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AICPA/state society survey finds out what is important to CPAs.

Concerned about keeping up with the latest advances in computer technology? You are not alone. Over 76% of the CPAs surveyed by the American Institute of CPAs in collaboration with state CPA societies ranked the widespread application of computers and other technologies as very important to the accounting profession over the next 5 to 10 years.

This is just one of many findings in the AICPA/State CPA Societies' Joint Strategic Planning Survey. The survey, conducted last May, is part of an ongoing effort by the AICPA and state societies to collaborate on planning for the future of the accounting profession. The AICPA planning & research division and a group of executive directors, as well as members of the AICPA strategic planning committee, developed a questionnaire based in part on past AICPA member surveys and information provided in surveys conducted by 24 state CPA societies. The survey was designed to evaluate the importance of AICPA and state CPA society membership, services, programs, performance and policies and trends facing the profession. Over 8,400 CPAs from the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands responded.

Good reviews

Respondents consider their membership in the AICPA and state societies to be important and generally gave the AICPA and state CPA societies positive performance reviews. A majority said both effectively represented the profession to governments, regulatory bodies and other organizations and did a good job communicating their views and positions to the membership. However, respondents did perceive differences in the orientations of the AICPA and the state societies. Eighty-three percent said the AICPA was oriented toward large CPA firms, compared with 72% who said their state society was oriented toward small- and medium-sized firms.

"The high percentage of respondents who say the AICPA is oriented to large CPA firms proves there is a perception of the Institute that is very difficult to overcome," said Robert L. Israeloff, chairman of the AICPA board of directors. "I don't believe this is reality, but perception becomes reality. That is why we have to correct these perceptions. The member outreach program, our emphasis on workload compression and our standards overload reduction program are the types of initiatives the Institute is taking to prove to local practitioners that we really do care."

Useful to societies

The survey results have been sent to all state societies and often are being used as foundations for state strategic planning initiatives. Along with the AICPA results, state societies were sent separate tabulations of their own state members' responses.

Mary E. Medley, executive director of the Colorado Society of CPAs, said, "We compare the national results with what the AICPA survey says Colorado members think and we use the information to produce our own survey for considerably less money. The AICPA survey gives us a good idea of what is important to our members, and it gives us the opportunity to shift our strategic planning efforts to reflect this new information."

Gari Fails, executive director of the 1,500-member New Mexico Society of CPAs, said this survey is especially important to the smaller state societies. "This is the only survey available to us because of our limited resources. We are changing the structure of our state society, so it is important we reorganize committees around functions directly related to our member needs as they are reflected in this survey."

The importance of being educated

CPAs were asked to rank the importance of 26 current and future AICPA or state society services. Continuing professional education courses and technical conferences and materials placed first and second, while information on international accounting and auditing matters concluded the list. Said Fails, "It is very important to learn that CPAs still rely heavily on state societies for CPE. With so many other vendors out there our strategic planning initiative could have taken the wrong path. The survey told us CPAs still look to us, so we plan to maintain the quality and value of our CPE."

The survey also asked CPAs about their employers' at AICPA and state society membership. Twenty-four percent said their employers required them to be AICPA members, compared with 22% for state societies. For both AICPA and state society membership, generally half of the respondents said their employers took no position on the matter. Respondents in public accounting and those with longer memberships in the AICPA or a state society were more likely to say their employers required membership. Seventy-seven percent of the respondents said their employers paid all or part of the AICPA dues in the past year, compared with 82% of state society members.

Retaining self-regulation, concerns about litigation and challenges to improving and maintaining the quality of a CPA practice all received high ratings on the 23-item issues and trends list. By comparison, the capital needs of CPA firms ranked last.

RELATED ARTICLE: Who are they?

A profile of the over 8,400 CPAs who answered the survey.

* 26% are female.

* 66% are under 46 years old.

* 85% are members of a state CPA society.

* 48% are in public accounting.

* 37% are in management accounting.

* 5% are in government.

* 3% are in education.

* 7% are in other areas (retired, unemployed, law firms, consulting and nonprofit organizations).
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Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Mar 1, 1995
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