Alaska, Maine, and Oklahoma are the latest states to consider CPA firm mobility legislation, which allows CPA firms that meet certain licensing requirements to provide their services across state lines in order to serve clients without the need to obtain an additional license.
If the legislation is enacted, those states would join the 30 that already permit firm mobility; all states currently allow individual CPA mobility.
“A big priority for the AICPA now is firm mobility, which ensures firms can also work from state-to-state,” said Marta Zaniewski, AICPA vice president–State Regulatory & Legislative Affairs. “It’s equally important that clients and the public have access to various firms’ subject-matter expertise and services that may or may not be available to them in their home jurisdictions.”
She described the process on the new bills as “very collaborative,” explaining that the AICPA is working to ensure boards of accountancy, legislators, and professionals in those states stay informed of developments and are comfortable with proposed legislation. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy has played a partner role in these efforts, Zaniewski said.
The AICPA is monitoring jurisdictions that have yet to introduce legislation but doesn’t see lack of progress in those places as a problem, Zaniewski said. “It’s all about local priorities,” she said, adding that other legislatures may be more focused on occupational licensing or modernizing their practice acts. “It’s sort of a right-time, right-place thing where legislators are prioritizing other issues.”
Progress toward nationwide firm mobility can have an impact on the current debate in statehouses over universal licensing. Mobility makes the accounting profession look “streamlined and proactive,” according to Zaniewski. In legislatures where licensing is being debated, the AICPA and state societies are using that to make the case for mobility, she said.
Following the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) remains a key priority for the AICPA, though firm mobility laws in the 30 states are not identical. (The UAA is a model licensing bill created by the AICPA to help guide state legislatures so they can create a uniform approach to governance of the CPA profession.) “We try to push forward the UAA model everywhere, but every state will do it their own way, and there are probably slight differences in different jurisdictions,” Zaniewski said.
The states that currently have firm mobility laws are Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Firm mobility helps the accounting profession serve as a role model for other professions, according to Zaniewski.
“Other occupations should look to us when establishing their interstate reciprocity models,” she said. “Architects, for example, do not have firm mobility. This is just another way the CPA profession can distinguish itself from the field.”
— George Spencer is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, a JofA associate director, at Chris.Baysden@aicpa-cima.com.