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The year in review: the value of your AICPA membership.

Welcome to The CPA Letter's annual "Year in Review." This special feature describes how the AICPA has worked to enhance members' professional opportunities and advance the profession. In the following section we describe some of the more significant developments of the past year. We also highlight some of the many benefits, discounts and other savings available to members.

A Year of Challenges and Opportunities

Amid the many challenges of the past year, the AICPA has been working to benefit members and expand their professional opportunities. For example, were you aware that:

* In our response to developments stemming from Enron Corp.'s bankruptcy, the AICPA has been an active and effective voice for our members and for positive, constructive reforms that meet a four-point public interest test. In testimony before Congress, in media contacts and in member communications, we pledged support for proposals that (1) help investors make informed decisions, (2) enhance the quality of audits and the financial reporting process, (3) help maintain confidence in the capital markets and (4) will be good for America's economic growth. While this test leads to support for changes in disciplinary and quality monitoring processes for auditors of SEC registrants, we remain vigilant in guarding against any cascading effect of such proposals to private company and smaller firm environments.

* The AICPA mounted an aggressive two-way media relations effort to help maintain the public's trust in CPAs and in our capital markets in these turbulent times. Our leadership and senior staff have participated in hundreds of print, television and radio interviews and initiated meetings with editorial boards of key national publications to put forth our positions.

* Member communications also have been enhanced. We continually update www.aicpa.org with links to information in text, audio and video formats regarding legislative activity, AICPA official statements and communications, media reports and other Enron-related items. A new electronic newsletter, "AICPA News Update," sent to members for whom the AICPA has e-mail addresses, was created to keep members informed of emerging events on a timely basis.

* To help spread our message that CPAs serve clients and employers each and every day with integrity, we ran new national print ads and network radio ads. A number of state CPA societies placed the ads locally. Moreover, members included the print ad with tax returns and correspondence to clients, framed it for display in public areas, and provided copies in reception areas.

* The AICPA raised serious public policy and self-regulatory concerns in light of the General Accounting Office's standards on auditor independence in Government Auditing Standards, which are expected to have a significant impact on audits of many governments, not-for-profit entities, and for-profit entities that receive federal assistance or participate in federal programs. A major concern was the detrimental effect the new standards could have on smaller entities and small CPA firms. With the standards now finalized, the GAO has committed to work with us to develop implementation guidance and clarify issues.

* To modernize the profession's rules on independence, the Professional Ethics Executive Committee adopted revisions to financial interest and family relationship rules under Rule 101-Independence. The new rules encompass an engagement-team-focused approach to independence, which extends to those who can influence the engagement, an approach already supported by other independence standard-setters and regulators, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the International Federation of Accountants. The committee also revised an interpretation that permits a modified application of Rule 101 for certain engagements to issue restricted-use reports under the statements on standards for attestation engagements.

* A major effort has been under way to enhance and update the fraud standard and the framework for the audit process. Some expect the final standards to have an impact on the conduct of audits comparable to that of the "Expectation Gap" standards issued in 1988. As part of this effort, the Auditing Standards Board issued a proposed standard, Consideration of Fraud in a Financial Statement Audit, which revises SAS No. 82, establishes standards and provides guidance to auditors in fulfilling their responsibility as it relates to fraud in an audit of financial statements conducted in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards. In addition, the AICPA published the online guidance, "Related Party Toolkit, A Guide for Auditors and Accountants."

* A five-year, $25 million student recruitment initiative was launched in Nov. 2001. Unlike previous recruitment initiatives, this campaign directly targets high school and college students instead of going through educators or parents; reaches out to them in their environments through ads and posters on campuses and in student publications; and uses Web-based interactive "games" and multimedia promotions. For example, the program's Web site, StartHereGoPlaces.com, features an online business simulation game that enables students to participate in running a virtual company in a number of different industries. Students get instantaneous feedback on how they are doing so they can assess their own skills, strengths and weaknesses, and they get a perspective of the role CPAs play in business today.

* The AICPA's national CPA image enhancement campaign focused on network radio ads, running spots during Major League Baseball's World Series and other sports events, as well as on news and business/financial programs. The image campaign included a partnership program with the state CPA societies to boost local media placements.

* The AICPA established the CPAs in Support of America Fund, Inc. to help those directly affected by the events of Sept. 11. Our members also were eligible to apply for assistance from the AICPA's Benevolent Fund. A Disaster Recovery Resource Center on the CPA2Biz Web site helped guide members through related professional and personal issues. The Institute also built a pool of more than 400 CPA personal financial planners and Personal Financial Specialists who offered free financial planning services to terrorist attack victims.

* Two AICPA-backed initiatives became law last year when President Bush signed the 2001 tax cut bill. Included were the AICPA's package of generation-skipping transfer tax provisions and our retirement education proposal to allow employers to provide retirement advice to their employees on a tax-free basis. We also have continued to push Congress to simplify the tax code.

* XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) International, the group founded by the AICPA that is developing XML-based business reporting standards, has grown to more than 150 international companies and organizations. Among implementations announced during the past year: the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will use XBRL to collect, validate and report on bank call report data; Bank of America and Moody's are also moving forward on a pilot program to use XBRL for loan and credit analysis for small- to medium-size customers. In addition, Microsoft, Reuters, Deutsche Bank and General Electric have all either released their financial statements in XBRL or announced plans to move forward with implementing XBRL.

* The principles and criteria of SysTrust and WebTrust are being harmonized to create a uniform set of principles and criteria for information system business assurance and advisory services. An exposure draft of the revised principles and criteria will be released in early July. The ED is part of a larger effort to explain what Trust Services are and how to perform and report on them.

* In Feb., the AICPA Board of Directors approved a strategic plan for AICPA international activities, the first and only such plan supported by the board. The AICPA's International Strategy Committee developed strategies and related initiatives aimed at enhancing the AICPA's role and influence in the development of the international processes of standard setting and oversight over the quality of professional performance, discipline and education. The board also authorized the International Strategy Committee to coordinate the AICPA's international activities.

* Women's Financial Health Week, which the AICPA presented Jan. 14-18 with Money magazine, reached an estimated 70 million consumers through coverage in print, television, radio and online media. The centerpiece of the campaign was an interactive Web site, www.womensfinancialhealthweek.com, which drew nearly 10,000 individual visitors during the course of the week. The site is still up and continues to draw significant traffic. CPAs who hold the AICPA's Personal Financial Specialist designation served as spokespeople for the campaign.

* New continuing education standards, Joint AICPA/NASBA Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education Programs, took effect Jan. 1. Among other things, the standards introduce the concept of independent study learning, allowing a CPA to engage in a program of learning with a qualified sponsor on a one-on-one basis.

* The Board of Examiners approved the structure and length of the computer-based Uniform CPA Examination, which is currently under development. The test will consist of four sections: Auditing & Attestation, Financial Accounting & Reporting, Regulation, and Business Environment & Concepts. In the aggregate, the computer-based exam will take 14 hours.

* The AICPA and CPA2Biz (www.cpa2biz.com) began offering live Webcasts on important professional topics that allow members to learn from industry experts and earn CPE while working from their desktops. In addition, through various mergers and new strategic relationships, CPA2Biz enhanced its offerings to CPAs and their small business clients and employers.

Member Benefits That Should Not Be Missed

AICPA member services help CPAs succeed and expand their professional horizons. Here are some of the services the Institute has to offer:

Information Needs

* The AICPA Library, now located at the University of Mississippi, is a comprehensive collection of literature related to all aspects of the CPA profession. The University of Mississippi Library staff provides reference and research assistance to AICPA members and staff. To contact the library, call 866/806-2133 or e-mail aicpalib@olemiss.edu. You can also search the library catalog on the Web at www.olemiss.edu/depts/general_library/aicpa.

* The Technical Information Hotline offers non-authoritative answers to member queries about accounting, financial reporting, auditing, attestation and accounting and review services. The hotline encourages members to submit questions in writing electronically rather than by calling the toll-free number. Questions may be sent to the hotline's special e-mail address at aahotline@aicpa.org. Members may still access this free service by calling 888/777-7077 or faxing 212/596-6233.

* The Professional Ethics Division's Ethics Hotline offers valuable information and can act as an ethics sounding board to members who face ethics issues in their practices and to members who are not in public practice. The hotline's e-mail address is ethics@aicpa.org and its toll-free number is 888/777-7077.

* AICPA Online (www.aicpa.org) offers members immediate access to news about the latest developments affecting the profession. It provides tax insights and valuable information on standards and other technical matters, as well as online newsletters and magazines.

Marketing Tools

For members who want to keep clients up-to-date on important business news and expand their firms' marketing opportunities, the AICPA offers two client service newsletters: the monthly CPA Client Bulletin contains articles on tax and financial planning ideas for individuals and businesses, as well as stories on general business issues; the quarterly CPA Client Tax Letter focuses solely on tax issues for individuals and businesses, including articles on general tax planning, legislation and cases and regulations. Your name/firm's logo can be imprinted on all copies. Available through the CPA2Biz Customer Service Center at 888/777-7077.

Special Assistance

The AICPA Benevolent Fund helps members and their families when they face financial difficulty caused by serious illness, accident, death or other major misfortunes. Contact Elizabeth Cich at 201/938-3490.

Significant Savings for Members Only

As a benefit of membership, the AICPA has negotiated special pricing from leading providers of professional, personal and property insurance, as well as products and services for the office and home. These programs offer rates that would otherwise be unavailable to individual members. Some offerings extend the benefit to members' spouses and families.

Insurance/Retirement Programs

Term-Life Insurance--up to $2 million in coverage if a member of both AICPA and a state CPA society (up to $1.5 million if a member of the AICPA only). Includes equal amount of accidental death and dismemberment benefits for individual members.

Spouse Term-Life Insurance--up to $2 million in term-life coverage with an equal amount of accidental death and dismemberment coverage.

Group Variable Universal Life Insurance--up to $2 million in term life insurance if a member of both the AICPA and a state CPA society (up to $1.5 million if a member of the AICPA only). Investments in equity, bond or fixed-rate funds available with tax-deferred earnings.

Long-Term Disability Income Plan--provides monthly payments of $1,000 to $10,000, depending on earnings and other coverage.

Group Insurance Plan--up to $500,000 in term-life insurance plus accidental death and dismemberment benefits for CPA firms--and any business that is at least 50%-owned by an AICPA member--and their employees.

Long-Term Care Insurance Program--available for eligible members and their spouses, parents and parents-in-law. Nursing home and home care benefits of up to $250 per day are available.

For all of the above choices, call 800/223-7473.

Professional Liability Insurance Plan--protection of $100,000 to $20 million for members in public practice for claims related to professional services. Call 800/221-3023.

CPA EmployerGard--provides comprehensive protection against employment-related claims, such as wrongful termination, age, race or gender discrimination and other workplace-related lawsuits. Call 800/221-3023.

Medicare Supplement Plan--fills the gaps in Medicare coverage for hospital and medical expenses for members, spouses, and members' and spouses' parents ages 65+. Call 800/957-3195.

Auto Insurance Plan--preferred rates for members and families. Call 877/999-3626.

Home Insurance Plan--full replacement cost coverage and comprehensive personal liability protection. Call 866/366-4607.

Personal Liability Umbrella Security (PLUS)--provides CPAs with up to $5 million in coverage for liability injury and property damage claims that exceed primary automobile, homeowners or renters coverage. Call 800/223-7473.

Catastrophe Major Medical--provides coverage for medical costs that exceed the limits of basic health insurance plans, with a lifetime maximum of up to $2 million. Call 888/294-0028.

Retirement Programs--defined contribution plans from T. Rowe Price, including money purchase, pension, profit sharing, 401(k) and SEP IRAs for proprietors, partners, professional corporations, and employees. Call 800/382-4272.

AICPA Membership Elite Values Program

Airborne Express saves members up to 25% off the competition's published rates and at least 10% off Airborne's standard rates. There are no minimum numbers of shipments, no enrollment fees and no contracts necessary to participate. Call 800/636-2377, identify yourself as an AICPA member and receive your Free Airborne Express Starter Kit, or go to www.membersales.com/AICPA.

Dell Computer Corporation provides discounts of 6% on Dell's PowerEdge file servers, OptiPlex desktops, Latitude notebooks, Dell Precision workstations and software, accessories and peripherals. Members receive a 3% discount on Dell Dimension desktops and Inspiron Notebooks. Call the dedicated Dell Association Sales Associate at 800/945-8364 or access the AICPA Premier site at http://premier.dell.com. Enter your account code "AICPA" and access key "CPADELL99." Then custom configure your system and place your order. Your discount will be applied automatically.

The AICPA/First USA Credit Card offers a Platinum Visa with a low fixed introductory rate, followed by a low annual rate and no annual fee. In addition, the AICPA Platinum Visa offers enrollment in "ValueMiles," in which members can earn free airline travel, hotel stays and car rentals. To apply, call 877/533-9656 or log onto www.cpa2biz.com/elite and click on the FUSA logo.

Hertz Car Rental gives members up to a 20% discount on all car classes in America. AICPA members also qualify for free annual membership in the Hertz #1 Gold Club (a $50 value). Special coupons and upgrades are available, too. For reservations, call 800/654-2200 and refer to CDP #12353. For your free Hertz #1 Gold Club Membership, call 800/336-2496. Log onto www.cpa2biz.com/elite and click on the Hertz logo for special coupons and promotions for AICPA members.

IBM saves members 10% on over 1,600 premium quality IBM products, including ThinkPads, Netfinity Servers, Desktop PCs, software and accessories for the home office and family. All products available through this program are covered by a 30-day, money-back guarantee. Shop online at www.ibm.com/smallbusiness/aicpa, or call 800/426-7235, ext. 5245.

Paymentech allows members to accept credit card payments at discounted processing rates with its comprehensive credit card processing program. With qualified swipe rates as low as 1.8%, members can offer clients and customers expanded payment options and receive significant savings. Plus, AICPA members pay no application or conversion fees and receive all merchant supplies absolutely free. For a no-obligation, free competitive analysis, call 800/824 4313.

Research Institute of America (RIA Group) saves members 10% on new purchases and 5% on renewal purchases of tax information products from the leading authority on tax research. Your AICPA membership entitles you to discounts on RIA electronic and print services, including RIA's highly acclaimed Internet-based tax research system, CHECKPOINT. For more information on CHECKPOINT or OnPoint CD tax products, call 800/431-9025, ext. 3. For information on RIA desktop references, call 800/950-1216.

Robert Half International gives AICPA members substantial discounts on new temporary, permanent and contract professional placement fees through Accountemps, Robert Half and RHI Management Resources. AICPA members will save 10% off permanent placement fees for Robert Half; $25 off each 40-hour Accountemps temporary assignment (up to a maximum of $100 for 160 hours or more) and $50 off each 40-hour RHI Management Resources contract assignment (up to a maximum of $200 for 160 hours or more). Call 888/744-4089 and supply your AICPA membership number.

Sprint cuts members' long-distance phone bills by 5%. AICPA members can also take advantage of Sprint BusinessFlex[SM], the communications plan you build your way including low, flat in-state, state-to-state and international rates. It's possible to change your plan as your business needs change with no term plans or commitments. Call 800/953-4214 or www.sprint.com/affinity_benefits.

Staples, the nation's #1 office supply provider, has a dedicated, online location where AICPA members can access special coupons and deals that will be updated regularly. In addition to getting deals on already low prices at www.staples.com/AICPA2, AICPA members will have 24-hour access to more than 45,000 products and 100,000 downloadable software titles. Check the Web site for the latest special offers.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts provides a complimentary Corporate Preferred membership in Starwood Preferred Guest[R], consistently voted #1 by frequent travelers worldwide. As a member, you will receive up to 40% off at Starwood Hotels and Resorts[R] collection of more than 750 unique hotels worldwide, including Westin[R] hotels, Sheraton[R] hotels, and W hotels[R]. Members earn valuable Starpoints[R], receive room upgrades and late checkout when available. Starpoints[R] can be redeemed for free nights with no blackout dates. AICPA members will also receive special promotions and discounts. Log on to www.cpa2biz.com/elite and click on the Starwood Preferred Guest[R] logo or call 888/625-4988 and say you are a member of the AICPA.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage provides AICPA members with many cost-saving features, including competitive rates, a zero-point option and a no-cost 60-day rate lock option. Applications can be completed by phone, with a loan decision in as little as 24 hours. In many cases, closings can occur in as few as 15 business days from approval. Receive a complimentary 4-day "Getaway" * after closing on a home purchase or refinance through this program. Call 800/CPA[272]-1210, or log on to www.cpa2biz.com/elite and click on the Wells Fargo logo.

* "Getaway" offer not available on home equity loans or lines of credit. Offer valid on loan applications made on or after Jan. 1, 2002 and closed on or before Dec. 31, 2002.

Xerox provides discounts of up to 20% on most products (excluding service contracts, supplies and personal line copiers). Call 800/ASK-XEROX ext. CPA (800/275-9376, ext. 272) and mention AICPA contract #0706109 or log on to www.cpa2biz.com/elite and click on the Xerox logo for more information.

www.cpa2biz.com/elite

AICPA Member Satisfaction Center, memsat@aicpa.org
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Title Annotation:American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
Publication:CPA Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Words:3322
Previous Article:Highlights of board of directors' April meeting. (member news).
Next Article:$30 CPE discount for AICPA members. (CPE news).
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