• Oct 07, 2019

    Occupational Licensing Reform Needs a Guard Against Mishap

    By Peter N. Calcara, vice president – government relations

    State lawmakers across the country are scrambling to remove barriers to a person’s right to work in numerous occupations and professions. And rightfully so. For many years, state legislatures have expanded control over more and more occupations and professions: some say the reason is to protect the public, others think it is to raise state revenues. In the early 1990s, 800 occupations required licenses in at least one state. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, that number increased to about 1,100 by 2016. Arizona, Delaware, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Rhode Island have all undertaken efforts to deregulate licensing requirements in their state. Some have taken the path of outright elimination, while others have opted to create a new process.

    Pennsylvania General AssenblyPennsylvania is not immune to this deregulation trend. In October 2017, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order directing his Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA), which oversees professional licensure, to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s processes, fees, training requirements, criminal history policies, reciprocity or interstate agreements, and continuing education requirements for occupational and professional licensure.

    A final report was issued June 11, 2018. According to the report, Pennsylvania ranks 24th in the country in terms of percentage of total workforce licensed or certified. The percentage of workforce professionally licensed in Pennsylvania is slightly lower than 20.2%. The report provides recommendations for the best ways to remove unnecessary restrictions that prevent Pennsylvanians from gaining employment without compromising the health and safety of residents.

    In addition, the Pennsylvania legislature recently enacted Act 41 of 2019. This law, which took effect Aug. 30, 2019, establishes an endorsement process for all the boards and commissions under the BPOA for the issuing of licenses to applicants who are licensed to practice in another state. The goal is to make licensure more accessible to those arriving in Pennsylvania who already have the skills and training to do their jobs effectively.

    You may be wondering what this has to do with CPAs. While the focus of this deregulation effort is not focused on professional licensees like CPAs, engineers, doctors, and lawyers, collateral damage is always a risk in the legislative process. Depending on language used when drafting a bill, how definitions are crafted, and a host of other potential shenanigans, CPAs may or may not be included in a bill. The PICPA is taking an active role in protecting the CPA designation so the profession will not be caught flatfooted when legislation is brought up for a vote in the state House or Senate.

    The PICPA hosted a panel discussion at our recent annual Leadership Conference on this national trend. Take a few moments and view that session. The panel discussed this threat and what is being done to protect your hard-earned credential. This session provides a good primer on the issue and how, if left uncheck, it can easily take on a life of its own.

    Additionally, the PICPA has joined with the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) in supporting the newly created Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL). The ARPL is a coalition focused on educating policymakers and the public about the importance of rigorous professional licensing standards.

    ARPL members include the American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB), the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).

    As always, the PICPA has boots on the ground in the state capital. The PICPA government relations team educates our state lawmakers, the Wolf administration, and other stakeholders on the importance and need to maintain high standards for complex, technical occupations like the CPA profession, which rightly requires rigorous and ongoing education, examination, and experience.

    We need your help. Learn more about the importance of professional licensing by visiting ARPL’s website, and stay current on legislation in Harrisburg via Legislative Update, PICPA’s government relations e-newsletter. Finally, communicate your concerns to your state representative and senator. State lawmakers want to hear from you, their constituents, on issues that have an impact.

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  • Sep 30, 2019

    Time to Renew Your CPA License

    By Megan Killian, vice president – member relations

    All current Pennsylvania CPA licenses expire Dec. 31, 2019, and should be renewed before that date.

    The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy will email you a renewal notice in the coming weeks, and renewals should be done on the PALS website. The email from st-accountancy@pa.gov will contain your username and the “registration code” for your license (be sure to check your junk mail or spam folder if you did not see it in the near future). If you don’t get one, there is an option on the login page to recover your UserID.

    Log into PALS

    You will need to log into the PALS website to start your renewal.

    CPA License Renewal: PALS Login Options

    Complete the Renewal Application

    Once you log in, there will be a dashboard showing your account information. Look for the “Professional License Details” panel, locate your CPA license, and click the “Renew” button to begin the renewal.

    CPA License Renewal: PALS Renew Screen

    The first page of the renewal will ask you to review or complete personal information, and the second page will ask a series of questions for the renewal. Here are a few tips for completing these pages:

    • Make sure you have a valid, permanent email address listed. Most licensure correspondence from the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy is sent by email, and you do not want to miss important updates regarding your license.
    • Make sure you answer all the questions. The question form is dynamic, meaning some answers will result in an additional question being displayed. For example, you will only be asked if you met the CPE requirements once you indicate that you did not pass the CPA Examination in 2018 or 2019.
    • Do not indicate that you have met the CPE requirements until you actually have completed all necessary courses. If you have courses scheduled, but not yet completed, to meet the minimum CPE requirements, then you cannot complete your renewal until those courses have been taken. Don't forget that new CPE requirements went into effect this reporting period. View the current CPE requirements.
    • Be mindful of the questions about performing audits or reviews. When renewing your individual license, the questions about whether you performed an audit or review after Dec. 31, 2017, are specifically asking if you performed an audit or review as a sole practitioner. If you performed audit or review engagements as part of a licensed CPA firm only, then you would answer “no” to these questions.
    • Read each question carefully. Do not guess on the answers, and do not ask support staff to complete this form on your behalf. False or misleading answers on this form can lead to disciplinary actions against your license.

    Don’t Forget to Check Out

    After you “sign” the renewal application and click “Continue,” there are several more steps to submit the renewal for processing:

    • Do a final review. You have an additional chance to review your application and make changes before submitting it. Once you submit the application and payment, you will not be able to make any changes.
    • Click the “Add to Cart” button. This will place the signed renewal application in your shopping cart.
    • Select the renewal application and proceed to payment. In the shopping cart, you need to check the box in the left-most column to indicate you want to pay for that renewal and check the "All fees are nonrefundable..." box. Once you check both boxes, you will see the “Proceed to Payment” button.
    • Provide payment information and complete checkout. The fee for the renewal is $100, which can be paid using any major credit card.
    • After completing the submission, save a copy of your receipt and download a copy of your completed renewal application.

    Monitor Your Renewal

    Once you have completed and submitted your renewal application, please note that the renewal is not automatic. Processing time is needed, and if the State Board has questions about your responses it may need additional information before renewing your license.

    If there are questions, you should receive follow-up communication from the state. But regardless of whether or not you receive any follow-up, it remains your responsibility to make sure your license is renewed.

    You should receive an automated email once your license is renewed, but you can verify the status of the renewal at www.pals.pa.gov/verify. If the record indicates your license expires Dec. 31, 2021, then your license has been renewed. You will receive the new license in the mail, but there is some lag time to print and mail the licenses.

    Visit PICPA’s license renewal page for more details and some FAQs about license renewal, or contact our team at (215) 496-9272, via email, or @PaCPAs. If you are having technical issues with the PALS website, submit a technical support request. For specific questions about your license, contact the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy at st-accountancy@pa.gov or (717) 783-1404.

    This blog is an update of a similar posting in the last reporting cycle.

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  • Sep 23, 2019

    What You Need to Know to Reactivate Your Pennsylvania CPA License

    By Meg Killian, PICPA's Vice President of Member Relations
    Picture of Reactivate Your License checklist
    Download the Checklist
    Maybe you decided to open a coffee shop, or trek one of the world’s greatest mountains, or you spent a few years surfing in southern California. Whatever the reason you decided to place your CPA license on inactive status, it’s time to get your license reactivated and join the business world again.

    Certainly there are forms, CPE requirements, and fees involved in the process, but reactivating your CPA license doesn’t need to be daunting. Follow this handy checklist from the PICPA for step-by-step instructions.

    As you gather your forms and make your plan, keep these things in mind:

    • If you let your license expire (rather than changing it to inactive status), when you reactivate you will be subject to additional fines as well as inquiries regarding your work while your license was lapsed. Be prepared for follow up contact from the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy.
    • You must confirm that you have not been performing attest work or holding yourself out to the public as a CPA to perform accounting services during your inactive period. If you were, then you could be subject to an investigation, fines, and possibly the rejection of your reactivation application.
    • Consider the timing of your reactivation. If you apply prior to October of the odd year in the biennial reporting period (currently 2019), then your reactivated license is only valid until the end of that calendar year and will be subject to renewal at that time. For example, apply in June 2019 and you’ll need to renew in December 2019. Apply in October 2019, and you won’t need to renew until December 2021.
    • Make sure all your professional education has been attained through a NASBA or Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy approved provider. Annual renewals are subject to random audits, but activations are individually scrutinized. A free webinar that nabbed you that last credit hour may not be approved, and you don’t want to come up short on CPE requirements. The PICPA is an approved sponsor which offers thousands of courses, plus you can track your CPE history online in My Account.
    You worked hard to earn your CPA credential, and you want to be able to use it. Whether or not you are performing attest work, there are many benefits to keeping your CPA license active. No matter what type of work you do, having CPA after your name gives you instant credibility and respect.
  • Aug 29, 2019

    CPA Exam Offers Quicker Retesting Schedule

    Troy Cannode, CPABy Troy Cannode, CPA

    The Uniform CPA Examination (CPA Exam) is often altered to accommodate a changing accounting environment. Sometimes it is as basic as reflecting new accounting pronouncements; other times it is to reflect a changing focus within the profession. This year, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) board of directors approved changes as to when and how qualified candidates can sit for the exam.

    Illustration of Exam studying materialsThis blog highlights some of the recent updates.

    Retaking the CPA Exam

    The Uniform Accountancy Act Model Rule 5-7, “Retake and granting of credit requirements,” details when candidates can retake the exam and for what period of time credits for passing sections would be valid. Paragraph (a)(2) had stated that a candidate cannot retake a failed test section(s) in the same testing window. A testing window is equal to a calendar quarter. Candidates were not able to test less than two months out of each testing window. On April 26, 2019, the NASBA board of directors approved changes to this paragraph: candidates will now be allowed to retake failed test sections once the grade for the previous attempt(s) has been released. The expectation is that the continuous testing model will be in place by June 30, 2020.

    Content Changes

    There also have been several content changes to three of the four sections of the CPA Exam. (There were no revisions to Financial Accounting and Reporting.) The alterations highlighted below were effective July 1, 2019.

    Auditing and Attestation – Revisions to this section, per the AICPA summary of revisions, expanded or added detail to content already included within the blueprint and eligible for testing. The focus of the additional detail was audit data analytics. The blueprint now includes audit data analytic verbiage in multiple section introductions. For example, the section introduction for assessing risks and planning further procedures includes the updated language “… understanding and calculating materiality and considering specific engagement risks, as well as incorporating concepts such as audit data analytics.”

    In addition to section introductions, new representative tasks were included. The blueprint area on assessing risk and developing a planned response was updated with the following additional representative task: assess risks of material misstatement using audit data analytic outputs (e.g., reports and visualization) to determine relationships among variables and interpret results to provide a basis in developing planned audit procedures. The topic titled Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence now includes the representative task of determining the attributes, structure, and sources of data needed to complete audit data analytics procedures.

    Business Environment Concepts – Approved updates in this section clarify the introduction and reorganize the Information Technology area. While the content remains largely intact, some minor changes have occurred. The descriptions of Areas I and IV have been streamlined to provide additional clarity. In Area I, multiple redundant references of internal control and enterprise risk management frameworks have been altered to single bullet points covering each of the two frameworks. In Area IV, specific topics such as understanding the role of IT and systems (including the use of data in supporting business decisions) replaced references to governance of information technology used in business. COSO-issued application material, thought papers, and guides related to internal control and enterprise risk management framework are now in the reference material.

    The update also reorganized many of the representative tasks, both understanding and application, to better align these tasks with the new topics in Area IV: Information Technology. For example, recognizing the risks and controls associated with protecting sensitive and critical information within an organization’s IT environment (previously under the topic of information security/availability) is now listed under the topic of risks associated with IT. This reorganization provides better alignment of tasks to topics.

    Regulation – The approved update to this section added an assumption discussion to the introduction. The assumption discussion provides insight on the relevance of the material in each question. The discussion also details how to proceed with questions that could have different tax treatments based on matters of timing. The discussion states that candidates will be given clear indication of the timing so they can apply the appropriate Internal Revenue Code provisions, and without such clear indication of timing candidates will assume the transaction or event took place in the current year. The update also provides minor language revisions to representative tasks in the area of related party transactions and estate and gift taxation.

    Overall, the content changes do provide some new wrinkles for candidates, but the change that has a far greater impact is the allowance to retake the exam within the same testing window. This change allows unsuccessful section test-takers to retake that failed section up to six weeks earlier than previously allowed.

    Troy Cannode, CPA, is an assistant professor of accounting at Lycoming College in Williamsport. He can be reached at cannode@lycoming.edu.  

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  • Aug 23, 2019

    CPA Exam, Licensing Among Factors Affected by Emerging Technology

    William HayesBy William J. Hayes, managing editor, Pennsylvania CPA Journal

    Developing technologies such as blockchain, data analytics, and artificial intelligence are having a major impact on the accounting workplace, but for individuals just entering the profession, the rising technologies will affect more than their work assignments. For instance, these advancements will bring changes to CPA licensing as well as alterations to the CPA Exam. To go into detail on these changes, we sat down with PICPA members Amanda Marcy and Ashley Stampone of the University of Scranton. Marcy and Stampone are the authors of “Emerging Technologies Will Impact More Than Office Duties,” which will appear in the upcoming fall 2019 Pennsylvania CPA Journal.

    The CPA Evolution Working Group is a major focus of your piece. Can you give a bit of background on this group and what it is looking to accomplish?

    Ashley StamponeStampone: The CPA Evolution Working Group is a joint task force between the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the AICPA. What they are trying to do is explore potential changes to CPA licensure requirements that incorporate skills and competencies in the areas of technology and data analytics. Since November 2018, this group – which also has representatives from public accounting firms, state CPA societies, and academia – has been examining current licensure requirements and discussing ways to integrate technology into this model.

    What does the CPA Evolution Working Group believe needs to be done with the CPA Exam to better prepare emerging CPAs for the future of the profession?

    Amanda MarcyMarcy: The group has not actually proposed any exam changes, but it has released three concepts about the exam supporting its guiding principles. First and foremost, it calls for an exam that tests the common core related to both accounting and technology. This will allow exam candidates to demonstrate their skills in this area. Second, while still using the same exam structure, it wants to modify the breadth and depth of some concepts based on future-looking practice analysis. And third, it acknowledges that certain accounting and auditing techniques might only be applicable for some CPAs, but the knowledge of some technological components – such as system controls and emerging technologies – is important for all practicing accountants.

    The CPA Evolution Working Group has a set of five principles to meet a new model for ensuring technical expertise in the profession. Do any of the principles jump out to you as having the potential to deeply affect the profession?

    Stampone: The principle that stands out the most to us is that the profession, and therefore entry into the profession, must be redesigned to attract individuals with technological and analytical expertise. Going forward, we are going to see a shift to attract non-CPA professionals who have competencies in technology and analytics to perform assurance and other services. I also think that we are going to see more efforts to attract nonaccounting majors. For us at the academic level, we are going to see accounting programs include more technologically based classes, either in the curricula through electives or directly in the accounting core, if they haven't done so already.

    Marcy: The profession, specifically public accounting firms, is actually requesting that schools provide degrees specializing in data analytics. For example, KPMG has collaborated with nine colleges across the nation (one being Villanova University in the Philadelphia region) in developing its KPMG master of accounting with data analytics program. This program is entering its third year this fall. After participants have gone through this program, for which KPMG provides a full scholarship, they receive an internship in a KPMG audit or tax program and will receive a full-time position upon graduation. If that doesn't show you the importance of attaining these skills, I don't know what will.

    At the University of Scranton, you both come into contact with a lot of accounting students. Do they worry about the growth of technology in the profession, or do they welcome it? And what do you say to them to keep them working toward their goal of becoming a CPA despite all the technological growth?

    Stampone: Incoming students are really comfortable with technology. Because of this, I feel that it is welcomed. We were receiving a ton of questions about data analytics and how a student can be more prepared. At Scranton, we have a new minor in business analytics, so we recommend that students pursue this minor to gain exposure to these areas. But we also stress that students need to be proficient in core accounting courses to have success in passing the CPA Exam. They should also focus on their communication, teamwork, and critical-thinking skills to have success in the profession.

    Marcy: Our students coming back from their internships are very eager to learn more in this area based on what they have experienced in the field. They are coming to us and asking, "Can we have more advanced Excel classes? Can we have more topics related to data analytics?" These are the things they are being asked to do when they are working.

    Ashley L. Stampone, CPA, is a faculty specialist in accounting at the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa. She can be contacted at ashley.stampone@scranton.edu.

    Amanda S. Marcy, CPA, an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Scranton, can be contacted at amanda.marcy@scranton.edu.

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  • Jun 19, 2019

    CPAs: Tailor Your Support of Exam Takers to Their Needs

    Jessica M. Dunlap, CPABy Jessica M. Dunlap, CPA

    If you’re a CPA, I’m sure you have a horror story or two from when you were studying for the CPA Exam. I know I do. And as a manager, then partner, in a firm, time and again I saw staff stress and struggle to find their unique way to slay the exam dragon. It doesn’t have to be that way. Every knight in shining armor had a team of support before setting off on their quest. Partners, managers, and coworkers need to be the blacksmiths and squires to each CPA Exam taker as they prepare their personal journey toward success.

    Young accountant gaining CPA Exam advice from experienced coworker.Recently, I transitioned to a career in teaching at the collegiate level. In my new role, one of my goals included providing a course that encompassed a CPA Exam review. But it wasn’t going to be “my” advice. The first assignment I gave to students was for them to create their own study plan. When I was in public accounting and I would hear someone tell a staff accountant what they needed to do to pass, I would think, “What if that doesn’t work for their life?” With my course, I was insistent that each student needed to look over the material and determine for themselves the order in which they would accomplish all of the sections and be able to take a simulated exam by the end of the semester. You see, sharing your own methods and tricks may not be the right path for everyone. The goal of CPA friends, colleagues, and mentors – at work or at school – should be to help the prospective CPA develop the tools he or she needs to pass each part of the exam, each with his or her own flavor. If a particular plan is developed that fits their life and will get the job done, roll with it – even if it seems an odd path to you.

    This doesn’t mean you should be hands off. Each week my students check in with me to determine if they need to alter their plan. Sometimes they require guidance or a refresher on a specific point. Create a support network to help the prospective CPAs work through concepts they may have forgotten or may have never learned. Establishing an environment that supports study and that emphasizes how failing to plan is courting failure have been key aspects of my class, and should be incorporated into your professional support program.

    People seeking to pass the CPA Exam must plan up front with the end in mind, but they also need support, encouragement, and sometimes someone to hold them accountable to their plan. When passing the exam, we all slay the dragon in our own due time. Supporting each individual, and each individual plan, as they travel their path to becoming a CPA is, one might say, chivalrous.

    Jessica M. Dunlap, CPA, is a professor of accounting at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa., and served on the PICPA Board from 2017 to 2019. She can be reached at jdunlap@francis.edu.

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  • May 14, 2019

    Self-Care Is Essential for CPA Exam Readiness

    Mylin Batipps Jr.By Mylin Batipps Jr., PICPA public relations coordinator

    You’ve studied hard and are confident that you know all that’s needed to take the CPA Exam. But to truly be prepared, you need more than just knowing the material. You must also take care of yourself—both mentally and physically. Are you getting enough sleep? How are your eating habits? Do you have what you need for exam day?

    I spoke with Patricia Hartman, director of client services for the National Association of State Board of Accountancy (NASBA), on the steps CPA Exam candidates should take—literally and figuratively—as they prepare for the rigors of exam day.

    Q: Should CPA Exam candidates study for the CPA Exam the day/night before their exam?

    Pat HartmanIn my opinion, late night cram sessions are not a very effective way to study. I recommend using the night before the exam for reviewing any notes you may have created during your study sessions.

    Did you know that sleep is critical for memory formation? Give your brain a chance to rest. Studying until the last minute may lead to you having a harder time remembering the material you studied. It’s important to get a good night’s sleep, so don’t study too late! Aim for a full eight hours of sleep; you want to be refreshed and well-rested the day of your exam.

    Q: Do you recommend any kind of exercises that will help candidates physically and mentally prepare for the CPA Exam?

    Walking is great exercise and it can decrease stress and anxiety. It also improves your quality of sleep, so take a walk early in the evening the day before your exam. Go outside and get some fresh air. If you’re studying, remember to get up and move around at regular intervals. Sitting for long periods of time decreases blood flow and can impair your performance. During the exam, make use of your break time to stretch.

    The AICPA provides study materials that allow candidates to study the exam blueprints, take sample tests, and view the features and functionality of the exam. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the functionality of tools, resources, and navigation found in the exam, and practice with the sample tests.

    Q: What are the kinds of foods that students should eat the day before and the morning of the CPA Exam?

    Avoid junk food! Go for protein and complex carbohydrates. Protein helps with alertness, and carbohydrates provide sustained mental energy. Your mom was right – you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. The night before the exam, I suggest you sit down with your family or friends and enjoy a relaxing meal. You’ve studied hard, so take a break and relax before the big day. On the day of the exam, start with a healthy breakfast or a protein shake if you’re not up to a big breakfast.

    Q: What must CPA Exam candidates bring with them to the testing center that they may not be aware of? What else should they know about exam day?

    All you really need is your identification and Notice to Schedule. Your Notice to Schedule has a list of acceptable forms of identification as well as a list of prohibited items. Visit www.prometric.com for information on what to expect and how to prepare for exam day. Prometric also offers you an opportunity to do a “test drive” so you know exactly what to expect on exam day.

    Q: What steps should candidates take if an emergency occurs that prevents them from being able to take the exam on their scheduled day?

    In the event of weather-related issues, the first thing you should do is check to see if the center will be open. Sometimes, the test center may have to close due to weather conditions. You can do this by visiting www.prometric.com.

    If the test center is open, you will need to contact your state board of accountancy or its designee to let them know why you will be unable to take the exam on your scheduled day and receive next steps.

    Q: Who should CPA Exam candidates contact if they have any questions regarding the logistics of exam day?

    I encourage all candidates to read the Candidate Bulletin available on NASBA’s website. It is a comprehensive guide to everything you can expect before, during, and after the exam. In addition, NASBA’s call center (1-800-CPA-EXAM) is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern, and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern. If you prefer, you can also email us at cpaexam@nasba.org.

    For more information on CPA Exam study tips, check out Episode 2 of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation’s “Work Your Way to CPA” podcast series. All episodes of the series, as well as additional resources to help you successfully reach CPA status, can be found on www.picpa.org/workyourway.

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  • May 07, 2019

    Three Study Tips to Help Prepare for the CPA Exam

    Galina IvanivBy Galina Ivaniv

    CPA Exam preparation is a multistep process. I was determined to pass the exam, and becoming a graduate student at Temple University helped me accomplish my goal. Not only had I access to a Becker CPA review course, but I also had enough time allotted to studying for the exam full time. After passing all four parts of the exam within 10 months, I am happy to share my three study tips to prepare for the CPA Exam.

    Tip 1. Make sure to choose the right CPA review course provider.

    We all tend to have different learning styles. Some people need visual information to better comprehend the material, others learn better by listening, and some learn through experience (doing exercises and performing procedures to gain a better understanding of the process/concept). CPA review course providers have different approaches to preparing candidates for the exam, so finding the right provider that fits your needs is crucial. Some companies offer free trials of their review courses, so make sure to take the opportunity and sign up for them. After you find the one that fits, choose the provider that will best help you pass the CPA Exam.

    Tip 2. Create a study plan and stick to it.

    Use the CPA review course provider's schedule to determine the approximate number of hours needed to study for each chapter. Then, based on your schedule, set up the exam date. Having a due date in mind is helpful for keeping yourself organized; there will not be any room for procrastination. In addition, devote every day to studying so you can easily retain information learned in the beginning. Practice exams, which can be taken at the end of studying for a particular section, are useful in assessing the preparedness. If you stick to the study plan, you will have plenty of time to work on the weak areas and be ready when it comes time to take the exam.

    Tip 3. Maintain a balanced life.

    Even though studying for the exam is going to be your top priority, devoting attention to other areas of your life is important for your mental health. Do not skip your morning workout, Sunday brunch with the family, or shopping with a friend. Try to reserve some time for yourself to keep the stress away. By taking time off from studying, you will gain more energy and your loved ones will not be affected by your busy schedule. A well-balanced life is essential if you plan to pass the exam.

    Yes, preparation for the CPA Exam is time-consuming, but the reward is worth it!

    For more tips on choosing the right CPA Exam review provider for you, check out Episode 1 of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation’s “Work Your Way to CPA” podcast series. All episodes of the series, as well as additional resources to help you successfully reach CPA status, can be found on www.picpa.org/workyourway.

    Galina Ivaniv is a staff accountant with Kreischer Miller in Horsham, Pa.

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  • Feb 04, 2019

    I Just Passed the CPA Exam. When Do I Need to Take CPE?

    By Megan Killian, vice president, member relations

    Becoming a CPA is a challenging process, and by passing the CPA Exam you’re almost there! This is a huge achievement. Congratulations, my friend!

    The learning isn’t over, though. Staying informed and educated on all the rules and regulations and learning from your peers are important parts of what make the CPA profession stand out among other professions. That’s why continuing professional education (CPE) is a requirement for keeping your license active.

    Applying for Your Initial License

    When you passed the exam will determine whether or not you’ll need to have completed CPE when you apply for your initial license. Generally, preparation for and taking the exam is considered your professional education IF (notice this word is capitalized, underlined, and italicized because this is a big IF) you passed the exam during the time when you would have otherwise taken CPE.

    Let’s back up a moment: CPE is required education needed to get or renew a CPA license that’s valid for the next biennial period. Here’s an example of the cycle:

    • Take CPE during Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2019.
    • Renew your license December 2019.
    • License is valid through Dec. 31, 2021.
    • Take CPE during Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021.
    • Renew license December 2021.
    • License is valid through Dec. 31, 2023.
    • And so on.

    So, when you passed the exam and when you apply for your license will determine whether you’ll need CPE for that initial license (see chart below). If you’re unsure, I would advise that you confirm with the State Board of Accountancy as to whether or not you need CPE.


    What Are the CPE Requirements if I Am Applying for My Initial License?

    Passed the CPA Exam prior to 2016:

    • Applying for initial license on or after Oct. 2, 2017: Required to have 80 hours of CPE in previous 24 months.
    Passed the CPA Exam between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017:
    • Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017: No CPE required for initial license or to renew the license at end of 2017. Will need to take CPE during 2018 and 2019.
    • Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2018, and Oct. 1, 2019: No CPE required, but will need CPE to renew license at end of 2019.
    • Applying for initial license on or after Oct. 2, 2019: Required to have 80 hours of CPE in previous 24 months.
    Passed the CPA Exam between Jan. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2019:
    • Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2018, and Oct. 1, 2019: No CPE required for initial license or to renew the license at end of 2019. Will need to take CPE during 2020 and 2021.
    • Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2021: No CPE required, but will need CPE to renew license by end of 2021.
    • Applying for initial license on or after Oct. 2, 2021: Required to have 80 hours of CPE in previous 24 months.


    Renewing Your License

    Meeting the CPE requirements for the first renewal is where some licensees can get tripped up.

    The time of year you apply for your initial license and the valid dates on that initial license will determine whether you need to be taking CPE for the next renewal. Look for the expiration date on your initial license (or look it up here). If it expires at the end of the current biennial period, then you need to have your 80 hours by the expiration date. (And don’t forget the annual 20-hour minimum!)

    You worked hard to pass the CPA Exam, and you don’t want to put your license status at risk. Contact the PICPA or the State Board with specific questions, and don’t take any chances that you won’t meet the requirements for initial licensure or renewal.

    CPE Requirements in Pennsylvania

    Every state has different requirements. In Pennsylvania, you need 80 credit hours every two years, with a minimum of 20 credit hours each year. The biennial reporting period ends on Dec. 31 of every odd numbered year (2019, 2021, 2023, etc.). Here are additional important points about the requirements:

    • There are four categories of CPE: tax, A&A, ethics, and other.
    • As part of the 80 hours, all licensees need four hours of ethics credits. If you work in attest, then you need 24 A&A credits as part of your total.
    • A maximum of 40 credit hours can be self-study.
    • When you renew, you don’t need to submit your CPE records as part of that process. However, you should keep all your records because the State Board does audit about 10 percent of licensees to verify compliance.
    • Verify with your CPE provider that it is an approved provider by the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy and/or National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. The PICPA is a Pennsylvania-State-Board-approved provider.

    There’s a helpful CPE requirements-at-a-glance guide on the PICPA website. You can find professional education requirements for other jurisdictions here.

  • Nov 23, 2018

    Zero or 24? Understanding the New A&A CPE Requirements

    By Michael D. Colgan, CEO and executive director

    The PICPA has received inquiries from several firms regarding the interpretation of Pennsylvania’s new CPE requirements, which were effective Jan. 1, 2018. Specifically, firms are asking for clarification on which licensees are now required to obtain 24 CPE hours of accounting and auditing (A&A).

    Figuring out A&A education requirementsGenerally, the new regulations eliminate the minimum eight-hour tax requirement for all licensees, but require 24 hours (increased from 16) of A&A credits for those CPAs participating in attest activities. Licensees not participating in attest activities will have no A&A minimum. The four-hour biennial ethics requirement remains in place for all licensees. The changes allow licensees to select and complete CPE in the areas most related to their own professional development needs. The question firms have raised, however, is how to define “participating in attest activities” to determine whether or not licensees need to meet the expanded A&A requirement.

    Examples raised have included a licensee who is a tax professional, but audits the tax provision included in the financial statements of a company; or a tax professional who completes an uncertain tax position checklist for a pass-through entity, corporation, or nonprofit, and may perform an analysis to determine if any uncertain tax position exists.

    The PICPA requested clarification from the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy (SBOA) as to how to interpret the new regulations with respect to A&A. Here is the response, but in brief the SBOA is relying on the definition of attest activity in the CPA Law, but does not define the term “participating.”

    From our discussions with the SBOA prior to these changes being adopted, I am confident that its intent on eliminating the minimum CPE requirements for A&A and tax for most licensees was to allow CPAs to determine which CPE would best help them maintain and build competencies in the areas in which they practiced. The SBOA included the 24 hours of A&A CPE for those participating in attest activities due to changes in the experience requirements to become a CPA, which no longer required a portion of the experience gained to come from the attest area. The intent, I believe, is not to require licensees who do not work in the attest area to increase their required A&A CPE from 16 to 24 hours.

    The SBOA has verbally communicated that “participating” will likely be a firm-by-firm interpretation. Some firms may conclude that any service charged to an audit code defines participation, and will require their licensees to get 24 hours of A&A; others may deem the review of a tax provision as incidental and not fully participating in attest activity, so they will not require their licensees to get 24 hours of A&A.

    The PICPA will work to add more clarity to the next revision of the CPA regulations, but that will not arrive prior to the end of the licensing period that concludes in December 2019.

    Licensees will self-report on their license renewal applications in December 2019 on whether they participated in attest activities, which would trigger the 24-hour A&A requirement.

    If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    For A&A courses provided through the PICPA, visit our Accounting & Auditing CPE page. 

    From now until Dec. 1, PICPA is offering an A&A Survival Kit at a discounted rate. Get webcasts of the A&A Conference and two seminars - totaling 24 credits - for just $599. That's a $280 savings! Purchase by Dec. 1 to save >>

  • Feb 01, 2018

    Expungement May Soon Be Available for Pa. Licensees

    By Peter Calcara, vice president – government relations

    The legislative process can be unpredictable, frustrating, and painfully slow. Such is the price to pay for democratic institutions. But, on occasion, the process can shock you when, almost out of nowhere, an issue or specific piece of legislation breaks your way and starts moving almost uninhibited through the process.

    A case in point is the recent passage of Senate Bill 354 (SB 354). The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), started out as a way to address misconduct by those licensed under the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs’ (BPOA) 29 professional and occupational licensing boards and commissions, which includes the State Board of Accountancy. Tomlinson introduced a similar bill in the 2015-2016 legislative session, but it died during the legislative process.

    Erasing a MistakeAs Tomlinson’s bill was moving through legislative committees this session, the House Professional Licensure Committee added an amendment that would allow licensees to “expunge” their records under certain, limited conditions, a PICPA legislative priority for several years. Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) sponsored legislation to address this in each of the past three sessions, only to be thwarted in the process.

    Expungement is already a legal concept under Pennsylvania’s criminal statutes. An expungement is a legal order that removes a criminal record from public view and restricts access to law-enforcement agencies.

    SB 354 defines expunge/expungement as the “removal of a disciplinary record, accomplished by: (1) permanently sealing the affected record from public access; (2) deeming the proceedings to which the affected record refers as not having occurred; and (3) except with respect to any subsequent application for expungement, affording the affected party the right to represent that no record exists regarding the subject matter of the affected record.”

    Under the bill, the BPOA commissioner would be required, under certain circumstances, to expunge the disciplinary record of a licensee if the imposition of discipline was for a violation involving failure to complete continuing education requirements or practicing for six months or less on a lapsed license, registration, certificate, or permit. PICPA’s support for expungement is predicated on the fact that most of these violations are of the “traffic ticket” variety, and are not criminal or fraudulent in nature.

    To have your record expunged, the following must apply:

    • The record must be at least four years old.
    • The record must be the only disciplinary record the applicant has.
    • The applicant must not be the subject of an active investigation related to professional or occupational conduct.
    • The applicant must not be in a current disciplinary status, and any fees or fines assessed must be paid in full.
    • The applicant must not have had a disciplinary record previously expunged.
    • The licensee, registrant, certificate holder, or permit holder shall pay all costs associated with the expungement as established by the commissioner by regulation.

    As of this blog posting, SB 354 needs to clear one more legislative hurdle (the state Senate) before it is sent to Gov. Tom Wolf and hopefully becomes law in Pennsylvania.

  • Jan 15, 2018

    Modernization of the CPA Exam Continues

    Meg Killian, VP Member RelationsBy Megan Killian, vice president – member relations

    Exciting changes are coming to the CPA Exam in 2018. New software and tools will be added to the exam experience in April, one year after the launch of the most recent updates to the exam content and format.

    Cover of Become a CPA bookletThe AICPA and a consulting firm used feedback from test takers over the course of the year to evaluate the platforms. The result is a more user-friendly, modern system that reflects the work environment of most CPAs. In addition to an updated testing interface, new features include a highlighting tool, cut and paste functionality, and the ability to work on two documents on the same screen. And, finally, an addition that candidates have been waiting for – the CPA Exam will now make Microsoft Excel available!

    In a big step for inclusion, the exam will introduce technology to assist visually impaired candidates.

    As with most changes in the past, the new features will delay the release of scores for the last three testing windows in 2018. This delay allows the psychometric experts time to ensure the testing has been fair and accurate.

    New versions of sample tests and simulations are available on the AICPA’s website.

    Read more about the CPA Exam updates in the Journal of Accountancy.

  • Sep 25, 2017

    CPA Regulatory Changes Official: Impact CPE and Experience Verification

    By Michael D. Colgan, CEO and executive director

    On Sept. 23, 2017, long-awaited new regulations proposed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy (SBOA) were published in The Pennsylvania Bulletin. With this publication, the two most recent amendments to the Pennsylvania CPA Law (Act 73 of 2008 and Act 15 of 2013) as well as a clarification of civil penalties for CPE violations have been implemented. Included are revisions to the CPE requirements for all licensees and clarification on how a CPA candidate’s experience is verified. The new regulations will be effective Jan. 1, 2018, so they will not impact the current biennial license renewal due Dec. 31, 2017.

    Harrisburg capitol buildingWith respect to CPE requirements, the new regulations eliminate the minimum eight-hour tax requirement for all licensees, and will require 24 hours (increased from 16) of accounting and auditing credits only for those licensees participating in attest activities. Licensees not participating in attest activities will have no A&A minimum. The four-hour biennial ethics requirement remains in place for all licensees. These changes allow licensees to select and complete CPE in areas most related to their current professional development needs. The regulations also outline a schedule of civil penalties for licensees who fail to comply with the biennial CPE requirements.

    In Act 15 of 2015, a general experience requirement replaces the previous requirement that every licensee obtain 25 percent of his or her required experience in attest services. Under the new regulations, CPA licensees who supervise attest services, and sign or authorize another to sign an accountant’s report for attest services, must meet at least one of the following: at least 400 hours of attest experience within the previous five years and at least 24 hours of CPE in accounting, auditing, or attest during the immediately preceding 24 months of issuing a report; or be a member of, or employed by, a firm registered with the Board that has met the peer review requirements.

    The regulations also clarify the types of general experience permitted by Act 15 to meet the requirement for CPA licensure. They clarify who can verify an applicant’s experience: an individual who possesses a current CPA license during the entire period of the verification, either employs or is employed by the same employer as the candidate, or has a relationship approved by the SBOA prior to the period of verification. This final provision provides an opportunity for candidates who work for entities that do not employ another licensee to seek approval from the SBOA to allow a different relationship to verify their experience.

    If you would like to review the proposed regulations in detail, you can check out the Schedule of Civil Penalties or the Act 73 and Act 15 Amendments.

    If you have any questions or need additional clarification on the new regulations, please feel free to contact me.

    Listen to Mike explain the details of the changes, when they will take effect, and what they mean for Pennsylvania CPAs in this

    If you are required to meet the 24 A&A credit requirement to renew your license by Dec. 31, PICPA is offering a discounted A&A Survival Kit. Get webcasts of the A&A Conference and two seminars - totaling 24 credits - for just $599. That's a $280 savings! Purchase by Dec. 1 to save >>


  • Jul 10, 2017

    NASBA 2017 Data Summit – Examining the Statistics

    Mylin Batipps Jr.By Mylin Batipps Jr., PICPA public relations coordinator

    CPAs from state accountancy boards, state societies, colleges and universities, and firms from all over the country came together to talk CPA Exam numbers at the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) 2017 Data Summit held June 21-22 at PICPA headquarters in Philadelphia.

    NASBA Data Summit at the PICPARepresentatives of NASBA presented data on the number of candidates nationwide who have taken the exam over the past decade, the pass and fail rates of those candidates, and a multitude of factors contributing to the rates and trends.

    The goal of the summit was to dig into the national rates and determine the why behind the numbers. According to the educators, firm members, and accountancy board representatives, a variety of factors contribute to the number of candidates from year to year and the pass/fail rates and trends, including diversity demographics, the degree programs in which the candidates are involved, changes to the exam, and time.

    A point emphasized at the summit was that there is a strong correlation between the number of those sitting for the CPA Exam and the date they graduated from college. The longer it has been since graduation from a college, the less of a chance those graduates will sit for the exam. Reasons range from decreased motivation, increased responsibilities, the distraction of life-changing events, among others.

    Attendees also looked into the CPA Exam itself, specifically how its content areas and skills tests have changed. The number of content areas in each section of the exam are decreasing, but, conversely, the number of skill areas are increasing. Educators expressed a strong desire to leverage score data. Carlo J. Silvesti, CPA, an accounting professor at Gwynedd Mercy University, said he is interested in accessing the data to see where his students are succeeding and where they are falling short. “I want to dig in and see how my students have done,” Silvesti said. “We have a four-year, 150-hour program, and I want to see how they’ve fared. I would really like to see their strengths and weaknesses.”

    Sheri L. Risler, CPA, a Temple University accounting professor and a member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy, has found the CPA Exam candidate statistics and learning about the exam changes to be useful. “As a new State Board of Accountancy board member, it’s really valuable for me to just learn about all the resources available from NASBA,” she said. ”As a faculty member, I look forward to using the various reports and information to help us continuously fine-tune our undergraduate and graduate curriculum to meet the needs of the CPA Exam.”

    Diversity in the profession was an overarching theme discussed during the summit. Attendees explored reasons why rates have been so low as they relate to minorities taking and passing the exam, along with ways to help raise those rates. For instance, the process of preparing for the exam is one that is costly. This affordability issue may be preventing students in minority groups who may have an underwhelming support system from pursuing the exam. In addition, students of these groups are not as exposed to internship opportunities; thus, they may not be getting direct feedback as to what firm members want from potential hires.

    State society members discussed increasing their efforts to approach students from colleges and universities and to offer information on scholarship and internship opportunities. They also suggested providing a platform for students to ask questions or express concerns. Representatives from national associations such as the AICPA, the National Association of Black Accountants, and NASBA discussed ways they can improve connections with students in high school, middle school, and even elementary school.

    Courtesy of PICPA’s Inspire Future CPAs in the Classroom program, CPAs in the state have visited students at middle schools and high schools to not only present financial literacy tips, but also inform the students about the diverse career options that are available in the CPA profession. An even newer initiative that was launched this year is the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation, which aims to help increase the CPA profession’s visibility among young students of diverse backgrounds and to provide them with the resources necessary to consider accounting as a career, pass the CPA Exam, and enter the profession. Visit www.picpa.org/cpa-foundation to learn more about the Foundation and how you can contribute.

  • May 02, 2017

    CPA Exam Stats in Pennsylvania on the Rise!

    By Meg Killian, vice president - member relations

    More than 3,600 candidates took at least one section of the CPA Exam in Pennsylvania in 2016. That was a five-year high, and maybe not surprising given that an updated version of the CPA Exam was scheduled to launch this year. Regardless, more is better. Let’s review the numbers:

    • There were 936 successful candidates (SCs), a 7.5 percent increase over 2015.

      Year  2016 2015
       842  944  1,067
    • A record number of 2,741 new candidates entered the exam process. Nationally, the new candidates number almost doubled from 42,439 to 78,178.
    • The Pennsylvania pass rate fell a few points from 49 percent to 47.3 percent. This is likely due to the number of candidates, but it was not as low as the last candidate surge in 2011 when the pass rate was 38.8 percent. Ouch. The national pass rate decreased also, from 49.8 percent to 48.7 percent in 2016.
    • The average score in the state also fell slightly, from 71.8 to 71.2 There was a similar decline nationally, from 71.9 to 71.5.
    • Nationally there were more female candidates than male candidates, but in Pennsylvania the reverse is the case. About 46 percent of candidates were female, a percentage that hasn’t changed much over the past five years.

    As I reported last year, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s candidate performance reports now include cohort tracking, which looks at candidate performance based on the year in which they started the exam process. In Pennsylvania, 316 candidates passed their fourth part within 12-18 months after taking their first part, and 272 candidates passed the final part more than 24 months after taking their first part.

    Fifty-three candidates passed within six months, which represents 5.7 percent of all Pennsylvania successful candidates in 2016. This is a bit lower than the national average of 6.3 percent of successful candidates who did the same.

    I need to include a shout-out to Pennsylvania schools and colleges who continue to produce strong CPA Exam candidates. The Elijah Watt-Sells Award winners were announced as I was writing this, and six out of the 58 went to schools in our state. Check out the full list here. Congratulations to all the winners!

    Our work is far from done. Last year saw a surge because of the new CPA Exam launch. While early number of 2017 successful candidates are coming in pretty good, history has shown that every time the exam changes there is a significant decline in candidates. The gains of 2016 could be offset if that trend continues. Couple that with a few lean years prior to 2016, and that means less candidates in the pipeline. We need to continue with our mission of educating students and their influencers on the benefits and opportunities of obtaining the CPA credential. In this time of transition that message is more critical than ever.

  • Dec 13, 2016

    Your CPA License Renewal: Don’t Be a State Board Audit Statistic

    Francesca ZampaglioneBy Francesca Zampaglione, CPA, CGMA, former PICPA vice president - learning and development

    The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy (SBA) released the results of its latest CPE audit. They weren’t great. In fact, nearly 13 percent of those audited failed. The outcome is disappointing, no doubt, but some of the reasons behind the failures are quite surprising.

    Failed stampThe biggest audit failure was related to one of the more basic rules that the state board requires: meeting 80 hours of continuing education over a two-year reporting period. The second-highest failure was with licensees not obtaining the minimum four hours of ethics.

    A summary of the SBA’s requirements was posted in a CPA Now blog recently, and can be found here.

    The SBA selects approximately 10 percent of licensees for audit. Lucky licensees are notified via mail of their lottery “win,” and must provide support for their continuing education credits. While CPAs are required to have a certain number of hours, they are not required to submit support unless they are asked to do so via an audit.

    Here are five ways to steer clear of renewal violations that could put your CPA license in jeopardy:

    1. Obtain a total of 80 hours of professional education over the two-year reporting year period.
    2. Obtain a minimum of 20-hours in each year of a reporting cycle.
    3. Obtain the required minimum in the subject areas of ethics, tax, and accounting and auditing.
    4. Obtain your credits from an approved program sponsor. (The PICPA is an approved program sponsor of the SBA!)
    5. Claim no more than 40 hours of self-study CPE.

    The PICPA works closely with our members to provide support during the renewal process, but all renewals must be submitted directly to the SBA.

    The PICPA is not a governmental entity, thus it has no ability to issue licenses. We can, however, provide guidance and approved CPE to help you meet your requirements.

  • Oct 31, 2016

    PICPA-Sponsored Changes to CPA Law Pass State Legislature

    Mike Colgan, PICPA CEOBy Michael D. Colgan, CAE, executive director and CEO

    PICPA’s proposed changes to the Pennsylvania CPA Statute – SB 1018, sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne, CPA – cleared its final hurdle last week by being unanimously approved by the state House.

    The primary objective of the legislation is to adopt a new comprehensive definition of attest services, which are restricted to current licensees. This change was needed because certain unregulated non-CPAs were performing some types of attest services using the accounting profession’s standards. The new definition includes all examinations, reviews, and agreed-upon procedures completed in accordance with the AICPA Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements. This updated definition addresses the fact that CPAs are now being asked to perform attest services on nonfinancial information, such as XBRL, sustainability reports, greenhouse gas emissions, and service organization control reports.

    In addition, the new law removes a requirement that an inactive CPA from another state, upon applying for domestic reciprocity in Pennsylvania, must have completed a year of experience within the previous 60 months. This restriction created an unnecessary burden for an individual who may have left the profession for a period of time to raise a family and is now reentering the workforce. The revised statute now aligns with language in the profession’s model Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA).

    The amendments also include an exemption from the Private Detective Act of 1953, which states that individuals providing expert testimony in a legal proceeding should have a private investigator license. New language ensures that the CPA Statute is the sole law governing CPAs and their services, which would include providing forensic accounting services. We would not want to see a member in court questioned by opposing counsel on whether or not they had a private investigator license under a 1953 law!

    The concept of non-CPA ownership of CPA firms is already law in Pennsylvania and most other states. The CPA Law permits up to 49 percent of firm owners to be non-CPAs, which recognizes a reality in a CPA firm today as the diversity of services provided may require other professionals. Our amendments include a provision to allow the office managing partner to be a nonlicensee owner, but still requires that the partner in charge of the attest function in a CPA firm be a current licensee. This provision promotes a realistic standard for today’s practice environment and keeps Pennsylvania’s law consistent with the UAA and other states.

    I would like to thank Sen. Browne for his sponsorship of this bill, and the support from our other CPA legislators in the House: John Maher, George Dunbar, Keith Greiner, and Mike Peifer. If you have any questions regarding these changes, please feel free to contact me.

  • Oct 24, 2016

    You Wanna Be Where It All Happens? Learn How to Golf

    Meg Killian, VP Member RelationsBy Meg Killian, vice president – member relations

    Every accounting program includes accounting and auditing, tax, economics, finance, and other core business courses you need to earn a degree. No matter what your long-term career goals, there are additional courses you should consider taking -- not just to meet the 150-hour credit requirement to become a CPA, but also to enhance your skills and increase your appeal in the job market. Here are just a few.

    Writing and Composition

    When you ask employers about desired skills, writing is inevitably among the first things they mention. Writing is the No. 1 means of communication in most professional service businesses. Whether it’s a lengthy report or a simple e-mail, being able to write in clear, concise, and grammatically correct prose is absolutely essential.

    Public Speaking

    Training on speaking and giving presentations will be beneficial if your future job is going to require you to speak at meetings or in front of groups. If you’re in a nonprofit or a closely held company, chances are you’ll be the face of the organization in front of board members, donors, or customers, and you need to be able to tell the organization’s story confidently and effectively.


    Data analytics, forensic accounting, cybersecurity, and information systems are quickly becoming more than niche services. Firms are offering more technology-based services, and recent graduates are in a perfect position to build and grow that part of a practice. Also, if you find yourself working in industry chances are you’ll have your hand in the technology end of the business, either from an operations or financial perspective. Having some knowledge of how it all works will be a huge asset.

    Learn Another Language

    As with any business major, a second language is always a good idea. Fluency in a foreign language continues to be a skill that is in high demand. Being bilingual or multilingual gives you high marketability in government or global organizations.

    Don’t Just Take the 100 Level Course

    Many accounting programs have introduction-level courses in their curriculum requirements or recommendations, but consider taking the higher levels to hone your knowledge in the areas of organizational management, economics, supply chain, international business, and marketing.

    Liberal Arts and Humanities

    Courses in psychology, sociology, women’s studies, political science, religion, philosophy, and other humanities can spark your creativity. It will also help you learn more about the people you’ll work with and the world around you.

    Don’t Take Basket Weaving

    Refrain from fringe arts classes, unless you’re planning on going into the textile business or just love basket weaving. If you do, then by all means go for it.

    Take Golf Instead

    Golf may be experiencing a general drop in popularity, but it can still be an important part of building business relationships. You don’t need to own the fanciest clubs or shoot a 90, but being able to swing and knowing basic golf etiquette can at least get you in the room where it all happens ... or on the green where it all happens, as the case may be.

  • Oct 10, 2016

    MBA to CPA: A Recipe for Success

    Meg Killian, VP Member RelationsBy Meg Killian, vice president – member relations

    Meg recently interviewed Jeremy Spencer, CPA, regional controller in the Allentown office of Sodexo, a multinational food services and facilities management company, about the transition from holding an MBA to gaining the CPA credential.

    A few years ago the MBA became the most popular post-graduate degree in the United States, according to Fortune magazine. There are several reasons, but much of the growth was driven by economics. It is a degree that is widely accepted by employers, and MBA candidates enjoy a high employment rate. An MBA can also be a great foundation for someone who is planning to become a CPA or might decide later on to pursue the CPA.

    I recently spoke with one PICPA member about his path to the CPA credential. Jeremy Spencer started his career as a chef, got his MBA, and moved into financial operations. He shared with us why he decided to change careers and eventually become a CPA, and how he did it.

    Tell us a little about your early career path.
    I worked in restaurants/foodservice since I was 14. Up until about my junior year of high school, my plan was to go to college for banking and finance. I’d been working at a local restaurant during high school and really enjoyed the pace and the environment, so I changed plans to go into restaurants as a career. I went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., where I completed my culinary training as well as a bachelor’s degree in food service entrepreneurship. I was a chef and food service manager for about 10 years when I decided that I wanted to move into finance where I’d originally planned to be way back my teen years.

    Why did you initially get an MBA?
    Once I made the decision to move out of culinary and operations and into finance, I knew I’d need further education. At that point, due to my work schedule and personal life commitments, I enrolled in the MBA program online at Jones International University. I worked full time (still as a chef) while completing this program.

    Jeremy Spencer and friends at Dorney Park

    Jeremy Spencer (top left) and friends enjoying PICPA’s Day at Dorney in 2015.

    Fortunately for me, I was working with my present employer (Sodexo), and my manager knew that I was taking these courses. An opening within my operation came up as a unit controller, so I moved from my role as a chef and manager into the controller position. It was a great fit for me and for the company, as the operations background helped me to better lead the team from a financial perspective. Since I knew many of the systems, I didn’t need to start from ground zero and was able to make an immediate impact with the team.

    What made you decide to pursue a career in accounting?
    I’ve always enjoyed math and numbers. While there are days I truly miss being a chef, I didn’t want the schedule that goes with being a chef…working nights, weekends, and holidays. Plus, the challenges for a chef are more physical in nature, and I wanted to be challenged more from an intellectual perspective.

    Did you need additional work experience or education to qualify for the CPA?
    I did need more accounting credits to sit for the CPA Exam since my undergrad work was not in accounting and my MBA was in finance. Fortunately, when I was wrapping up the CPA Exam and preparing for licensure, Pennsylvania changed the requirements pertaining to attestation. So, I did not need any additional work experience as they accepted the experience that I had as a controller.

    How did you get the additional education?
    I completed a specialized diploma program at Northampton Community College. That program is designed for people with undergrad degrees in majors other than accounting, and it gave me what I’d needed to sit for the exam (accounting and business law credits).

    How was your experience taking the CPA Exam?
    This was really the most challenging aspect for me. The time commitment was greater than I would have expected, but it truly paid off. I used Kaplan review materials (self-study), and that really was great in preparing me for each section of the exam. The biggest challenge was really committing to a review plan and sacrificing the time to be on a regimented review and study schedule.

    Do you have any advice for other MBAs who may be considering getting their CPA license?
    I would say that the CPA is a great complement to the MBA. My advice – and I’ve had several people ask – is get your MBA in accounting and not finance. As I mentioned, since my undergrad and MBA programs were not in accounting, I needed to take additional classes to sit for the exam. I would also say that I think having the CPA has really been more of a benefit than the MBA. It has opened many more opportunities up, so it really is worth the investment in both time and financial terms.

    What has been the biggest benefit of getting your CPA?
    After getting my MBA, there certainly were opportunities for career advancement, but the CPA opened up many more. Almost immediately after adding my CPA credentials onto LinkedIn, I began getting e-mails from recruiters. Prior to that, I was the one reaching out to them. Additionally, within Sodexo, this certainly has added interest to leadership and internal recruiting. So, again, I’ve seen significantly more opportunities compared to just having my MBA. Lastly, having the MBA and CPA opened up another door: I have become an adjunct professor of accounting, and teaching was never on my radar!

    Were there any hurdles you’d like to share?
    There was a significant time and financial commitment to pursuing the CPA. It was tough to make the decision to be a career changer after investing what I had to become a chef, but I am very satisfied now that I’ve done it. Those sacrifices were definitely worth it.

    The Pennsylvania CPA Foundation was created to inspire students to pursue careers in accounting and to provide educational, motivational, and financial support to those working to attain the certified public accountant credential. Learn more about how you can support our mission!

  • Apr 06, 2016

    New Uniform CPA Examination Changes

    Liz KolarBy Elizabeth Kolar

    The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has stated that the next version of the Uniform CPA Examination (CPA Exam) will launch April 1, 2017 (the 2017 Q2 testing window). The CPA Exam will continue to include four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). However, each section will now be four hours in length, for a total testing time of 16 hours.

    Candidates will be offered a 15-minute break midway through each section, which may be accepted or declined. This break will not count against testing time. In addition to this standardized break, optional breaks between testlets (which do count against candidates’ testing time) will continue in the next CPA Exam, consistent with current practice.

    Additional task-based simulations (TBSs) will be included to assess higher-order skills. These include, but are not limited to, critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical ability. The TBSs will contain background material (i.e., real-world documents and exhibits) and data that will require candidates to determine what information is or is not relevant to the question.

    A new type of TBS, called the Document Review Simulation (DRS), will be introduced in the AUD, FAR, and REG sections beginning with the 2016 Q3 testing window (July 1, 2016). The DRS will continue to be used after the launch of the next CPA Exam, where it will be added to the BEC section as well. Candidates are encouraged to visit the AICPA website to review the DRS format under the “Sample Exam” option.

    In connection with testing higher-order skills, the CPA Exam will use a skills-based framework consistent with the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is further supported by the exam blueprints. The blueprints contain about 600 representative tasks across all four exam sections and replace the Content Specification Outline and Skill Specification Outline. They will identify content knowledge linked directly to representative tasks performed by newly licensed CPAs.

    Scoring weights for AUD, FAR, and REG will be about 50 percent multiple choice questions (MCQ) and 50 percent TBS, while scoring weights for BEC will be about 50 percent MCQ, 35 percent TBS, and 15 percent written response simulations.


    Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
    Task-Based Simulations (TBSs)
    Written Response Simulations


    Candidates will still get credit for passing sections of the current CPA Exam after the next exam launches. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, state boards of accountancy, and the AICPA have agreed that any combination of passed current exam sections and passed next exam sections will count toward licensure. All candidates will take new CPA Exam sections beginning in the second quarter of 2017. Thus, any sections passed prior to the launch of the next exam in the second quarter of 2017 will count toward licensure requirements (subject to the 18-month rule) going forward.

    To increase candidate convenience, there will be a 10-day extension of the testing window each quarter in the months of March, June, September, and December. The 10-day extension will not be available during June 2017, as additional time will be required to analyze exam results and set new passing scores.

    Elizabeth Kolar is vice president of Surgent CPA Review.

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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.
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