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Can I get CPE for that? For members not in public practice, the options for CPE are as diverse as the members themselves.

How can you get continuing professional education credits if your employer won't allow time off for class attendance? Can you receive CPE for teaching a course? How do the new American Institute of CPAs CPE rules compare with government "yellow book" requirements?

The new AICPA requirements on CPE went into effect on January 1, 1990, and many members -- particularly those in industry, government and education -- have questions about what they mean for them. Even those what they mean for requirements may not be sure how they apply to the varied professional needs of members not in public practice.

When an AICPA task force decided to survey those not in public practice about their CPE priorities, they received useful feedback on how these members keep current and improve their skills. But along with the survey responses came many questions about what qualifies under the new requirement. This article answers some of those questions and offers ideas on how members can best enhance their professional competence through CPE. The questions are organized based on their interest to members in industry, government or education, and each section begins with a profile of members in these fields.

MEMBERS IN INDUSTRY

Member profile:

Percentage licensed to practice: Of those surveyed, 60% are licensed to practice public accounting in their states.

Preferred subject areas: The most important CPE subject areas for industry members are specialized financial areas of industry, accounting, specific industry sectors and finance as well as current business issues.

Preferred type of course: Industry members are most likely to take one-day seminars sponsored by state CPA societies.

Industry members represent a diverse group, ranging from chief executive officers to staff members and work in a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, finance, serice and wholesale and retail trade. Industry members surveyed are interested in learning about the unique problems affecting their industries. They want to know about special requirements they or their businesses must meet, about problems in managing and financing companies and about specific regulatory issues.

Q Will courses related to a specific industry qualify under the new requirements?

A Yes. AICPA members have wide latitude in selecting CPE suitable to their professional activities. Traditional subject areas such as accounting, auditing and taxation qualify for CPE, but so do programs that contribute to the development and maintenance of a wide variety of other professional skills. Examples include communication, ethics, quantitative methods, behavioral sciences, statistics, management and programs related to specific jobs.

Members should remember that while the AICPA is accepting a very wide latitude of subject areas, many of these subjects may not meet state requirements. Some states also may require minimum hours of accounting and auditing CPE. Since state licensing authority and state CPA society requirements may differ from the Institute's all members should consult their state boards of accountancy or societies.

Q I work in the fashion industry. My employer wants me to attend a conference sponsored by a professional association of fashion executives. A fellow CPA in my company's marketing department wants to attend a marketing seminar. Will either qualify for CPE?

A Yes. Members can select programs suitable to their professional activities because they contribute to a member's professional competence and are formal programs of learning as defined by the AICPA Statement of Standards for Formal Group and Formal Self-Study Programs.

CPAs will find many associations offer conferences and seminars. Employers often are very supportive of opportunities to gain industry expertise.

Q I'm completing courses for an MBA. One of my colleagues is attending law school. Will those courses qualify for CPE?

A Yes. As long as the courses enhance professional competence, they qualify for CPE credit. One semester credit hour equals 15 CPE credits. Therefore, the traditional 3-credit course qualifies for 45 CPE credit hours.

Q I work for a small manufacturing company. My employer can't afford to allow me time off for courses. How else can I get CPE?

A Self-study programs are one good option. These can be completed on the CPA's own time and at his or her own pace.

Companies that have several CPAs on staff might consider offering video programs on topics relevant to the company. When used in-house, they provide CPE to a large group at a low cost and save employers on travel expenses.

Q Will I need to complete CPE after I retire?

A No. Members who are retired are exempt from the new CPE requirements for the entire year in which they retire.

A common misconception is that members are considered retired when they leave public accounting, but this is not true if the member is otherwise gainfully employed. The CPE requirement applies to all members regardless of their field of employment.

Q I have opted to quit my job and stay home with my children. Since I will not be earning income, I am concerned about my ability to meet the CPE requirements. What options do I have?

A If you are not earning any income, you may qualify as a "retired" AICPA member and would therefore be exempt from the CPE requirements. You may apply to the membership division to have

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your dues status changed. If you decide to presume working, you would apply for reinstatement. Before being reinstated, you must complete 90 CPE hourse (or 120 CPE hours if in public practice) during the three years immediately preceding reinstatement. Special transition requirements apply to members who reinstate before January 1, 1993. See the AICPA Policies for the CPE Membership Requirement.

Q I am a new AICPA member in industry who joined in July 1990. What are my CPE requirements?

A You must complete 90 hours of CPE during the three years beginning January 1, 1991, with at least 15 hours each year. New members start their requirements the calendar year after they join. There is a 60-hour transition requirement for members in industry, but it applies only to those who were members on December 31, 1989.

MEMBERS IN GOVERNMENT

Member profile:

Percentage licensed to practice: Of those surveyed, 65% are licensed to practice public accounting in their states.

Preferred subject areas: The most important CPE subject areas are accounting, computer science, specific levels of government, auditing and ethics.

Preferred type of course: Government members are most likely to take a one-day in-house training program.

Members in government asked many questions about the relationship between the AICPA CPE requirement and the new CPE requirement established by a 1988 revision of the General Accounting Office's Government Auditing Standards, often referred to as the "yellow book." The yellow book requires, among other things, an average of 40 hours of CPE a year, with a minimum of 20 hours each year. AICPA members in government must complete 60 hours of CPE over three years, with a minimum of 10 hours a year. Therefore, those who complete the total hours required by the yellow book will easily meet and, in fact, exceed the AICPA requirement.

Q The government agency I work for provides extensive training so I can understand the complex requlations that affect us. Will this

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training qualify under the new AICPA requirements?

A Yes, as long as it is a formal learning program, as defined by the AICPA Statement on Standards for Formal Group and Formal Self-Study Programs and enhances the member's professional competence.

Q I work for a government agency and an interested in completing a variety of programs to improve my management skills. Must I get advance approval of these programs from the AICPA?

A No. The AICPA does not accredit or preapprove CPE programs but has issued standards for group and self-study CPE programs that sponsors are encouraged to adopt. Members who also must meet a state CPE requirement should be aware that some states do have special requirements for advance approval. CPAs should contact their state boards of accountancy or societies for more information.

Q I work for a government agency that provides a number of educational programs. How do I determine the number of CPE credit hours granted for one of my agency's programs?

A All group programs should be measured in 50-minute contact hours. Credit is granted only for full hours and no credit is given for less than one hour. For example, a group program lasting 100 minutes would count for two hours, but one lasting between 50 and 100 minutes would count for only one hour. For continuous conferences and conventions, when individual sessions are less than 50 minutes, the sum of the segments should be considered one total program. For example, five 30-minute presentations would equal 150 minutes and count as three hours.

MEMBERS IN EDUCATION

Member profile:

Percentage licensed to practice: Of those surveyed, 64% maintain a license to practice.

Preferred subject areas: The most important CPE subject areas for educators are accounting, current professional issues, ethics and current business issues as well as computer science.

Preferred type of course: Educators are most likely to take one-day seminars offered by state societies.

Keeping up-to-date is an important part of an educator's job, and the survey showed these members want CPE programs that will help them update courses and research. CPAs in education also wanted courses in pedagogy and communication arts to help them improve their teaching skills.

Q Do course preparation and classroom teaching qualify for CPE?

A Instructors and discussion leaders will receive CPE credit for preparation and presentation the first time they present programs that increase the member's professional competence and allow participants CPE credit. Up to two hours of credit for actual preparation are granted for every one classroom hour. However, the maximum credit for preparation and presentation cannot exceed 50% of the total CPE credit in a reporting period (that is, 30 hours for a mbmer not in public practice for the first three-year reporting period, 45 hours for each subsequent three-year reporting period). No credit is granted for repetitious presentations unless the CPA can demonstrate the subject matter was sufficiently changed to require significant additional study or research.

Q I teach and maintain my state license. Each year I mail a detailed report of CPE to the state. Must I do the same for the AICPA?

A No. Members can indicate compliance with the new CPE requirements by checking off a box on the annual dues statement. The first checkoff will be on the 1991 dues statement, when the member will indicate that the minimum annual requirements have been met. Although members won't submit detailed reports to the Institute, they should keep a record of completed CPE in case the AICPA selects them for audit. For each completed CPE program, members should be able to document the sponsor and title and describe the content, date, location and number of CPE hours. Records for a given program should be maintained for five years after its completion.

COMMON CONCERNS

Although members not in public practice are a very diverse group, the survey found some concerns are common to all. For example, a majority maintained a license to practice public accounting and asked about the relationship between state and AICPA requirements. If a member's state requirement is equal to or greater than the AICPA's, he or she can comply with the state requirement and reporting

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period and be in compliance with the AICPA requirement. The member will, however, still need to meet the yearly minimum-hours requirement established by the AICPA.

Courses in ethics were a high priority for all members surveyed, reflecting the tough ethical questions all CPAs face. Members should be aware that the AICPA recently extended the Code of Professional Conduct to include all members, no matter what their job function.

Industry, government and education members were concerned about employer support for the new CPE requirements. CPAs may need to educate their employers about the many benefits of CPE. Employers should know that CPE helps employees gain expertise, enhance technical and managerial skills and keep pace with new developmnts. New knowledge and skills keep employees motivated and challenged, thus making them more productive and enthusiastic professionals. Time spent on CPE can produce tremendous benefits to any organization. Since a wide variety of courses is acceptable, CPAs may want to work with their employers to determine the most effective programs for both employee and employer.

By approving CPE requirements for all CPAs, members indicated that being a CPA means making a commitment to a lifetime of learning and enhanced professional competence. Employers should be able to appreciate that a commitment to continuing education is a commitment to professional excellence.

ERIC L. SCHINDLER, CPA, is vice-president-finance and administration, Columbia Paint Co., Spokane, Washington. He is a member of the American Institute of CPAs task force on the new continuing professional education requirements and the incoming chairman of the AICPA industry committee. LINDA A. LACH, CPA, is a project manager in the AICPA CPE division.

Ms. Lach is an employee of the American Institute of CPAs and her opinions, as expressed in this article, do not necessarily reflect those of the AICPA. Official positions are determined through certain specific procedures, due process and deliberation.
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Article Details
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Author:Lach, Linda A.
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:2185
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