AICPA: How American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Works

AICPA: How American Institute of Certified Public Accountants WorksThe American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national professional organization of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in the United States, founded in 1887.

AICPA has 394,000 members in 128 countries in business and industry, public practice, government, education, student affiliates and international associates.

It sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for audits of private companies, non-profit organizations, federal, state and local governments.

It also develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination. The AICPA maintains offices in New York City; Washington, DC; Durham, NC; and Ewing, NJ. The AICPA celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding in 2012.

The AICPA’s founding established accountancy as a profession distinguished by rigorous educational requirements, high professional standards, a strict code of professional ethics, and a commitment to serving the public interest.

History

The AICPA and its predecessors have a history dating back to 1887 when the American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA) was formed. In 1916, the American Association of Public Accountants was succeeded by the Institute of Public Accountants, at which time there was a membership of 1,150.

The name was changed to the American Institute of Accountants in 1917 and remained so until 1957 when it changed to its current name of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

The American Society of Certified Public Accountants was formed in 1921 and acted as a federation of state societies. The Society was merged into the Institute in 1936 and, at that time, the Institute agreed to restrict its future members to CPAs.

Mission

The AICPA’s mission is to provide members with the resources, information, and Jeadersbuft that enable them to provide valuable services.

In the highest professional manner to benefit the public, employers, and clients. In fulfilling its mission, the AICPA works with state CPA organizations and gives priority to those areas where public reliance on GPA skills is most significant.

Professional Standards Setting

The AICPA sets generally accepted professional and technical standards for CPAs in multiple areas. Until the 1970s, the AICPA held a virtual monopoly in this field.

In the 1970s, however, it transferred its responsibility for setting generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to the newly formed Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).

Following this, it retained its standards setting function in areas such as financial statement auditing, professional ethics, attest services, CPA firm quality control, CPA tax practice, business valuation, and financial planning practice.

Before passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley law, AICPA standards in these areas were considered generally accepted for all CPA practitioners.

In the early 2000s, federal public policy makers concluded where independent financial statement audits of public companies regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are concerned.

That the AICPA’s standards setting and related enforcement roles should be transferred to a government empowered body with more enforcement authority than a non-governmental professional association, such as the AICPA could provide.

As a result, the Sarbanes-Oxley law created the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) which has jurisdiction over virtually every area of CPA practice about public companies.

However, the AICPA retains its considerable standards setting, ethics enforcement and firm practice quality monitoring roles for the majority of practicing CPAs, who serve privately held business and individuals.

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