NASBA and AICPA seek input on evolving licensure model

By Ken Tysiac

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the AICPA are seeking feedback from the profession and its stakeholders as they consider ways to evolve the model for initial CPA licensure to support a growing need for new skills amid rapid technological advancement.

On Wednesday, NASBA and the AICPA issued a Request for Input asking for feedback on five guiding principles that have been developed as the foundation of a new licensing model.

The Request for Input is the latest step in a professionwide consideration of what changes may be needed in the CPA licensure model. Artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and data analytics have created opportunities for CPAs to provide new services and deliver their services in new ways. Meanwhile, companies increasingly need services in areas such as IT risks and controls, business intelligence, and cybersecurity risk management.

Newly licensed CPAs need skills and knowledge in areas such as:

  • Business intelligence.
  • Data management, analysis, and reporting.
  • Predictive analytics.
  • Cybersecurity risk management.
  • IT risks, controls, and assurance.
  • Information security governance.

Last year, NASBA and the AICPA formed a working group to consider possible changes to licensure. The group recommended that education and exam requirements need to evolve to address the increased demand for technological and analytical expertise.

The Request for Input is seeking feedback on the five guiding principles on which a new licensure model could be based. The principles are:

  • The CPA profession must adapt quickly due to the technological disruptions in areas such as data analytics, robotics, AI, and more. As such, the competencies, services, and attitudes of CPAs need to continually evolve in order to protect the public interest.
  • The CPA profession and state boards of accountancy recognize that technological and analytical expertise is essential to performing assurance work, as well as the other services that are currently, or will be in the future, core to professional accounting.
  • The CPA profession and state boards of accountancy acknowledge that sustaining the profession and continued public protection require rethinking initial licensure requirements.
  • The profession, and therefore entry into the profession, must be redesigned to attract individuals with technological and analytical expertise. This includes non-CPA professionals whose technology and analytics skills are critical to the performance of assurance and other core services, as well as nonaccounting major students. All must demonstrate minimum required competencies necessary to perform professional accounting services as a CPA.
  • The changes must be rapid, transformational, and substantive without negatively impacting candidates currently in the pipeline.

NASBA and AICPA volunteers also developed concepts that support these principles. Under the concepts, candidates with different degrees would all be required to have education around accounting and technology, as well as elective coursework that aligns with the work they are interested in performing as a CPA. Educational requirements on certain existing concepts may need to be reduced while others may need to be added to meet CPA candidates’ need for understanding of both accounting and technology.

The concepts also state that the CPA Exam would need to test a common core of accounting and technology while allowing candidates to demonstrate knowledge in their chosen area of study and interest. One exam would serve all candidates, with variations within exam sections that would correspond to areas of study and interest.

NASBA and the AICPA are seeking input on whether the principles are directionally correct and whether they would keep the profession strong and relevant while protecting the public interest.

Feedback is requested by Aug. 9 and can be shared by emailing Feedback@EvolutionofCPA.org or filling out an input form at EvolutionofCPA.org. The responses will be used to inform decision-making. In October, feedback and recommended next steps are expected to be shared at the NASBA annual meeting and the AICPA fall Council.

Ken Tysiac (Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA’s editorial director.

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