May 29, 2012

Is It Finally Time to Revise the Experience Requirements to Become a CPA?

By Mike Colgan, PICPA Executive Director and CEO

Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the country to still require a specific amount of attest function experience for every CPA candidate. This can be a hardship. CPA candidates in industry, for example, may only receive credit for this requirement if they are working within an independent internal audit function. Twenty-six states to date have made changes to their requirements that allow for a broad-base of experience, as recommended in the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA), a model CPA bill developed by the AICPA and NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy).

Earlier this month, as a result of a recommendation made by the PICPA Statute Revision Task Force, Rep. Gordon Denlinger, CPA, introduced HB 2354 to amend the Pennsylvania CPA Statute. The primary goal of this legislation is to update the type of experience required to become a CPA in Pennsylvania. The legislation would not change the one-year experience requirement, but would eliminate the dated provision that requires 25 percent of that experience to be acquired within the attest function.

One of my responsibilities with the PICPA over the years has been to be the liaison with the State Board of Accountancy. In that role I have attended many board meetings and been involved in the discussion to bring mobility and substantial equivalency to Pennsylvania. Mobility and substantial equivalency are key components of the UAA, and a broader experience requirement is included within the concept of substantial equivalency.

Substantial equivalency contains basic criteria for becoming a CPA: 150 hours of education, including a bachelor’s degree; successful passage of the Uniform CPA Exam; at least one year general experience requirement verified by a licensee, which is broadly defined to accommodate experience in all fields of employment (public accounting, industry, government, education, etc.).

The proposed requirement in Pennsylvania would allow experience that includes providing a service or advice involving the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, tax, or consulting skills, all of which would be verified by a licensee. The experience would be acceptable if it was gained through employment in government, industry, academia, or public practice.

The attest experience requirement in the current Pennsylvania CPA Statute is too restrictive and does not reflect today’s environment for CPA services. Many opportunities exist for new accounting graduates within and outside of public accounting. The array of services provided by public accounting firms allows them to hire and use their staff more efficiently. CPA candidates moving directly into industry or government will now have a better opportunity to become licensed.

Pennsylvania’s current restrictive requirement could be making some home-grown candidates relocate or get licensed in surrounding states that have already adopted the general experience requirement recommended in the UAA. The interest level in careers in accounting is at an all-time high, and we do not want to place our graduates at a disadvantage.

I hope you support this proposed revision to the experience requirement in Pennsylvania, and please contact me with your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.