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AICPA initiatives for members: an update.

Enhancing members' professional lives has long been a primary focus of the AICPA. Here's a review of some Institute programs and accomplishments in recent months.

Serving the Public Interest

* When hurricanes devastated the southern United States last summer and fall, the Institute and the profession quickly mobilized to help. The effort demonstrated the Institute's commitment to meeting member needs and CPAs' commitment to serving the public--and each other. To assist members and their clients, the AICPA created the Disaster Recovery Resource Center, a central, online resource that included a news center, business and personal financial recovery resources, tax tools and information and related resources. To help individual CPAs and firms in the affected areas, PCPS, with the assistance of the AICPA audit quality centers and other membership sections, created a firm volunteer center that matches CPAs in need with firms willing to offer assistance, including office space, technology or even temporary assignments. At the same time, the AICPA partnered with the Internal Revenue Service to provide help for taxpayers at local disaster recovery centers. (The IRS later gave the Institute a citation of excellence in serving the small business community that recognized this and other efforts.) The AICPA Tax Section updated its Disaster Area Practice Guide to reflect recent guidance and legislation for victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Technical guidance issued for members grappling with disaster-related issues included: practice aids on the auditor's responsibilities when disaster affects ah audit client's operations after field work is completed; on accounting and disclosures from natural disasters; and on the destruction of documents.

* Members can get information and resources to help educate consumers about managing their personal finances from the AICPA's 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy effort. The campaign, which has already garnered recognition from various organizations and the federal government, recently won four more prestigious awards, from the League of Communications Professionals, the Association for Women in Communications, the Web Marketing Association and PR News, for a total of 10 awards. Site users have shown their own appreciation for the Website, which has received more than seven million hits. New resources to support CPAs in getting involved include 11 life stage mobilization kits available from the Financial Literacy Resource Center, www.aicpa.org/financialliteracy.

* To showcase member expertise and provide a valuable service, the AICPA teamed with the U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration on local seminars for small business owners--particularly women--on key issues related to pension, health and other benefit plans.

* Tax reform is a significant concern for all Americans. To serve as an important resource in the ensuing debate, the Institute issued Understanding Tax Reform: A Guide to 21st Century Alternatives. This report, which can be found at www.aicpa.org/taxreform, offers an unbiased review of proposals and discusses the issues and alternatives.

Addressing Private Company/Small Firm Issues

* Standards overload and complexity are particularly onerous for small firms, and many practitioners question the relevance of some guidance for their small business clients. To address this problem, a working group of AICPA members and staff and representatives of the Financial Accounting Standards Board has been engaged in ongoing meetings to address the need to adapt generally accepted accounting principles for key constituents of private, for-profit companies.

* As noted below, the new AICPA chair, Leslie A. Murphy, has made recruitment and retention of young CPAs a key focus of her term. Given the fact that attracting and retaining quality staff remains a top challenge for small firms, the AICPA issued a white paper to help members tackle the situation. Best Practices in Retaining and Recruiting Talented Staff provides practical ideas for solving a wide range of related problems. It can be found at www.aicpa.org/pcps.

Providing Professional Tools and Guidance

* Ethics is a hallmark of the CPA profession. To maintain the profession's high ethical standards, the AICPA published revisions to the Code of Professional Conduct that clarify how offering or accepting gifts and entertainment to or from a client, or from a vendor or customer of the member's employer, affects independence and objectivity. Also published was a new ethics interpretation that defines financial interest, direct financial interest, and indirect financial interest as used in the independence rules, and provides guidance to members in determining whether financial interests should be considered director indirect. To learn more, go to www.aicpa.org/members/div/ethics/index.htm.

* Members were provided with guidance on auditing fair value measurements and disclosures through two interpretations on statements on auditing standards. They can be found at www.aicpa.org/ download/auditstd/announce/Audit_Interpretations_Auditing_Fair_Val ue.pdf.

* In addition to those interpretations, the Auditing Standards Board issued Statement on Auditing Standards No. 102, Defining Professional Requirements in Statements on Auditing Standards, SAS No. 103, Audit Documentation, and Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 13, Defining Professional Requirements in Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements.

* A proposed SAS, Communication of Internal Control Related Matters Noted in an Audit, which would replace SAS No. 60 of the same name, was issued to assist auditors to identify and communicate to management significant deficiencies and material weaknesses in internal control identified in a financial statement audit. The exposure draft can be found at www.aicpa.org/members/div/auditstd/Internal_Control_Related_Matters.htm.

* The Accounting and Review Services Committee has issued three new standards that provide members with new and/or clearer guidance in compilation and review engagements, including an expansion of standards to cover compilations of financial statement elements and pro forma financial information. The new standards are SSARS No. 12, Omnibus Statement on Standards for Accounting and Review Services--2005: SSARS No. 13, Compilation of Specified Elements, Accounts, or Items of a Financial Statement: and SSARS No. 14, Compilation of Pro Forma Financial Information. ARSC also issued several related illustrative engagement letters as well as an Interpretation of AR section 100 that provides guidance when ah accountant reviews the financial statements of a nonissuer who is owned or controlled by an issuer. More information can be found at www.aicpa.org/members/div/auditstd/technic_arsc.

* Two new audit committee toolkits provide valuable resources and information for members who work for or with either governments of not-for-profit organizations. They can be found at www.aicpa.org/auditcommctr/homepage.htm.

* Regulators and the investing public are urgently seeking easier access to critical company information. As part of its effort to promote greater transparency of corporate strategy and performance, the Enhanced Business Reporting Consortium released for public comment the first version of a comprehensive information framework to help companies better communicate with their investors and other key audiences. The framework document can be found at www.ebr360.org.

* A free conference last month on extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) showed the benefits of XBRL information to stock analysts and investors, and demonstrated the market potential of XBRL-enabled products to software product managers. Presentations were provided on the XBRL initiatives under way by the SEC and the FDIC. (For more information, go to www.xbrl.org). The AICPA has recently entered into a special marketing agreement with Rivet Software that makes it possible for AICPA members to purchase the Dragon Tag and Dragon View XBRL solutions, which allow you to easily produce XBRL documents. More information can be found at www.aicpa.org/download/news/2005/AICPA_Rivet_Release.pdf.

Creating Resources/Value for Members

* AICPA members expect services that address their specific needs. To that end, the Institute launched three new specialized centers: the Accounting Education Center (www.aicpa.org/aec): the Financial Management Center (www.aicpa.org/fmcenter): and the Tax Center (www.aicpa.org/tax). Each one provides better access to the resources, tools and guidance appropriate for CPAs in these areas. They joined existing specialized centers for PCPS members (www.aicpa.org/pcps); and members with an interest in personal financial planning (www.aicpa.org/pfp): in business valuation and forensic litigation services (www.aicpa.org/bvfls); and in information technology (www.aicpa.org/infotech).

* AICPA Council approved a framework that authorizes the AICPA Board of Directors to work with the public company auditing profession and others to implement a new approach to better address public policy issues in the public interest for U.S. audit firms registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

* "Helping Women Professionals Succeed" was the theme of the first AICPA Women's Summit, held last Oct. Practical presentations by experts in work/life and women's issues offered ideas and case studies designed to promote women's advancement and help firms retain and attract talented women professionals. For more information, go to www.aicpa.org/worklife.

* As part of its ongoing communications to members on peer review, the AICPA posted a series of articles on the environment for peer review transparency and insights into the peer review program. They can be found at www.aicpa.org/transparency.htm.

* To expand available resources for members in industry, the AICPA has entered into an agreement with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, based in London, to offer additional professional tools focused on business management, management accounting and financial management. More information can be found at www.aicpa.org/fmcenter.

Recruiting the Next Generation

* The Young CPA Network, a new initiative launched by AICPA chair Leslie A. Murphy, will focus on introducing young professionals to the sustaining value of being a CPA. Resources for this group will include a dedicated Website and newsletter.

* Attracting high-quality future CPAs is an important goal for the profession. The AICPA's annual Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits provides key data on trends in recruitment and hiring by CPA firms. The study can be found at www.aicpa.org/aec.

* Based on annual research results, the "Start Here. Go Places" student recruitment initiative has led to improved perceptions and understanding of accounting among high school and college students, increased interest in the profession as a career choice and a greater number of accounting majors committed to becoming CPAs. For some key statistics on progress, see the Nov. 2005 issue of The CPA Letter. To learn more about the campaign, go to www.startheregoplaces.com.

Promoting Members' Expertise

* To help members increase their visibility and market their services, the AICPA added resources to its award-winning CPA Marketing Tool Kit, including brochures and accompanying speeches on college planning, business financing and tax season preparation. The Tool Kit can be found at www.aicpa.org/cpamarketing.

* To promote greater appreciation of the value of CPAs as corporate executives, the AICPA published CPAs as CFOs: Why You Should Have a CPA in Your C-Suite. The white paper (http://fmcenter.aicpa.org/ Resources/Professional+Development/CPAs+as+CFOs+White +Paper.htm) details the many reasons CPAs are uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of the evolving role of the CFO.

Advocating Regulatory/legislative Positions

* AICPA representatives regularly testify before Congress on issues affecting members and the clients they serve, both individual and business taxpayers. For example, the AICPA has told members of the House Small Business Committee that tax complexity was eroding compliance and outlined improvements that could alleviate the problem.

* In another case, the AICPA endorsed a Senate bill that would allow small businesses to offer nontaxable benefits, such as flexible spending accounts, to employees. The Institute also endorsed provisions that would allow cafeteria plans of all sizes to offer long-tem-care insurance as an optional benefit, permit the carryover of unused flexible spending account funds, and simplify and expand dependent care accounts.

* The AICPA has supported legislation to repeal the alternative minimum tax (AMT) due to its growing complexity, its increasing impact on unintended taxpayers and rising compliance problems. Recognizing that outright repeal may not be politically possible due to the likely loss of tax revenue, the AICPA has also proposed alternative solutions that would reduce or eliminate most of the complexity and unfair impact of the AMT as currently imposed.

* Consistency of regulation is important to CPAs. With that fact in mind, the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy approved a new edition to the Uniform Accountancy Act, the joint state model licensing law. For more information, go to www.aicpa.org/states/final11.htm.
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Publication:CPA Letter
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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