"CPA financial planners know firsthand that changes in any area of financial planning, including tax, can impact other areas," Susan Tillery, CPA/PFS, chair of the AICPA Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) Credential Committee, said in a news release. "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."

In addition, the new Body of Knowledge provides additional focus and clarity on a number of increasingly important areas. These include:

  • Elder, special needs, and chronic illness planning. CPA financial planners increasingly are addressing diminished capacity issues as the U.S. population ages.
  • Closely held business planning. Compensation and benefits for employees, as well as the potential effects of the business decisions on the owner's personal financial situation, are addressed more thoroughly in the document.
  • Education planning. CPA financial planners must understand and raise awareness of the long-term effects of student loans.
  • Client relationship building. CPA financial planners must understand who clients are as people to understand their needs and help them implement a plan suited to their goals.

The Body of Knowledge will inform updates to the next version of the AICPA PFS credential exam, which will be launched in July. The AICPA also plans to release a Global Personal Financial Planning Body of Knowledge this year.

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