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How Soon Do CPA Exam Candidates Need To Learn New Tax Rules?

From the CPA exam grab bag, this question came in just before 2010 testing ended but since there were other things to write about, it sat collecting dust in my inbox. Fret not, our asker got her answer in time to sit for the exam on the second-to-last day of testing and now you get the answer too. Let’s go!

I’m studying for REG and I am fairly concerned about tax law changes. I’m using the 2009 Becker materials, and I try to use their website to see updates to tax law change, but when I’m taught through the lectures and the homework a certain law, it’s hard to then switch it up based on a little post from Becker’s online database.

An example is the estate tax disappearing. Or unemployment exclusion (2,400 in 2009, but now what? 0[%|] I think, right?). Anyways, I’m not too worried about understanding concepts and rules as much as worrying about not realizing that certain rules have changed.

Here’s the deal: REG can be a little tricky because it’s the one section where the AICPA allows newer pronouncements before the usual 6 month effective date. Usually what happens is the PCAOB comes out with some new audit standards and – assuming the SEC has approved them – they cannot appear on the CPA exam earlier than 6 months after adoption. The AICPA Board of Examiners does have its exceptions – like FASB 141(r) – where they are too excited to wait for it to be on the exam and will make a special announcement but for the most part, you can pretty much assume that there is a 6 month lag between the time rules/numbers/pronouncements come out and the time they appear on the exam.

For the estate tax and other such tricky issues that are still unresolved as yet, be glad they’re unresolved as it means you don’t have to worry about any new rules until decisions are made. And with the AICPA scrambling to load your 2011 exams with international financial reporting and other such awesomeness, it’s unlikely that their priority will be integrating new tax rules into testing once they are finalized.

Remember also that you are not expected to be an expert in any area, let alone the complicated abyss of tax rules. So the numbers are not as important as the fundamentals (read: concepts) in Regulation.

Hope that helps and if you have a question for us – new 2011 excitement, studying, how to convince Prometric that your fake mustache is actually medically necessary, etc – feel free to email us.