Exam & Licensing
  • Nov 07, 2022

    Monumental Changes for CPAs Arise from Pa. Legislature’s Late Session Action

    Alex Fabian McMahonBy Alexandra Fabian, PICPA Manager, Government Relations  

    Substantial change takes time. It is a practice in patience, especially when it comes to change needing legislation. For the past two years, the PICPA government relations team has been working behind the scenes to push for major legislative changes to Pennsylvania’s CPA Law, the law that governs the profession and impacts so many functions that are core to the role of CPAs.  

    At the beginning of the 2021-2022 legislative session, the PICPA team identified several issues that would help eliminate some of the obstructions in the accounting career pipeline, would modernize outdated practices, and would generally streamline processes for CPAs working in Pennsylvania. The PICPA government relations team worked with various stakeholders in the accounting community, such as the AICPA, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and PICPA’s peer review team to formulate legislative language that met the needs of all the interested parties. With the approval of the accounting community, this collection of vital changes benefiting the profession soon became House Bill 1328, sponsored by Rep. Keith Greiner, CPA (R-Lancaster).  

    Pennsylvania capitol domeHere are some of the important changes that House Bill 1328 makes to the Pennsylvania CPA Law:

    • Directs the State Board of Accountancy to adopt a nationally recognized code of professional conduct.
    • Expands the scope of classes a student can take toward earning an accounting degree to include economics and technology.
    • Permits an applicant for licensure to sit for the CPA Exam upon completing 120 semester credits without a degree being conferred.
    • Makes numerous updates to peer review standards, including the following:
      • Specifies that the firms that require a peer review will need to be enrolled in a board-approved peer review program.
      • Eliminates the exception to the peer review requirements that allow firms with two or fewer licensees to have a five-year peer review cycle rather than a three-year cycle.
      • Streamlines the peer review submission requirements to allow board access.
      • Makes conforming changes to comply with current peer review standards.

    Once the legislation was formally introduced, the PICPA government relations team got to work meeting with members of the state House and Senate licensure committees to explain the changes, alleviate concerns, and ensure a smooth route to passage. In January 2022, House Bill 1328 passed its first legislative hurdle when it was considered by the House Licensure Committee and passed unanimously. In February, the bill was considered by the House of Representatives, where it again passed unanimously by a vote of 199 to 0.  

    The legislation was then referred to the Senate, where it sat idle for months. The PICPA team had begun to lose hope as the end of the legislative session approached and there was no legislative action on the bill despite our best efforts to urge its consideration. Then, on Oct. 24, during the final voting week of the 2022 legislative session, a breakthrough! The bill was scheduled to be considered by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. The legislation again passed unanimously and then received final passage by the full Senate the following day – the final voting day of the year. Had the legislation not passed, we would have had to start the process from the beginning by reintroducing a new bill in 2023.

    The legislation championed by the PICPA was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Nov. 3 and is now Act 110 of 2022. It’s important to note that the PICPA government relations team strives to maintain a nonpartisan role in the state capital as an authority on accounting issues and economic matters impacting Pennsylvania. We provide technical expertise to policymakers that only CPAs can provide, and without the PICPA working tirelessly to shepherd sound tax policies through the process, instrumental changes such as these likely would not happen.

    Jennifer Cryder, PICPA’s chief executive officer, commented on the legislation, stating, “The PICPA works every day on behalf of CPAs in Pennsylvania, solving problems and creating opportunities for the profession. We are so proud of these amendments to the CPA Law because they represent the best of what we can do together – we identify what the profession needs to be future-ready and then convene influencers and decision-makers to make that happen. I’m certain the CPA profession in Pennsylvania will be better because these changes have been made.”

    The changes included in House Bill 1328 truly are significant for the profession, and the PICPA gratefully thanks Rep. Greiner for his unwavering support and guiding this bill through an often challenging and unpredictable legislative process. Commenting on the legislation, Rep. Greiner said, “As an active CPA, it was an honor to be able to shepherd this bill through the legislative process in Harrisburg. This is an important piece of legislation for the CPA profession. It keeps the Pennsylvania CPA Law on pace with the rapid changes our profession is facing. I am proud to have my name associated with this legislation. Thank you to the PICPA for working with me on this initiative.”

    To learn more about this victory and other key legislative initiatives, join Peter Calcara, PICPA vice president of government relations, as he provides an insider’s perspective on the year-end legislative and regulatory landscape in the state capital. Register today for this free-to-members one-hour webcast on Nov. 30.   

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  • Oct 31, 2022

    CPA Exam Evolution: Several Pathways for Success

    Jennifer Boyd, CPABy Jennifer Boyd, CPA

    The CPA Exam is undergoing what the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) call the CPA Evolution initiative. In short, the exam is being restructured into a new model that accounts for the critical thinking skills required of modern CPAs while also incorporating more technology and data-related knowledge. The new format deviates from the traditional menu of four established and required subjects for all, and instead embraces three core tests for all followed by a choice of one of three discipline tests. Naturally, test-takers will have a few questions:

    • How will the CPA Evolution impact my career?
    • How will these changes impact my journey to licensure?
    • Should I take the exam now or wait? What if I’m caught in the middle of the change?

    I'll do my best to clarify these common concerns from my perspective as a CPA content developer at UWorld.

    CPA Exam Transition Policy

    Many candidates are having difficulty wrapping their arms around the new exam format because, let’s be honest, change is uncomfortable. I’m here to let you know that the AICPA and NASBA want to simplify the process and minimize disruptions. They’ve developed a plan, outlined below, to make the transition as seamless as possible, no matter when you plan to sit for the CPA Exam.

    Info Graphic: NASBA's CPA Exam Transition Policy
    Source: https://nasba.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/policy.png

    Once 2024 rolls around, any existing auditing and attestation (AUD), financial accounting and reporting (FAR), or taxation and regulation (REG) pass credit will be applied to the updated core version, one for one. If you have credit for passing the business environment and concepts (BEC) section, the credit will be applied to one of the new discipline sections. This means candidates who pass BEC before 2024 and complete the other three sections in the 18-month window do not need to take one of the new discipline tests. So, if you plan to take any exam sections before January 2024, it pays to plan ahead and personalize your test-taking strategy.

    Here are a few pathways to consider.

    Option 1: Complete the CPA Exam Before the 2024 Changes – If you are an eligible candidate who is ready to take all four sections of the exam before January 2024, I say go for it! You’ve worked hard to get to this point and don’t need to let these changes distract you from your goals. This path allows you to put your head down and focus. You will also receive your CPA license sooner, and who doesn’t want that? With that said, do not rush your preparation or schedule an exam prematurely just to avoid new exam sections. Jumping in before you are ready is a recipe for disaster.

    Option 2: Complete the CPA Exam Before and After the 2024 Changes – The CPA Exam transition policy was developed with flexibility in mind. Instead of enforcing a rigid switch to the new exam format, the AICPA and NASBA wanted to ensure that they were being fair to candidates. If you have concerns about the new AUD section (the section we anticipate candidates to struggle with the most), plan to take the current AUD exam. If you struggle with general business concepts but are stronger in technology, plan to take the new ISC discipline exam and forego the current BEC. There are a number of combinations to choose from that you should certainly explore to tailor the exam to your experience and preferences.

    Option 3: Complete the CPA Exam After the 2024 Changes – The final option would be to take all four CPA Exam sections once the new format is available. Candidates who choose this path will have to demonstrate a better understanding of the technology used in the CPA profession. Learning new technologies may be intimidating for some, but don’t let it deter you. Any good CPA review course will make certain you have the requisite knowledge to succeed in all of the new exam sections. Furthermore, we’ve heard that many candidates are excited to choose a discipline and focus their study efforts on an area in which they intend to specialize or just have an interest.

    What’s the Best Order to Take the 2024 CPA Exam?

    While the order you take the CPA Exam largely comes down to preference, the new exam is designed in a way that encourages an intuitive order based on your chosen discipline. We recommend taking your chosen discipline section at some point after its related core section:

    • If you plan on BAR, your order could be AUD, FAR, BAR, and REG.
    • If you plan on ISC, your order could be AUD, REG, ISC, and FAR.
    • If you plan on TCP, your order could be AUD, REG, TCP, and FAR.

    You may have noticed that we suggest you sit for AUD first, no matter what. This is because we anticipate it to be the most difficult exam section and recommend you get over that hurdle as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the new CPA Exam will keep the 18-month rule, so you will still have an 18-month window to complete all four exam sections. This is a rolling window that begins on the date that you sat for your first exam section passed.  

    Other Tips for Pennsylvania CPA Candidates

    Despite such major changes to the CPA Exam, much of your preparation strategy should remain the same:

    • Make a realistic study plan that gives you enough time to learn the material outlined in the AICPA blueprints.
    • Identify your strengths and weaknesses to eliminate surprises on exam day.
    • Learn the why behind each practice problem you complete.
    • Ensure you know Pennsylvania’s CPA Exam and licensure requirements.

    Last, but certainly not least, keep a positive attitude. The journey to CPA licensure is a marathon, not a sprint. Every current CPA was once a candidate putting in the time to master critical accounting principles. Enjoy the journey and get support from your fellow PICPA members as needed.

    Jennifer Boyd, CPA, is a CPA content developer for UWorld. She can be reached  at jboyd@uworld.com.

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  • Oct 18, 2022

    CPAs: Principal Place of Business Determines Where You Should Hold Your License

    Jennifer Cryder, PICPA CEOBy Jennifer L. Cryder, CPA, PICPA CEO  

    The pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Perhaps nothing more significant has changed in our professional lives than remote work. Unlike some, the CPA profession was better prepared to face these unforeseen challenges because of statutorily granted practice mobility. With remote work becoming the norm, CPAs should know the nuances of working remotely and the importance of their designated principal place of business.  

    The Pennsylvania CPA Law defines principal place of business as “The location of the principal office where a certified public accountant practices public accounting.” This definition virtually mirrors the definition in the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA), the AICPA and National Association of State Board of Accountancy’s model licensing law. The UAA stipulates that if a CPA has 150 credit hours of education with an accounting concentration, at least one year of acceptable experience, and the successful completion of the Uniform CPA Examination, licensed CPAs could more readily practice across state lines.   

    CPA working remotely: View of online meeting.It may not, however, be that simple. CPAs must use their best judgement to make the principal place of business determination, as Stephanie Saunders, chair of NASBA’s Uniform Accountancy Act Committee, explained at the 2022 NASBA Eastern Regional Meeting. For instance, a CPA who is living in New Jersey and working from home and is hired by a Virginia accounting firm whose clients are in Virginia, should be licensed in Virginia. While this CPA lives in New Jersey and never physically works in Virginia, the principal place of business in this case is Virginia since that is the location of the firm and clients.   

    In some cases, the principal place of business may not be enough to prevent the need for a second license. If a CPA establishes residency in Colorado, for example, and provides a few professional services to an employer or client in the state, that person must have an active CPA license in Colorado, even if their principal place of business continues to be in another state like Pennsylvania.  

    The bottom line: Be sure you read the statutes of the states in which you conduct business, and consider consulting with legal counsel to ensure you are licensed in the right jurisdiction. For more information on this issue, I encourage you to visit www.nasba.org/licensure/substantialequivalency.

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  • Oct 17, 2022

    CPA Evolution Changes that Will Impact Your CPA Exam Experience

    Jack CastonguayBy Jack Castonguay, CPA, PhD

    If you are entering your CPA Exam journey and were worried that you would need to pass all four sections of the current CPA Exam before the CPA Evolution goes into effect in January 2024, you can breathe easier. You still will get the same 18-month window to pass all four parts and you will not lose passed sections just because the Evolution is live. Even though the content is changing, previously passed sections will count under the new model. Even BEC, which is going away, will still count as long as you pass it before 2024.  

    Illustration of the new CPA Evolution exam model: 3 core tests and 3 specialty choicesUnder the CPA Evolution model, the core of the exam (which everyone must mass) will be auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation and taxation, which roughly align with the three traditional sections of audit and attestation (AUD), financial accounting reporting (FAR), and regulation (REG). The current business environment and concepts (BEC) section is being eliminated and is being replaced by three discipline options: business analysis and reporting (BAR), information systems and controls (ISC), and tax compliance and planning (TCP). Students will select one, and only one, of the three disciplines to complete their CPA Exam if they didn’t previously pass BEC.

    Exam Planning Tips

    Try to pass all four parts before January 2024. Yes, the three core sections remain and you will get to choose a discipline exam that appeals to you instead of having to take BEC, but over the past two years the BEC pass rate has exceeded 60%. This is the highest rate of any of the four current parts. Plus, the current accounting program at your school may not be ready to transition fast enough to teach you the materials covered on the new exam before you are ready to take it.  

    If you can’t pass all four parts and want to prioritize what to pass as 2024 nears, pass BEC first. Again, this section has the highest pass rate of the four sections and will grandfather over.  

    If you have more time before 2024, consider making AUD the next priority on your pretransition list. Under the CPA Evolution, AUD will be adding more content on controls, more emphasis on service organizations, and more analytical procedures. After AUD, take FAR. The FAR section today resembles what you learned in intermediate and advanced accounting. If you still have time before the transition, take REG last. We recommend this because tax laws change often – taxable thresholds, rates, deductions, and limitations are changed annually. You would need to relearn some of this material even if the CPA Evolution wasn’t happening.

    As noted above, the 18-month completion window still applies, so you still need to pass all four parts of the new CPA Exam within 18 months of passing your first section, regardless of whether it occurs before or after the launch of the CPA Evolution.

    In addition to the CPA Evolution-related changes, question format, question type, and user experience also will be changing across all sections of the exam. Here are some of the other things changing in 2024.

    Essays Are Out

    The written communication tasks, commonly referred to as essays, were only tested in BEC. With the elimination of the BEC section as part of the revised exam the written communication tasks also are being eliminated.

    While BEC is being eliminated as a stand-alone section, much of the content will continue to be tested in other sections. Economic concepts will move to the AUD core section and cost accounting will appear in BAR. Other BEC content will move into the ISC discipline.

    Authoritative Guidance Resources Gone

    Currently, when you get a task-based simulation in REG, AUD, or FAR, there is authoritative guidance you can use as a resource to look up how to solve the problem. The exam also contains research-focused simulations where you must determine what section of the code, codification, or other authoritative guidance applies to a given scenario. In 2024, those pure research simulations will be gone, as will the authoritative guidance as a resource. Instead, guidance will only appear in select simulations as an exhibit.

    Task-Based Simulations Redesigned  

    As part of the elimination of authoritative guidance, you will see a new type of task-based simulation during the transition that provides you with sections, paragraphs, or snippets of the authoritative guidance. From there, you will need to determine which parts of the provided evidence, if any, apply to a given simulation. You will not have the entire guidance to search through.  

    Similar simulations already appear, but the authoritative guidance is provided separately from the exhibits and evidence presented. Now, relevant guidance will be presented along with the exhibits and evidence. You will no longer need to search through pages of text to find the information relevant to your task. This new simulation format is eligible for testing today.  

    Adaptive Multiple Choice Removed  

    You may have heard that current multiple-choice testlets adjust to your performance early on when taking the exam. If you are scoring well, you will be shown more difficult questions. If you start off by missing several questions, you will be shown easier options. Most of the time the candidate does not even realize this is occurring. Beginning in 2024, this “adaptive question presentation” will cease; the question testlets will not change based on performance.

    Excel Out, JavaScript SpreadJS In

    SpreadJS, like Microsoft Excel, is a spreadsheet tool, but it won’t have all the features of Excel. We expect much of the basic formulas and calculation tools will be similar to the tools in Excel.

    Key Takeaway

    The transition policy is quite simple. Candidates who have credit for AUD, FAR, or REG on the current CPA Exam will not need to take the corresponding core section of the new CPA Exam in 2024. Candidates who have credit for BEC on the current CPA Exam will not have to take one of the three new discipline sections.

    If, however, a candidate loses credit for AUD, FAR, or REG after Dec. 31, 2023, then they must take the corresponding new core section. A candidate who loses credit for BEC after Dec. 31, 2023, must select one of the three discipline sections to be tested.  

    The key to passing the CPA Exam is to be well-prepared for the material and upcoming changes to the exam. With proper planning and the right study plan, you will be well on your way to passing the CPA Exam, whether it happens before or after the CPA Evolution takes place.

    Jack Castonguay, CPA, PhD, serves as the vice president of strategic content development for Surgent CPA Review in Radnor, Pa. He can be reached at castonguayj@knowfully.com.

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  • Apr 29, 2022

    3 Tips to Pass the CPA Exam Faster

    Megan Burke, CPA, PhDBy Megan Burke, CPA, PhD

    Better salaries, enhanced career growth, and stronger job security are just a few of the reasons why the CPA designation is worth pursuing. However, studying for and passing the CPA Exam is no easy feat, especially if you are a busy student or working professional with competing priorities. Research conducted by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) shows that the closer you take the CPA Exam to your graduation date (i.e., while you’re still in a student mindset), the more likely you are to pass during your first attempt.

    As a content developer at UWorld Roger CPA Review, I understand that every CPA Exam candidate’s time is precious. So, while there are no shortcuts to passing the CPA Exam, there are steps you can take to expedite the process, particularly in the area of studying more efficiently. Here are three tips on how to pass the CPA Exam faster so you can obtain your license and begin excelling in your professional life.

    Create a Study Plan and Stick to It

    Close up of working on laptop to prepare for CPA Exam.Give yourself a realistic time frame to pass the CPA Exam. Will it be three, six, nine, or 12 months? To determine your plan, look at what’s going on in your life and schedule accordingly. Create a daily study plan to ensure you get through all the material within your designated time frame.

    Proactively put parameters in place that will allow you to accomplish your daily study goals. This could be asking family and friends to not disturb you during certain times of the day or setting up a reward system for yourself whenever you achieve certain aspects of your study goals. You can even schedule your exam dates in advance to give yourself hard-deadline motivation to work toward your goal.

    Remember to leave some wiggle room in your study plan to accommodate unexpected life events, breaks, or an extra day to fully comprehend material that you haven’t encountered before.

    Getting off track comes easily, so stick to your study routine. This is an essential key to CPA Exam success.

    Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

    Passing the CPA Exam is rooted in how well you understand the concepts. A helpful way to make sure you do is to identify where you are strong and weak in specific content areas.

    For example, if you had a great audit professor in college, you probably don’t have to spend as much time doing practice questions on audit topics of which you’re already familiar. Conversely, if you aren’t quite up to speed on internal controls, you’ll want to spend more time studying and doing practice questions on this topic until you have a thorough understanding.

    Once you identify areas that need improvement, focus your efforts on fully comprehending those topics instead of wasting time on areas where you are already proficient.

    At UWorld Roger CPA Review, we help students do this thorough our SmartPath Predictive Technology. SmartPath shows candidates how many practice questions they need to answer correctly in each section to achieve topic competency. We encourage students to hit their SmartPath targets and then move on to the next section.

    By honing your time and effort to turn weaknesses into strengths, you will gain more efficient study sessions and less wasted time.

    Understand Why You Got a Question Right or Wrong

    Working through practice questions is an important activity for applying your knowledge and skills, but it also is the most time-consuming element when studying for the exam. Therefore, it is extremely important that your practice questions contain thorough and coherent answer explanations that teach you the fundamentals about the topic the question is representing, including why each answer choice is correct or incorrect.

    Having good, detailed answer explanations will reinforce your knowledge about the content while also filling in any comprehension gaps. Thorough answer explanations eliminate the need to constantly refer back to lectures or textbooks to gain clarity; everything you need to know is already in front of you. This increases study efficiency by minimizing the need for memorization and maximizing retention and recall for exam day.

    Making sure that you fully understand the what, why, and how behind each question ignites learning and will help you understand concepts more quickly and easily.

    The career outlook for CPAs remains strong as demand for the position grows. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment growth for accountants will increase by 7% over the next eight years. There is no better time than now to obtain licensure. The sooner you pass the CPA Exam, the sooner you can reap the rewards of greater career opportunities and benefits.

    Megan Burke, CPA, PhD, is an assistant professor of accounting at Texas Woman’s University and a content writer for UWorld Roger CPA Review.

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  • Apr 13, 2022

    CPA Evolution: More than a Few CPA Exam Changes

    By Rachel Parsia, CPA

    When I graduated from college, I never would have imagined that only a few years later the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would completely redefine the tax code, or that I would encounter cutting-edge technologies like robotic process automation. I quickly learned to accept and embrace frequent and unexpected changes as a normal part of accounting.

    All that change eventually winds its way down to the gate of the CPA profession: the CPA Exam. The CPA Exam is designed to test the applicable skills of candidates for the profession. And as the profession changes, the exam will frequently undergo revision. The current movement in revision is the CPA Evolution initiative, a joint effort by the AICPA and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). The advocates for alteration stress that many of the tasks that newly licensed CPAs performed in the past are now completed by offshore teams or automated through sophisticated programs. More than ever, CPAs must possess critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as an increased understanding of technology and data analysis. The CPA Evolution Initiative intends to change the CPA licensure model in order to align it with these demands.

    Graphic explaining the new CPA Exam arising the CPA Evolution projectThis new model for CPA licensure is expected to take effect in January 2024. As a result, current college sophomores and freshmen will be among the first candidates to take the revised Uniform CPA Examination in 2024. The fundamental shift encompasses a new core-plus-discipline licensure model. This features a “core” section of three parts that all candidates must complete, as well as a “discipline” section that candidates choose as a specialty knowledge area. The core comprises financial accounting, auditing, and tax, with technology and digital acumen integrated across these areas. To assist educators in preparing students for the new testing model, the AICPA and NASBA released the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum, highlighting the topics that each core section will cover. The accounting and data analytics section focuses on topics such as financial statement accounts and analysis, critical thinking, and digital acumen. The audit and accounting information systems section includes topics such as information technology, audit evidence and procedures, audit reports, and materiality. The tax section focuses on topics such as federal tax procedures, entity type, and legal duties and responsibilities.

    For the discipline requirement, candidates may choose from business analysis and reporting (BAR), information systems and controls (ISC), or tax compliance and planning (TCP). Similar to the core sections, the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum discusses the topics covered in discipline sections. BAR focuses on topics such as accounting research, cost accounting, employee benefit plan accounting, and planning techniques. ISC covers topics such as governance and risk assessment, testing internal controls, information security, and data management. TCP concentrates on individual taxation and planning, multijurisdictional tax, tax research, and tax planning for entities.

    An AICPA and NASBA survey of students found that about 50% of students would be interested in pursuing the BAR discipline, 25% would pursue the ISC discipline, and the remaining 25% would pursue the TCP discipline. While candidates may select only one discipline section for exam purposes, they are not limited to practicing solely in that selected discipline. All candidates who pass the exam, regardless of which individual discipline they choose, will become licensed CPAs: all paths result in one CPA license.

    The CPA Evolution initiative is a significant overhaul from the current exam format, which consists of four sections that all candidates must pass: auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation. While the CPA licensure model will transform over the next few years, the one thing that will not change is the importance and value of the CPA license.

    For more on the CPA Evolution, check out “The New & Improved CPA Exam: A Look Inside the CPA Evolution Updates” in the winter 2022 Pennsylvania CPA Journal

    Rachel Parsia, CPA, is director, tax and advisory content, for Surgent Accounting & Financial Education, where she co-authors a variety of tax CPE courses.

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  • Mar 21, 2022

    Future of Accounting Depends on All of Us Pitching In

    Oliver ArthurBy Oliver Arthur, CPA

    For more than a decade, the PICPA and American Institute of CPAs have been discussing the shortage of CPAs in the profession. At this time, the CPA pipeline issue hasn’t improved; in fact, it has gotten worse. The number of accounting students pursuing the CPA credential is at a 10-year low, and we are also seeing an overall decline in accounting students over the past few years.

    The PICPA and many firms have been working on ways to change the prospects for the CPA profession. But what can you do, as an individual CPA, to positively impact the pipeline and the profession’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts? A lot, actually. Individual CPAs and small firms can work together and move things forward more quickly than the bigger entities. Small firms and sole practitioners may not have the vast resources that large firms have, but every effort you make, no matter how small, adds up.

    Here are some ways all of us can help the future of our profession!

    Experienced CPA mentoring her protege.Mentor – Whether you have been a CPA for decades or are a newly certified accountant, you can bring value to a mentorship opportunity. By being a mentor, you can provide guidance by sharing your experiences. Even those who just passed the CPA Exam and are not yet certified can be great mentors to those preparing for, or considering, the examination. The PICPA offers a Mentor Match program. Its website cannot be more on the mark: “Mentors offer crucial support at many stages of a professional's career. They are role models. They are motivators. They are trusted advisers who provide honest and constructive feedback.”

    Internship – Providing internship opportunities is a fabulous way to share the daily work life of a CPA with someone in an accounting program. What better way to show the advantages of achieving the CPA license? Many businesses offer internships to students near the end of their college program, but perhaps one of the longest-lasting impressions can be achieved by providing internships earlier in a student’s career. Consider offering a summer internship to a high school senior. By allowing someone who is precollege to see what CPAs do, you may be the one who guides them toward majoring in accounting in college rather than finance.

    Recruiting – People get into routines. They frequent the same coffee shop; they buy the same breakfast cereal. It happens to recruiters too, as they limit the number of colleges they visit because they had success there before. Stepping out of our comfort zone, though, could make a lasting difference in our profession’s pipeline of talent. Consider attending job fairs at colleges at which you might not normally recruit, especially a college that doesn’t have a high level of graduates pursuing the CPA license. Why? In certain areas, especially underserved communities, students may not be aware of the possibility of becoming a CPA or of the benefits of the licensure. Another reason students at these schools may not be moving toward their CPA might be because of funding – it can be financially difficult to pursue a license right out of college. If your business offers benefits such as study materials, exam reimbursement, and continuing education credits after licensure, you may gain a valuable employee for the future by offering that person the opportunity of a lifetime.

    Reach Out – We can help people consider a CPA profession well before they enter college. By being involved in the community, we can share the importance of our profession and how we impact the community. One way is to get involved in underserved communities by hosting a tax preparation day for low-income families. This is a great opportunity for new staff members because tax returns are normally not complex. Plus, a family member who is considering a career path might see how CPAs make a difference in their community and choose to pursue the CPA career path.

    These are only a couple ways we can help increase the number of CPAs in our profession while, at the same time, improve on our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. What steps will you take?

    Oliver Arthur, CPA, is manager of auditing for Berks County, Pa. He can be reached at oarthur@countyofberks.com.

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  • Feb 11, 2022

    Tips for Accounting Student Scholarship Applicants

    Lesley BrownBy Lesley Brown, marketing administrator, Pennsylvania CPA Foundation

    The Pennsylvania CPA Foundation has a unique scholarship program to help you achieve career success. If you are a student with an interest in accounting, the Foundation has a scholarship for you! Applications are now open for …

    • Academic Merit Scholarships
    • Minority Scholarships
    • Community College Scholarships
    • High School Scholarships

    Illustration: Hand lifting graduation cap out of a bag of moneyThe cost of education is high, and the Foundation awards more than $200,000 to support future CPAs each year. Don’t let this opportunity to win between $1,000 and $5,000 pass you by.

    You can make sure your application stands out from the pack by following the tips below:

    • Make sure your application is complete.
      This tip may be obvious, but it’s important. Don’t leave money on the table by forgetting to include a transcript, a faculty recommender contact, or an essay.
    • Highlight your extracurriculars.
      Your involvement in activities outside of class sets you apart. Use this section to help judges understand your interests and personality beyond accounting classes.
    • Share your financial need.
      Spend some time to correctly explain how your college expenses are funded. Judges are looking to this information to help make their final decisions.
    • Look into the future.
      Are you planning to stay in the accounting profession and complete your CPA Exam? Judges want to know your plans. Think through the next five years and use your essay response as a chance to show your passion and excitement for the next steps in your career.
    • Don’t be afraid to explain any shortcomings.
      A less-than-stellar grade or a slower-than-usual path doesn’t mean you aren’t deserving. Use open-ended and essay questions as a chance to highlight the challenges you’ve overcome and the way you plan to achieve your future goals.

    Remember that Foundation scholarship judges are looking to find the very best and most deserving students for these awards. Show them why you are a future leader of the profession! Get your application in by March 16. Better yet, do it today. Apply now! 

    Learn about the initiatives of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation and how you can support future CPAs through scholarships, events, and more.

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  • Jan 18, 2022

    Reactivating Your CPA License in Pa.

    Clare M. Bedford, PICPA Recruitment & Retention AdministratorBy Clare M. Bedford, PICPA Recruitment and Retention Administrator

    Did you miss the CPA license renewal deadline on Dec. 31, 2021? The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy has made changes to its renewal/reactivation process this year, and here is what you need to know. This information applies to any type of CPA license reactivation.

    License Renewals cannot be submitted after Dec. 31, 2021. In prior years, the State Board allowed license renewals to be submitted up to 30 days after the renewal deadline. This grace period is no longer in effect, so late renewals can no longer be submitted through the PALS website.

    Pennsylvania capitol building in HarrisburgIf you missed the Dec. 31, 2021, deadline, you have the option to reactivate your CPA license.

    Before You Reactivate
    • Make sure you have met the following continuing professional education (CPE) requirements prior to requesting a reactivation application: 80 CPE credits, 4 of which must be in Ethics. If signing attest reports or supervising attest work, 24 credits must be in Accounting & Auditing. Credits earned can be no older than 24 months prior to the  date on the reactivation application.
    • Reactivation applications submitted prior to March 31, 2022, will fall under the CPE self-study limitation waiver (all 80 credits obtained may be from self-study courses). Reactivation applications submitted after March 31, 2022, will be subject to the reinstituted self-study limitation (only up to 40 credits may be earned via self-study).
    Submitting Your Request to Reactivate

    The reactivation application is not available on the PALS website, and must be requested in one of the following three ways:  

    • Call the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy at (717) 783-1404.
    • Email the State Board of Accountancy at st-accountancy@pa.gov.
    • Submit a help-desk ticket through the PALS website—First, log in to the PALS portal and click on the Technical Support ticket icon on the left-hand side. Select “create new ticket” and fill in all required fields. Add License Reactivation in the subject and provide a brief overview of your request.

    When submitting a request, please include your full name (as it appears on your license), license number, email address, mailing address, and phone number. Logging in to the PALS website and submitting a help-desk ticket will allow you to populate all necessary information directly from your account.

    After the State Board receives your request, it will email you a copy of the reactivation application, with appropriate fees added.

    The reactivation application form must be returned by mail with copies of all applicable CPE certificates and a check or money order for the applicable fee.


    If you have not practiced as a CPA while your license was inactive, the fee is $135 ($100 renewal fee plus $35 reactivation fee). If you have practiced as a CPA while your license was inactive, the fee changes monthly and includes past renewal fees plus a $5 late fee per month.

    Processing Your Reactivation

    Please note that there is currently a 46-day turnaround time for all applications submitted to the State Board. You can monitor the status of your application through the PALS website, but keep in mind that the turnaround time will be at least 46 days from the date it is received by mail.

    As with all renewals, you can verify that your reactivation is complete by checking your license expiration date. This information can be found at www.pals.gov/verify. Once your license has been reactivated by the State Board, your license expiration date will change from Dec. 31, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2023.

    This information is being provided in conjunction with the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy and outlines the general license reactivation process. Ultimately, all decisions pertaining to license reactivations are made by the State Board. For specific questions or about your CPA license or reactivation application, please contact the State Board of Accountancy directly at (717) 783-1404, st-accountancy@pa.gov, or log in to the PALS website and submit a support ticket.

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  • Jan 17, 2022

    CPA Exam’s Regulation Section: Why It Is More Vital than You Think

    Christopher Lee, CPA, MSA By Christopher Lee, CPA, MSA

    The CPA profession is taking on an ever-increasing consultative role as professionals are being asked to advise in areas beyond traditional financial reporting. Maybe you’re starting to hear questions such as the following:

    • “John, what is the best way to structure my new business?”
    • “Jenny, what are the effects of a credit versus a deduction?”
    • “Allison, do I really need an attorney to memorialize that verbal agreement?”

    To measure proficiency in some of these expanding duties, the CPA Exam has its Regulation (REG) section. The REG section exists to ensure CPA Exam candidates have a basic understanding of the regulatory environment: basic business law, taxation of property transactions, taxation of individuals, and taxation of business entities.

    Rubbber stamps: one reading "regulations" and one reading "rules"Many CPA candidates believe they will pursue a career in auditing, assurance, or financial reporting, so they see little value in the topics tested in the REG section of the exam. Still, the best professionals are those who know what they don’t know: and that’s where the REG section comes in. It ensures that future CPAs have enough legal and tax basic knowledge to recognize these issues when they arise and to seek specialized help before problems ensue.

    Furthermore, the career of a CPA can take more twists and turns than ever before, and individuals may find themselves unexpectedly functioning as tax advisers. While the nuances and details of tax law change frequently, many principles often remain the same. Thus, the concepts learned while preparing for the exam may make an unexpected revival in the future as a CPA draws on previously tested knowledge.

    Finally, as taxpayers, CPAs will find the knowledge gained in preparing for the CPA Exam will have a direct carryover benefit to their personal tax and financial planning endeavors. With the knowledge and understanding gained through the exam process, individual CPAs are better prepared to pursue their own financial goals with a mindfulness of tax efficiency.

    For CPA Exam candidates less interested in the REG section, take note of the points above. The concepts and principles learned may apply in unexpected ways. Study hard, learn well, and crush the exam!

    Christopher Lee, CPA, MSA, is a manager of tax and advisory content for Surgent. Additionally, he serves as associate faculty for the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, teaching a variety of courses in the accounting department. He can be reached at leec@knowfully.com.

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  • Nov 29, 2021

    The 2024 CPA Exam Evolution: A Welcomed Change

    This blog was provided by UWorld Roger CPA Review, an Ambassador Level sponsor of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation.

    Jonathan Zigman, CPABy Jonathan Zigman, CPA

    The CPA Exam is evolving to reflect the skills and knowledge CPAs need in a technology-driven marketplace. The new licensure model is being developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), and is expected to launch in January 2024. Candidates still will have to demonstrate core skills in accounting, audit, and tax, but technology will have a greater emphasis and be embedded into each of the exams. Candidates also will choose one additional discipline in which to demonstrate more in-depth knowledge. The three discipline exams are Business Analysis and Reporting, Tax Compliance and Planning, and Information Systems and Controls. This is being called the Core Plus Discipline model.

    Graphic detailing the new CPA Exam core topics surrounded by 3 optional exam topics
    Image courtesy of This Way to CPA

    As a CPA who formerly worked at a Big Four firm, I believe these changes to the CPA Exam will be key to connecting candidates to the accounting profession. Today’s newly licensed CPAs perform more advanced tasks and contribute to increasingly complex projects earlier on in their accounting careers. The 2024 CPA Exam will aid in keeping the exam relevant as a measure of the knowledge and skills CPAs need to practice their profession as effectively as possible.

    When I was a CPA candidate fresh out of college, studying for the CPA Exam helped prepare me for many of the challenges I would encounter as an emerging accounting professional. The ability to process an influx of new information to make quick, informed decisions, for example, were critical skills needed on the exam and in public accounting. However, studying for the CPA Exam did not prepare me for the types of technology I would encounter once I started at the firm. It took months in my position (along with firm-provided training) to learn the specific technological skills needed for my day-to-day responsibilities.

    It is easy to see how the hours spent on job training accumulate to the detriment of firms. For this reason, I believe the CPA Exam’s enhanced focus on technology will be beneficial for the profession.

    Benefits of the Core Plus Discipline Curriculum Model

    The new Core Plus Discipline model for the 2024 CPA Exam is a step toward bolstering the profession’s confidence that newly licensed CPAs have the skill sets required to be effective on the job. When I worked as a first-year CPA in tax, a large portion of my job revolved around state taxes, including state return preparation, consulting, and research. I had never received previous exposure from school or the CPA Exam to state tax rules. I recall recognizing that I would have greatly benefited from having a foundation in state taxes prior to starting in public accounting.

    Under the new model, candidates will be able to specialize in tax by selecting the Tax Compliance and Planning optional discipline. Therefore, studying for the CPA Exam can provide an opportunity for a deeper dive into that specific area of the profession if that is where a candidate believes his or her professional path may lead.

    The AICPA continues to survey and solicit feedback from those working in the profession, and the feedback it is receiving seems to be informing new versions of the CPA Exam. As the AICPA receives more feedback, it will likely begin removing exam content that first- and second-year CPAs are not expected to know, replacing it with topics that are more real-world relevant.

    Specialization Structure Benefits CPA Candidates

    With the incorporation of the upcoming optional disciplines, I believe it will greatly benefit those already focused on specialized areas. For those who want to gain highly sought-after information technology skills, the Information Systems and Controls discipline would likely be a great option. For those interested in working in tax consulting, the Tax Compliance and Planning option will be an obvious choice. The Business Analysis and Reporting discipline will likely be the best choice for candidates who want to keep their options open or are leaning toward a more traditional financial reporting role.

    Of course, not everyone knows what they want to specialize directly after college. It can be difficult, for instance, to determine if you will like working in tax compliance until you have actually been exposed to the minutiae of information included on a tax return. Therefore, the new CPA Exam structure will expose candidates early to the different tracks they can pursue as a CPA. That way, if a candidate starts studying tax compliance and realizes that it is not for them, they can refocus the start of their career before they've even accepted a position.

    No matter what specialization a candidate chooses, having the CPA credential will continue to give them an advantage in their career. Those who have passed the CPA Exam are generally more equipped versus someone who does not have a CPA. Most employers will choose a CPA with the same skill set as a non-CPA based on the extra layer of assurance that the CPA will be more prepared for the responsibilities needed to be effective on the job.

    The Future Is Bright

    As I look at the evolution of the CPA Exam, I have high hopes for the incoming generations of CPAs and all that they will be able to accomplish with higher-level skill sets. In my role as a senior content developer for UWorld Roger CPA Review, I am inspired daily by our outstanding students and how they continue to adapt to the ever-changing environment.

    Our team at UWorld will continue to find the most creative and concise ways to make very dense information more digestible for candidates. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure our students successfully pass the CPA Exam quickly and the first time, no matter when they plan to take the exam.

    Jonathan Zigman, CPA, is a senior content developer at UWorld Roger CPA Review. He has worked at Ernst & Young (EY) and Alvarez & Marsal before joining the UWorld Roger CPA Review team. He can be reached at jzigman@uworld.com.

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  • Oct 29, 2021

    Time to Renew Your CPA License

    By Lori Braden, PICPA Vice President, Marketing and Communications
    This blog was originally posted in the last reporting cycle and has been updated for the 2020-2021 cycle.

    All current Pennsylvania CPA licenses expire Dec. 31, 2021. According to the PALS website (pals.pa.gov), license renewal applications open 30 to 60 days prior to expiration. To ensure enough time for processing, it’s best to submit your renewal before Dec. 31, 2021.

    The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy will email you a renewal notice soon (if it has not done so already). All renewals will be done through the state’s 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 do not see the email in the near future.) If you don’t get one, there is an option on the login page to recover your user ID.

    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.

    Sample of the Renew License Button on the PALS site

    The renewal will ask you to review or complete personal information, and then will ask a series of questions for the renewal. Here are a few tips for completing the application:

    • 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 2020 or 2021.
    • Do not indicate that you have met the CPE requirement until you have actually completed the necessary courses. If you have courses scheduled, but not yet completed, do not submit your license renewal until those courses have been taken and credit has been issued. View 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, 2019, 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 submission. 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. Regardless of whether or not you receive any follow-up, it remains your responsibility to make sure your license has been 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, 2023, 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.

    The information provided here is related to your individual license renewal only. If you work for a licensed CPA firm, be sure that someone in your firm is renewing the firm license.

    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 (833) 367-2762.

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  • Aug 04, 2021

    CPE Carryover Will Not Apply to CPAs

    By Peter N. Calcara, PICPA vice president of government relations, and Alex Fabian, PICPA manager of government relations

    On Nov. 30, 2020, Pennsylvania lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Tom Wolf that authorizes the state professional and occupational licensing boards to allow carryover of excess continuing education credits. Now-retired state Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny), longstanding chair of the House Professional Licensure Committee, was the measure’s chief architect and legislative champion. Readshaw introduced similar legislation in previous legislative sessions (2015-2016 and 2017-2018) only to fall short before achieving success in the 2019-2020 legislative session. Both the House and Senate voted unanimously in favor of his bill, and Wolf signed the legislation into law on Nov. 25, 2020.

    Numerous CPAs attending CPE conference eventAct 116 of 2020 permits boards and commissions under the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) to allow licensees who earn continuing education credits in excess of the amount required for license renewal to carry over excess credits and apply them to the next biennial renewal period.

    However, Act 116 also gave each of the 29 licensing boards and commissions the ability to determine whether or not to permit the credit carryover, which would have to be established through regulation. The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy (SBOA) discussed Act 116 of 2020 at its Jan. 20, 2021, public meeting, and the board voted not to carryover continuing education credits for CPAs. The SBOA made this decision on the basis that they believe CPAs should avail themselves of the most up-to-date information about the profession through continuing education.

    Since the SBOA did not take any action to implement Act 116, the regulations regarding CPE for CPAs will remain as is. 

    With regard to some confusion surrounding the self-study credit maximum waiver offered during the pandemic, the PICPA has confirmed with the SBOA that the waiver does extend for the full 2020-2021 reporting period, despite the waiver technically expiring Sept. 30, 2021. This means Pennsylvania CPAs can use as many self-study credits in the current reporting period as they would like. The 50% cap will be back in effect beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

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  • Apr 21, 2021

    CPA Evolution: What’s Next?

    Susan CoffeyBy Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA

    CPAs are trusted professionals who enhance stability and opportunity among organizations while also protecting the public interest. The AICPA supports the CPA profession by maintaining, promoting, and advancing that trusted adviser role as the marketplace evolves. A big part of this effort is making sure entry-level CPAs have the requisite skills and competencies that the marketplace requires. That’s why we are working with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to enhance CPA licensure through our joint CPA Evolution project. CPA Evolution aims to transform the CPA licensure model by recognizing the rapidly changing skills and competencies the practice of accounting requires today and into the future.

    Under the new CPA licensure model, all candidates will be required to demonstrate a core knowledge of accounting, auditing, tax, and technology. Then, each candidate will choose one of three disciplines – tax compliance and planning, business analysis and reporting, or information systems and controls – in which to demonstrate deeper skills and knowledge. Regardless of the discipline chosen, the model leads to full CPA licensure, with all the rights and privileges consistent with any other CPA.

    Chart illustrating proposed revisions to the CPA Exam

    This new licensure model will continue to place our profession in the best position to meet the needs of firms, organizations, clients, and the public we serve. It is also flexible enough to allow us to continue to evolve as market needs and our roles evolve in the future.

    Changes to exam and education requirements don’t happen overnight. For the next few years, we’ll be working with the accounting academic community, state boards, state CPA societies, students, practitioners, and other stakeholders to implement changes that ensure the successful rollout of the new licensure model.

    The Uniform CPA Examination

    The specific content within the core and the three disciplines will be determined by a CPA Exam practice analysis, which is currently underway.

    Practice analyses – gathering information about the current and future state of the profession and the work of newly licensed CPAs – are conducted periodically as part of our ongoing effort to make sure the exam is current and maintains its the validity and reliability. The current practice analysis will likely wrap up in 2022, and we will seek public comment on proposed changes to the CPA Exam in mid-2022.

    We expect to launch a new exam in January 2024.

    Students and CPA Candidates

    Aspiring CPAs who are college freshmen now will be among the first to take the revised CPA Exam when it launches in 2024. Current CPA candidates will be able to sit for the current CPA Exam until the launch of the new exam. A transition plan is being developed for candidates who will have started, but not completed, the CPA Exam process by January 2024. Under the new model, we expect to attract students that today wouldn’t necessarily choose the CPA route, but who are becoming more critical to the success of our profession. For example, depending on the educational requirements in their jurisdiction, students who major in management information systems and minor in accounting could focus on their area of interest while demonstrating knowledge in core business and accounting subjects.

    Accounting Programs and Educators

    Accounting educators play a vital role in preparing students to pursue the CPA under this new licensure model. The AICPA and NASBA will help educators every step of the way.

    In fall 2020, we launched the Academic Resource Hub, a free database of content from the AICPA, accounting firms, academics, and AICPA teaching-award winners to help faculty prepare students for the evolving demands of the profession. The hub contains over 200 resources for a range of topics, including data analytics and cybersecurity. They can be used in classroom instruction, in research, and for general guidance.

    Throughout 2021, we will hold a series of faculty webinars, including regular updates on CPA Evolution and deep dives into emerging topics to include in accounting courses. We’ve also formed task forces of accounting educators and practitioners to build a model curriculum that aligns with the new licensure model. This will launch this June.

    Moving Toward Change

    CPAs are vital to the effective operation of our economy. As a profession, we have a huge responsibility to the businesses and the public we serve. I’m proud of the steps we are all taking to help uphold our trusted adviser role as the marketplace continues to evolve.

    As we work through the next couple of years in defining the new CPA Exam, developing academic resources, and preparing students and CPA candidates, we want to hear from you. Please continue to ask us questions and share your feedback by reaching out at Feedback@EvolutionofCPA.org.

    Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, is chief executive officer – public accounting for the Association of International Certified Public Accountants in New York. She can be reached at Susan.Coffey@aicpa-cima.com.

    If you would like to hear more from Susan Coffey, join us at PICPA's Women's Leadership Conference on June 22, 2021, where Susan will be discussing The Future of Women in Public Accounting. 

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  • Feb 05, 2021

    CPA Skills Tests: Supporting the Next Generation of CPAs

    Richard Gallagher, CPABy Richard Gallagher, CPA

    A CPA acquires a vast amount of knowledge and a range of skills over a typical 30-year career. Technology advances, processes adapt, standards change, and new markets and service opportunities emerge. We grow as CPAs – moving along with our ever-evolving profession. Now, try to nail down what is most important for young accountants to know as they become CPAs.

    We may differ on our choices, but we all recognize new CPAs won’t have a large array of experience the moment they walk through the door. I think back to my career, which concluded as a professional practice partner in EY’s New York office. By the time I reached that position, I had accumulated knowledge and experience far beyond what I had upon earning my license. My professional growth was enhanced by the mentoring, training, and guidance I received from experienced CPAs − support that helped me expand upon the basic skills I had at the start of my career.

    Newly hired CPA working with experienced CPASo, I ask, what is most important for a newly licensed CPA to know as they enter the profession?

    We expect and require newly licensed CPAs to possess a foundational level of knowledge and skills from day one. And this is the purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination (CPA Exam) –assessing the minimum basics essential to the profession.

    While the CPA Exam verifies foundational competencies, the roles of newly licensed CPA continue to change with the profession. As I lead those who maintain the CPA Exam and interact with scores of volunteer subject matter experts, I reinforce the need to balance what may be considered the “foundation” with changes that must be introduced because of their relevance to a newly licensed CPA’s work.

    The AICPA recently published an updated CPA Exam Blueprint that reflects changes (eligible for testing beginning July 2021) related to our most recent practice analysis. Although previous practice analyses have led to major exam overhauls, the forthcoming changes will not impact the current four-section structure and will remain focused on concepts and skills that candidates should be familiar with given their work in the profession.

    Most importantly, candidates’ higher order skills will continue to be assessed, with an increased focus on skills such as understanding business processes from inception to completion, including IT processes and related controls. Topics such as International Financial Reporting Standards, which has not become widely accepted, and estate taxation are not typically relevant to a newly licensed CPA’s role, so they will no longer be covered by the exam. Adjustments such as these refocus attention on areas that are most important to a newly licensed CPA’s role in protecting the public interest.

    The exam will also address the need for today’s CPA to possess a digital and data-driven mindset. We’ve heard about the importance of this knowledge repeatedly from the profession. Concentrated primarily in the Auditing and Attestation (AUD) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections, candidates will be expected to understand procedures related to obtaining evidence, using data, and interpreting the results of analytical procedures.

    Other changes, also mostly in AUD and BEC, will reflect the profession’s growing reliance on System and Organization Controls (SOC) reports and the need for newly licensed CPAs to understand their impact on an audit.

    The forthcoming CPA Exam changes will represent a marked increase in the assessment of a candidate’s knowledge and skills related to technology and data analysis. These changes, along with a greater emphasis on foundational knowledge and skills, will keep the exam relevant and aligned with professional practice.

    The CPA Exam continues to address the basic “must-have” knowledge and skill repertoire. Training, mentoring, and on-the-job experience throughout the CPAs’ careers will further expand their capabilities.

    Even though new professionals have proven they have passed through the “gateway” to the profession, you, as experienced CPAs, must do your part to help them grow and succeed. By imparting knowledge, and hopefully a little wisdom, you will prepare them to do the same for the generation of CPAs to come.

    Richard Gallagher, CPA, is senior director, examination content, for the AICPA. He can be reached at richard.gallagher@aicpa-cima.com.

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  • Oct 22, 2020

    Thank You, Julian Brodsky! Generous Donation Supports CPA Exam Candidates

    Jerry Maginnis, CPABy Jerry J. Maginnis, CPA

    The barriers to entry in the CPA profession are high, and the cost of taking the CPA Exam is one of the many things that makes achieving the CPA designation so challenging. Unfortunately, that cost – which includes both fees to sit for the exam and, typically, a prep course – can keep many qualified potential CPAs from reaching their ultimate goal. To address this issue, the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation is awarding $25,000 in CPA Exam Scholarships this year. That’s 25 potential CPAs who will receive $1,000 each to help cover the costs of taking the exam.

    As chair of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation Board, I know the strategic importance of filling the profession’s pipeline with bright, motivated, young professionals. CPA Exam Scholarships play a crucial part in ensuring that talent continues to develop. Julian Brodsky, co-founder of Comcast Corp. and life member of the PICPA, agrees: in fact, Julian has generously donated $25,000 this year to provide these scholarships. We are extremely grateful and proud to have a role model member such as Julian in the Foundation donor family. His generous donation will enable 25 future CPAs the chance to achieve their dreams.

    If you are currently studying for and taking the CPA Exam, I urge you to review the requirements for the scholarships and apply by Dec. 31. If you are already a CPA, I hope Julian’s generosity inspires you to see how you can help future CPAs and, in turn, give back to the profession you love. Supporting the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation’s many efforts is a great place to start, and I would be thrilled to discuss with you further opportunities to make a significant impact.

    I’ll leave you with a few testimonials from previous CPA Exam Scholarship recipients who share what the award meant to them. Thanks to the support of Julian Brodksy and more than 1,000 of your fellow PICPA members, the future of accounting is in good hands with these young CPAs and the generations to follow.

    PICPA Thank You on blackboard 

    “I believe the CPA Exam Scholarship is an effective and gracious means of acknowledging the achievements of successful CPA Exam candidates, of making new entrants to the profession feel welcome, of providing fledgling accountants with a professional distinction to burnish their résumés, of encouraging new accountants to network with others in their field through the PICPA, and, not least, of helping job candidates and new hires cover basic costs – such as the price of a good interview outfit – while transitioning into the profession.”

    Edward Frede, Gelman & Pelesh PC

    “The CPA Exam Scholarship helped me focus more on studying for the exam than worrying about the cost of study aides and exam fees. Being able to focus on the material helped me to not only pass all four parts of the exam, but also win the Elijah Watt Sells Award. Having the CPA title gave me the confidence to seek out a new role in my company. I was able to move positions and open myself up to a range of new opportunities that were not possible before passing the exam.”

    Michael Janenko, Olympus

    “Although my firm has an amazing benefit to pay up to a certain threshold of expenses, I had long ago expended that amount. The CPA Exam Scholarship helped me offset exam costs and keep moving toward my goal of becoming a CPA and advancing my career. Thank you for your contributions to this very important fund and for the impact it has made on my life.”

    Meghan Freidhof, Wessel & Company

    Jerry J. Maginnis, CPA, is a board member and audit committee chair for inTEST Corp. in Mount Laurel, N.J., independent director and chair of the audit committee for Cohen & Steers in New York City, executive in residence for Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., and chair of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation Board. He can be reached at jerrymaginnis@outlook.com.

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  • Oct 07, 2020

    Coaching vs. Mentoring Your CPA Candidates: The Choice Is Clear

    Erin Daiber, CPABy Erin Daiber, CPA, PCC

    More CPAs are retiring than are entering the profession, creating a growing need for young talent. Building a pipeline of talent is critical to your firm’s longevity and succession. If you’re looking for ways to support your employees in passing the CPA Exam beyond providing study materials, CPA coaching may be a solution.

    It’s important to note upfront that coaching is not tutoring, nor is it technical support with the content of the exams. Yes, tutoring and mentoring can be critical tools, but coaching for the CPA Exam is a unique blend of executive coaching techniques and customized solutions specific to the exam. It provides a structure to build and sustain momentum throughout the process, and helps candidates balance studying with an already busy schedule. Candidates receive support with planning, accountability, study effectiveness, and test-taking strategies, to name a few benefits.

    Experienced CPA coaching younger coworkerMost importantly, coaching helps candidates conquer the mental side of passing the exam. The discovery process that happens through coaching can remove blocks, barriers, and other deeply held beliefs that may be holding candidates back from performing at a high level on exam day and throughout the process.


    An ideal candidate for coaching is one who is committed to passing the exam, open to new approaches, and interested in making changes to improve his or her overall effectiveness. Most often, candidates who participate in coaching are high performers who have put off or are struggling to pass section of the exam and are now at risk of missing a promotion.


    From a candidate’s perspective, coaching is a unique benefit that goes above and beyond what most firms do to support staff. Coached candidates get the individualized support they need to achieve their CPA goal and develop skills that will help them as they progress through leadership and in their careers.

    Programs like this show a true commitment to and investment in the future of your organization. Many firms have made the CPA license a prerequisite to taking on a manager role. While well-intentioned, requirements like this sometimes cause otherwise qualified, yet discouraged, CPA candidates to seek other employment if they’re struggling with portions of the exam. Making additional support available can foster increased loyalty to the organization and help retain ideal talent.


    The way these programs are instituted, piloted, and rolled out is generally dictated by the size of the firm. The larger the firm, the more formal the process. Generally speaking, there should be a process by which firm leaders identify potential candidates for CPA Exam coaching and offer the resource to those individuals. This often corresponds with performance reviews where a candidate’s progress is already being evaluated. However, there should be a process where candidates can evaluate whether coaching is a good fit for their needs, and formally opt in or out.

    To be successful, the firm must address and remove any stigma that may exist with regard to asking for help or seeking support in the licensing process. This stigma could reside in the firm culture, but more often than not it is a deeply held belief with high-performing personalities. These team members believe that they should be able to do this on their own, and they’re afraid that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It would be nice for candidates to take the initiative in seeking support, but many are not likely to do so because of their internal barriers. However, once support is offered, high-performers are often keen to dive in.

    Return on Investment

    If you have candidates in your organization who are struggling to pass the CPA Exam, there is a real risk that they will leave for a job that doesn’t require the CPA credential or for one that provides an environment that supports their efforts to pass. Replacing an experienced team member after three or four years can easily cost a firm $15,000-plus in recruiting fees alone (30% of the first year’s salary). These costs skyrocket when you consider the training investment, impact on morale, the experience that leaves, and the lack of available talent to replace them.

    Let’s assume you charge an additional $25 per hour for a licensed CPA compared with an accountant. At 2,000 billable hours, you’re bringing in an additional $40,000 to the top line once an individual is licensed. Not all of that amount makes its way to the bottom line, but if 25% did, coaching pays for itself in less than three months. In some cases, passing the CPA Exam results in an immediate promotion and a further increase in the candidate’s billable rate. In these cases, firms recognize positive return on investment from CPA coaching programs within weeks of licensure.

    Candidates need more support than ever to pass the CPA Exam if we want them to remain in public accounting. Balancing studying for the exam with increased performance expectations in the workplace is not easy. Offering coaching support for candidates who are pursuing the CPA license helps you retain top talent and protect the investment you’ve already made into the training and development of these individuals.

    Erin Daiber, CPA, PCC, is chief executive officer for Well Balanced Accountants LLC. She can be reached at erin@wellbalancedaccountants.com.

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  • Jul 08, 2020

    What's New with the CPA Exam: All-Year Availability!

    By Meg Killian, PICPA vice president – member relations

    The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) announced that, as of July 1, 2020, the black out windows for CPA Exam testing have been eliminated. That means the CPA Exam now will be administered all year – an increase of 75 more days each year to take the exam.

    Become a CPA in Pennsylvania GuideIn addition to this good news comes the announcement that scores will be released on a rolling basis. Not only will candidates have more options and flexibility to schedule their test dates, but they will also be able to retake a part (if need be) without waiting for the next testing window to open. Yes, the 18-month deadline to pass all four parts is still in place, but the new open schedule format gives candidates more options to take the exam during that time, increasing the chances of getting all four parts passed in the 18-month window.

    Details on this and the list of states where continuous testing is available can be found on the NASBA website. Currently seven states do not offer year-round testing, but six of them are working on legislative fixes to change that.

    The latest improvements to the exam process continue to create a more flexible and convenient path toward CPA licensing and will help the profession modernize of the CPA credential.

    More resources on the CPA Exam and licensing are available on PICPA's website.

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  • Apr 30, 2020

    Navigating the CPA Exam in Times of Crisis

    By Meg Killian, vice president - member relations

    In the midst of the dire coronavirus pandemic, we all could use some good news. Here’s a bit about our future CPAs: the AICPA recently announced the 2019 Elijah Watt Sells Award winners. Five of the winners are from Pennsylvania and are among our state’s top 10 scorers. Congrats to all these top candidates! The Elijah Watt Sells Award has been given out since 1923 in honor of Sells, who was one of the country’s first CPAs. It’s given to those who passed all four parts on their first attempt and completed the exam with a cumulative score of 95.

    Who would have though those taking the exam in 2019 had it easy, huh? Taking the CPA Exam in 2020 has proved to be much more challenging. But don’t let delays, extensions, and coronavirus uncertainty throw you off course. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is still accepting and processing applications. Its processing time is still around four weeks, but delays in getting transcripts from universities have been extending the total time. Candidates should email cpaexam@nasba.org with any questions.

    Here are a few more details about testing to keep in mind.

    Notice to Schedule Extensions

    Cover of PICPA's CPA Exam BookAll notices to schedule with expirations between April 1 and June 30, 2020, have been extended until Sept.30, 2020. Candidates whose exam credits expire during the time of the emergency disaster declaration (signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on March 6, 2020) will be granted an extension that lasts for the duration of the emergency plus an additional 180 days from the end of the emergency.

    Scheduling an Exam

    Some testing centers will open on May 1, depending on the location of the center and directives from state and local authorities. The 2020 second quarter testing window will be extended from June 10 to June 30, 2020. Continuous testing for CPA Exam candidate will begin July 1, 2020, allowing candidates to take the exam year-round. When testing centers do open, spots will fill up quickly, so don’t delay.

    The most recent announcement from Prometric was that testing centers are closed through May 31, however NASBA is working to get some testing centers reopened sooner. Specific social distancing procedures, including fewer testing appointments and additional operating guidelines will be implemented. 

    Continuous testing (mentioned above) will be launched in July as planned. The exam will be offered year-round with no testing windows. One major benefit is that candidates will be able to retake sections as soon as they receive their score. This will also shorten the exam completion time for highly motivated candidates who are able to take all the exam parts in a shorter time frame.

    Pass/Fail Effects

    Many colleges switched to a pass/fail grading system for the disrupted spring 2020 semester. Some have been concerned about what this means for exam eligibility requirements. Pennsylvania is one of NASBA's CPA Examination Services (CPAES) states and does not require a certain GPA to sit for the exam. In that regard, pass/fail will not affect a candidate’s exam application. Other states’ requirements may vary, so check with your state board of accountancy for its requirements.

    Remote Testing

    One big question is whether the AICPA will offer remote testing. The AICPA is working on a white paper considering this option, but it will not be released and reviewed until next May. There are several logistical, technological, and security issues to resolve, but it sounds like this may be an option in the not-so-distant future.

    Don’t Give Up!

    If you are starting or are currently in the exam process, Pat Hartman from NASBA offers the following advice: “Keep studying, keep testing. We are monitoring the situation. We’ve extended NTSs and are working with boards on extending credit. The process to change credit extension dates is very manual, so don’t panic if you don’t see it changed on your NASBA account. We know who you are and will get your records updated as appropriate, just know it will take us time.”

    The PICPA will also continue to monitor the situation and post news and updates. Good luck to all the exam candidates out there!

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  • Mar 09, 2020

    The Evolution of the CPA Credential and Licensing

    By Michael D. Colgan, CAE

    Technology continues to have a profound impact on all aspects of everyday life, from home to business. The CPA profession is not exempt. Over the past 18 months, the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) have been discussing a new CPA licensure model designed to future-proof the profession. The model is a combination of core subject requirements with a targeted discipline in a specific area of the profession (see chart).

    Chart illustrating proposed revisions to the CPA Exam

    The draft overhaul of the CPA licensing requirements starts with a strong foundation in accounting, auditing, tax, and technology. Then, each candidate would choose a specific discipline in which to demonstrate deeper skills and knowledge. Regardless of the chosen discipline, achieving the standards of this proposed model would lead to a full CPA license, with rights and privileges consistent with today’s CPA. A discipline selected for testing on the CPA Exam does not mean that CPA would be limited to that practice area. Just like today, many CPAs start in one area of practice and subsequently learn new skills on the job.

    Many colleges and universities are already embracing the technology skills needed by the profession and incorporating more programs in these areas into their existing curricula. The AICPA and NASBA believe the draft model will address the expanding body of knowledge required of newly licensed CPAs, which includes a deeper understanding of systems, controls, SOC engagements, and data analytics.

    “The model we are proposing reflects the realities of practice today. When you look at the profession 20 or 30 years ago, it’s evident that the demands of CPAs have grown,” explains Bill Reeb, CPA, chair of the AICPA. “For example, today there are three times as many pages in the Internal Revenue Code, four times as many accounting standards, and five times as many auditing standards as there were in 1980. As our body of knowledge has expanded, we’ve stretched the exam and curriculum to cover more and more material, but that approach is not sustainable. We need a licensure model that is flexible enough to evolve with our profession.”

    PICPA Council has provided feedback to the AICPA throughout the exposure process on the proposed model, as have many stakeholders throughout the profession. The AICPA and NASBA are considering all feedback, and plan to come back to their respective governing bodies in spring 2020 with a plan to finalize a new licensing model.

    If you have thoughts or feedback on this proposal, please reach out to me.  

    This column also appears in the spring 2020 issue of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal.

    Michael D. Colgan, CAE, is CEO and executive director of the PICPA. He can be reached at mcolgan@picpa.org.

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