State societies and the Institute's new CPE requirement; members not in public practice can look close to home for help in meeting the new CPE requirements.
The state CPA societies are among those who have geared up to serve these CPAs' needs. The societies get their course offerings from the AICPA and outside vendors, as well as from experts with whom they contract directly. Because of the increased demand for CPE, societies are taking many steps to serve members outside public practice. CPAs who look close to home will find a variety of offerings.
THE NEW REQUIREMENTS
Members not in public practice must now complete 60 hours of CPE--with a minimum of 10 hours annually--in the three-year reporting period that began January 1, 1990. Subsequently, they will have to complete 90 hours--with a minimum of 15 hours each year--during each three-year reporting period beginning with the 1993 calendar year.
Members not in public practice should note, however, that compliance with the AICPA requirement does not necessarily guarantee compliance with state board or state society CPE requirements. In general, the AICPA is accepting a very wide latitude of subject areas that some state boards and state societies might not accept. For example, many of the management courses popular with industry members might comply with the AICPA requirements but not with the requirements of certain state boards.
As a result, if a state board's or society's requirements are stricter than or equal to the Institute's, members should comply with the board or society requirements and reporting period. If a state board or society has no CPE requirement or has one that's neither greater than nor equal to the AICPA's, follow Institute policy. In both cases, members must meet the AICPA's minimum annual requirement for course hours completed.
To meet the CPE needs of members not in public practice, the AICPA and many state societies are developing and offering specialized courses and conferences, as well as examining different options for providing continuing education. What follows is an overview of what the state societies are doing to help these members meet their CPE requirements.
WHAT DO MEMBERS WANT?
To determine what topics would interest members outside public practice, the Iowa Society of CPAs last October surveyed members on their top 10 choices out of a list of 35. Its purpose was to understand what educational offerings would best serve these members, as well as when and in what format the courses should be provided. "We felt we needed to schedule more CPE programs for members not in public practice and to make the programs less than all-day sessions," explains Stanton Bonta, executive director.
The survey results prompted the society to offer a number of two-, three- and four-hour courses, concentrating on topics such as employment interviewing, management skills and techniques, strategic planning and time management. As an experiment, the society scheduled several of these courses during tax season to see if this would be a convenient time for members outside public practice. Although the courses received good ratings, Bonta says the society was disappointed with the overall attendance.
While the survey helped the society determine hot topics in the state, its other purpose was to make members aware of the AICPA requirement. "Our members automatically had assumed the state board had the same requirement as the Institute," Bonta says.
The New Mexico Society of CPAs also surveyed industry members to find out what courses they would like added to the curriculum. This effort came after the society adopted the AICPA requirement in May, making CPE mandatory for the first time for members not in public practice. Susan L. Sterling, executive director, expects the society may lose some industry members as a result but adds that many already have been voluntarily taking CPE courses that meet the AICPA's criteria.
A number of state societies have adopted the AICPA's CPE requirement either entirely or in some form. Others still are evaluating whether they should adopt the new requirement. The California Society of CPAs, which does not have a CPE requirement for members, has passed a resolution encouraging members to comply with either the state board or AICPA CPE requirements, whichever is stricter. In this case, the AICPA has the stricter requirement, according to Kristy Koberna, CPE director.
CPE OPTIONS IN DIFFERENT STATES
CPAs who contact their local societies will find many have courses suited to those not in public practice. The California society, for example, has approximately 65 courses appropriate for industry members and 15 geared to those in government. The selection for industry members includes conferences on real estate, construction, entertainment, agriculture, government contracts and the wine industry, as well as a certificate of educational achievement (CEA) program in financial management.
The Ohio society offers 106 presentations for members in industry and has placed increased emphasis on scheduling courses for these members, according to Joan McGloshen, director-education services. To augment its annual industry conference and financial management institute, the society has added conferences on agribusiness, financial institutions and the construction industry. The society also has new courses in strategic management and the preparation of budgets.
The Colorado Society of CPAs added 50 course title this year targeted to industry members. Mary Medley, assistant executive director, says the society recently offered two days of four-hour sessions that were very well attended. Topics included presentation skills for CPAs, fostering creativity and employee trouble spots.
The society also offers a special CPE plan for education members. For every faculty member working in a school with an accredited accounting program (there are 13 in the state), the society provides two free days of CPE, which the school can divide among faculty members. Medley notes that the program is applicable to all courses except the CEA program.
In addition, the society's accounting education committee offers several programs at little or no cost. "We do this because we believe it is critical that educators know what's going on in public accounting," she explains.
The Georgia Society of CPAs provides several specialized courses on topics such as construction, real estate, not-for-profits and financial institutions. In addition, the CEA program in government accounting and auditing offered through the AICPA has been very successful.
The New Jersey Society of CPAs has two special annual programs, according to Rosemarie Campana, manager of education and meetings. The "Spotlight on New Jersey Business" program, now in its fourth year, allows members to meet formally with executives of a selected company to learn more about the challenges they face in their industry. Last year's meeting, held at Beneficial Corp. in Peapack, attracted more than 150 industry members. "It was so successful we had to close the registration," Campana says.
The society's "Night at the Races" program, held in November at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, combines a timely CPE course with dinner and an evening at the races. Last year's program brought out more than 160 members and featured a two-hour sales tax seminar before dinner.
In North Carolina, the society has had much success with its spring and fall conferences for members in industry. Members can meet the state board's 40-hour annual CPE requirement by attending both conferences, says Betty Tysinger, until recently the director of education.
Another popular offering in the state is the "beach cluster," a series of educational programs cosponsored by the Professional Development Institute and held at Wrightsville Beach. Industry members who attend the three-day program can participate in daily four-hour morning or afternoon sessions. This year's cluster, held in July, attracted more than 500 members.
Although the number of courses offered by state societies for those not in public practice continues to increase, the societies already provide numerous courses of interest to all members. New Jersey's Campana says courses geared to industry members, such as cash flow, also appeal to CPAs in publc practice.
Often, the same holds true for conferences. The New Mexico society recently co-sponsored an industry conference with the Construction Financial Managers Association. Gail Tomaszewski, the society's CPE director, says the industry members' response to the conference was very positive, but she note that two-thirds of the participants were members from public practice.
Along with course offerings, another major concern for state societies is providing convenient times for members in industry, government and education to take CPE. Most of the societies the Journal contacted offer the majority of their courses as eight-hour weekday presentations, which have traditionally been popular with public practice members. A number are experimenting with different options, however, since the eight-hour weekday format frequently is not convenient for members not in public practice.
The New Jersey society, for example, has had success with its Saturday courses. The society also provides two breakfast programs annually for industry members. Other alternatives for societies to consider include luncheon and evening courses, as well as two- and four-hour seminars.
The societies contacted mentioned other concerns facing those not in public practice who now must take CPE. For example, employers in industry, government and education sometimes don't recognize the importance of paying for employees' CPE and allowing them to take time out of the office for their courses. A number of state societies are making a concerted effort to change this.
In New Jersey, the society has begun targeting some of the larger industries in the state to inform employers of their CPA staff members' significance to their industries--and to the CPA profession, Campana says. The New Mexico society has written letters to employers planning the importance of CPE. The Ohio society's membership services executive council and membership committee have discussed visting employers to emphasize the importance of paying for employees' CPE.
In Colorado, the society is concerned about cutbacks in the state government and how they wil affect government members' efforts to meet the new requirements. "The government members want to take the programs, but they can't get reimbursed for them," Assistant Executive Director Medley explains, adding that this problem probably exists in many states. Nevertheless, the society is doing its best to offer in-house, inexpensive CPE for government members.
Another key concern is the issue of dual--and in some cases treble--compliance and meeting various reporting periods as a result. After it adopted the AICPA requirement, the Georgia society expanded its own reporting period so it would coincide with the Institute's first reporting deadline. Kay Jenkins, CPE operations manager, says that by adopting the AICPA policies, the society consolidated three requirements into two, as the state board also has a CPE requirement.
Another key concern is providing sufficient courses to satisfy the needs of industry, government and education members. Iowa Executive Director Bonta observed that industry members tend to look first to their employers and industry groups for CPE rather than to the state society. He hopes the society can change this by offering more pertinent courses to these members.
The Colorado society has beefed up its industry course offerings, but, as Medley explains, "It's a little scary because we don't have a good feel yet for how many people will be taking their courses from us." She believes the society will have a better perspective at the end of the first three-year cycle.
In Georgia, some members not in public practice have complained there aren't enough courses directed to them, but Operations Manager Jenkins says attendance in the courses they offer this segment hasn't been high. "Their attendance at multiple-day conferences is much better than at one-day seminars," she says.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Whether the state societies have adopted the AICPA CPE requirement or not, they all seem to support the enhancement in standards, a fact that's reflected by their efforts to communicate the new requirement to members. For example, many are publishing blurbs in their newsletters and catalogs as reminders.
In North Carolina, the society sent industry members the brochure on the new requirement that had been mailed with the February 1990 issue of the Journal of Accountancy. In addition, the society is updating its own pamphlet on the requirement for members outside public practice. The Ohio society plans to put information on the requirement on its electronic bulletin board--which is very popular among industry members.
Along with publicizing the requirement in both its monthly membership and CPE newsletters, the Colorado society has prepared a publication on it. In addition, its committee on CPAs in industry, government and education has held roundtables to increase member awareness.
"For us, the biggest challenge is finding out how to serve these members appropriately," according to Medley. "We plan to talk a lot with the members and search for new programs to offer."
JOHN DAIDONE is an editor in the American Institute of CPAs state society relations division.
Mr. Daidone is an employee of the American Institute of CPAs and his opinions, as expressed in this article, do not necessarily reflect those of the AICPA. Official positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.