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Joint focus: Arkansas accounting societies meet with State Board of Accountancy.

As a dying class public accountant (PA) state, Arkansas is unique in one respect. Each year, there is a voluntary and scheduled meeting of the Arkansas State Board of Accountancy, the Arkansas Society of CPAs and the Arkansas Society of Public Accountants (ASPA).

As far as I am aware, Arkansas is the only state to have a joint meeting between members of the state board who are the regulators and the two professional accounting societies representing the individuals regulated. The background and development of the joint meeting is interesting and may be helpful to other NSPA affiliated state organizations.

In 1985, ASPA had its bill introduced in the state legislature. The Arkansas Society of Public Accountants had done its homework well. After assuring that it had superior sponsors in the House and the Senate, the society hired a "gung-ho" lobbyist. In brief, ASPA was fully prepared to go "all the way" to the enactment of its bill.

One of the purposes of the ASPA bill was the regulation of all practitioners. At the committee hearings, the Arkansas Society of CPAs showed up in force to oppose the ASPA bill. At that point, the committee instructed the two societies to get together and come up with a bill acceptable to each other. The respective legislative committees of the two societies held one meeting that got nowhere so far as harmony and agreement were concerned.

In 1986, ASPA and NSPA member Leonard Ricketts who was then serving as the public accountant member of the State Board of Accountancy (and also serving as the chairman of NSPA's Public Accountant on State Accountancy Boards Committee) suggested a joint meeting of the State Board with the governing boards of the state CPA society and ASPA.

In December 1988, the first meeting of the two organizations and the State Board of Accountancy finally took place. Unfortunately, at that initial meeting, no progress was made whatsoever. The only good thing that can be said about the initial meeting is that it actually did take place and, more importantly, the decision was made to meet again the next year.

The following year, both associations were a little more at ease. Each association managed to express their concerns about the accounting profession. The Board of Accountancy was commencing its quality review program and sought the assistance of each society. The Board asked for volunteer reviewers and that request was the start of working together on a project.

In 1990, ASPA's president and executive secretary were contacted and advised that the Board of Accountancy intended to sponsor legislation that would prohibit unlicensed practitioners from performing the review function. ASPA strenuously objected and informed the Board of Accountancy of their position at their next meeting.

The Board after consideration and discussion agreed to delete the prohibition on review by unlicensed practitioners from the bill.

At the next meeting of the three organizations, the review legislation arose once more. Again, ASPA voiced its strong opposition and among other things, proposed for discussion the NSPA Model Accountancy Law providing for an additional class of licensee with authority to perform all accounting functions except the audit function.

The chairman of the Board of Accountancy requested each association to provide the names of three members to serve on a committee to address and study legislative problems. The appointments were subsequently made.

Almost seven years have passed since ASPA sponsored its accountancy bill. While that proposed legislation was considered highly threatening by the CPAs, its introduction did have the beneficial effect of getting the public accountants and certified public accountants talking to each other. Additionally, ASPA now has the NSPA Model Accountancy Law as a debating tool.

The annual meeting over the past several years between the State Board of Accountancy, the state CPA society and ASPA, and the discussions that take place, show there is not much difference in the legislative policies of the organization as one might think.

For the most part, Arkansas is a state where certified public accountants, public accountants and many unlicensed practitioners all have the same type of practice, namely, compilation and review of financial statements of small business entities. The major interest of the State Board is to see that all practitioners, licensed as well as unlicensed, do a good job for their clients.

The Arkansas experience with the joint meetings has been a good one. Based on that experience, I would recommend a similar venture for other NSPA affiliated state organizations. In many instances, all it will take to get started is a telephone call to the PA on the state board, or if there is not one, a call to the board's chief executive officer. The main thing is to get started!

Laverne Long, NSPA State Director, Arkansas, is currently serving the Arkansas Society of Public Accountants as Executive Secretary.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas Society of CPAs and Arkansas Society of Public Accountants
Author:Long, Laverne
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Date:May 1, 1992
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