This article was originally published October 2020.
That’s how many AICPA members are eligible for retirement this year, according to a 2015 exposure draft [PDF] put forward by the AICPA to add “retired” CPA status to the Uniform Accountancy Act.
For several years, there has been discussion as to whether or not there should be a Retired-CPA status in the UAA. Currently, there is an Inactive-CPA status, which simply indicates that a CPA has chosen not to maintain the requisite amount of continuing professional education and can no longer hold out as a CPA while his or her CPE is not current. State Boards have come to NASBA to request guidance on how to recognize both inactive and retired CPAs. With no uniform approach, a majority of states have adopted their own retired status in their statutes and/or rules. These variations in state policies have led to inconsistencies in expectations and treatment of this class of CPAs.
Coupled with these national differences in policy, demographic changes – in particular the wave of Baby Boomers retiring or preparing to retire – are further driving the debate about the need for a Retired-CPA status. Indeed, the AICPA estimates that approximately 75% of its members will be eligible to retire by 2020. Many of these retirees are well-respected business leaders in their communities who would like to find ways to continue to be of service, without necessarily remaining an active CPA in practice.
The 75% figure is further trotted out in numerous articles from around the profession but phrased in a different way like this 2017 article from the Illinois CPA Society:
An impending mass exodus of CPAs over the next 15 years is the most obvious contributor to shrinking CPA numbers. The AICPA often cites that the large pool of retiring Baby Boomers will leave a gaping hole in the supply of experienced CPAs.
Statistics from the AICPA suggest that 75 percent of current CPAs will retire in the next 15 years, leaving a huge vacuum in the industry.
Given the existing accounting pipeline problem, this is very bad news.