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The AICPA Is Getting Serious About This Protecting Your License Thing, You Guys

On the heels of a plan to evaluate licensure rules which was met by some criticism last month, the AICPA and NASBA have announced a new coalition to make sure those troublesome lawmakers of ours don’t go running around letting any idiot with a pulse perform the intricate task of professional accounting.

As we already know, the AICPA has had its antenna up about “a national anti-licensure legislative strategy” that could but hasn’t yet affected CPAs. I guess the decades of being relentlessly berated for failing to be proactive in their duty to protect the profession has finally gotten to The Powers That Be, as they seem to be taking this as-yet nonexistent threat seriously.

From the JofA:

In the wake of various state deregulatory proposals that threaten to have an adverse effect on the CPA profession, the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) have helped found a new coalition of advanced professions focused on educating policymakers and the public about the importance of rigorous professional licensing standards.

The coalition, the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL), is designed to educate lawmakers on the need to maintain standards for highly complex, technical professions such as accounting that have a clear impact on the public’s fiscal health and welfare.

In other words, lawmakers are morons and need to get their grubby hands off the profession. The argument against rigorous licensure standards is that it exists as a barrier to entry to candidates who may not have the resources to pursue advanced education despite being an otherwise desirable candidate for the profession. This of course presents the AICPA with a conundrum as they look for new and creative ways to seduce talent to the profession while also maintaining the roadblock that keeps the undesirables out.

“Weakening professional licensing standards on a state-by-state basis will destroy the confidence in qualifications and completely disrupt existing mobility models for advanced professions like ours,” Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, president and CEO of the AICPA, said in a news release. “Employers will be less inclined to accept out-of-state licenses if some states have rigorous requirements and others have weak requirements. The result: It will become more difficult for CPAs to move and maintain their careers across states.”

NASBA CEO Ken Bishop said the public must have confidence in the accuracy, thoroughness, and integrity of an audit performed by a CPA.

“The most effective way to maintain this confidence is to continue to have CPAs show rigorous education, examination, and experience for their licensing requirements,” Bishop said in a news release. “Broad-brush attempts to weaken or undermine licensing requirements threaten to sweep up advanced professions like certified public accountants, diminish public protection, and jeopardize the fiscal integrity of the work our professionals do.”

The question then becomes: what are the specific threats?

Absence of active threats aside, at a time when the fight over accounting talent is more heated than ever and fewer future CPAs are entering the pipeline, it makes some sense that the overlords of the CPA would furiously protect the brand from outside influence that might erode professional standards. After all, that’s their job (if they so desire).