The American Institute of CPAs has been holding discussions with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants and CMA Canada on bringing the CPA designation up north and combining it with the CA and CMA designations.
At the AICPA’s Fall Meeting of Council in Phoenix on Tuesday, AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon described the Institute’s international expansion plans, including how the CPA Exam will soon be administered in South America, starting with Brazil.The AICPA has been expanding its footprint internationally, signing a deal in May with the London-based Chartered Institute of Management Accountants to create a Chartered Global Management Accountant credential through a joint venture. The CGMA credential will officially launch on January 31 (see AICPA, CIMA Plan Push for New Management Credential).
Meanwhile, the AICPA also began administering the Uniform CPA Exam in other countries in August, starting with Japan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. A possible deal with its Canadian counterparts, with their Chartered Accountant and Certified Management Accountant designations, would take the Institute’s expansionary goals for the CPA brand to a whole new level, however.
“What they are envisioning is a movement from the CA as the primary brand, the regulated brand, in Canada to CPA,” said Melancon. “As we look outside of our borders, they’re looking outside their borders. They’re looking at the megatrends from that standpoint. The world is sort of going back and forth between the CA being predominant and the CPA being predominant, with the CPA nudging ahead today. The Canadians are looking at it and saying we’re CAs because of our historic ties to the U.K., but our economic viability is tied to our friends to the South, the United States of America and their CPAs. How do we get there? How do we position the Canadian members of the profession to function in this North American economy that’s evolving?”
The Canadian organizations are going through a process of evaluating the viability of transitioning the CA and CMA designations into CPA, with CPA standing for “chartered professional accountant.” As with state CPA societies in the U.S., the CICA needs to consult with provincial organizations in Canada. In some provinces, Melancon called the decision a “slam dunk,” but in others it’s less certain. He expects to know by the end of this calendar year if the transition will be approved.
“We want all new professionals in Canada to become credentialized and carry the brand CPA, which would stand for ‘chartered professional accountant,’ but we all know that what the words stand for versus the letters will probably dissipate very quickly,” he said. “The legacy brand holders, the CMA and the CA for Canada, the way it would work is those members would get the ability for some period of time to be a ‘CA, CPA’ or a ‘CMA, CPA’ and then ultimately that would drop from their vernacular as well. But all new people, once they actually execute on this plan, would simply be Canadian CPAs.”
Melancon noted this could have wider implications in terms of mobility between states and provinces, allowing CPAs to perhaps practice across national borders. Those issues are now close to being resolved inside the U.S. at least, with all but two states (California and Hawaii) having passed CPA mobility laws.
“That starts to bring into play the mobility issues between states and provinces much more dramatically than it has before,” said Melancon. “It starts to bring into play our exam processes.” He noted that the AICPA has been working with its Canadian counterparts to computerize their exams similar to the way the CPA Exam is computerized in the U.S. He predicted that ultimately the two exams would become if not exactly the same, at least substantially the same.
Melancon saluted David Costello, the outgoing president and CEO of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, who achieved his goal of contracting and administering the CPA exam outside the U.S. before he retires. Melancon noted that the next part of the world for administering the exam will be South America.
Testing in Brazil will begin in February, according to the AICPA, and will be open to citizens and long-term residents of Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia (see Brazil Latest Country to Host U.S. CPA Exam). U.S. citizens living abroad are also eligible to test at any location. The international administration of the exam, which will be offered in English, is the same as the U.S. exam administered by the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric in the United States. Licensure requirements for international candidates are the same as for U.S. CPA candidates. Along with passing the Uniform CPA Examination, international candidates must meet educational and experience requirements as mandated by U.S. state boards of accountancy.
Melancon noted that the AICPA is also beginning to work with Brazil on an International Financial Reporting Standards certificate program.
During his wide-ranging speech, Melancon also addressed the question of IFRS in the United States. He predicted that the Securities and Exchange Commission would produce a roadmap by the end of the year, but he cautioned that it probably would not call for outright adoption.
“At our SEC Conference last December, the SEC said that they were working on a final roadmap to what the answer will be in the U.S. and that they expected that answer by the end of 2011,” said Melancon. “It is our understanding that the SEC is on track to meet that commitment by the end of 2011. Now there are obviously external forces that could delay it further, but we know that there has been a tremendous amount of staff work at the SEC that has been done on roundtables, etc., to get feedback, so that the staff could formulate what their recommendation was to the commissioners, and we think that is near the end of that particular process. I think it is pretty apparent that what we will see is an answer with this SEC that is not an outright adoption of all [IFRS], but rather a process of endorsement and adoption that will come through from that standpoint.”
A new AICPA survey found that almost 54 percent of members support optional adoption of IFRS. Only 18 percent said the SEC should not allow an option to use IFRS, while the rest were unsure. Forty-four percent of respondents said they were delaying IFRS preparations until an SEC decision is reached.