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The U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled on the appeal of the Florida State Board of Accountancy in its action against Stephen Miller and American Express Tax & Business Services (TBS). The appeal related to the decision of the U.S. District Court that held that Stephen Miller had a first amendment right to identify himself as a CPA while performing accounting services (other than attest services) as an employee of TBS. At issue is the Florida requirement that the practice of public accounting is restricted to those that are owners or employees of firms or corporations that are wholly owned by CPAs. TBS does not meet that requirement although its CPA employees perform services that fall within the definition of the practice of public accountancy under Florida Statute.

The Court of Appeals ruled as follows:

* The State of Florida is enjoined from enforcing statutes that would prohibit Miller from holding out as a CPA in an unlicensed firm while performing only nonattest business services.

* The part of the decision that extended to similarly situated individuals is vacated, because Miller was not representing a class of plaintiffs.

* The decision of the District Court that TBS had no standing in the lawsuit was reversed and TBS's case was remanded to the District Court to consider its claims that its employees can hold out as CPAs.

Based upon this decision and the recommendations of the joint agreement of the AICPA/NASBA on the structure of the accounting profession, there appears to be little hope of state boards enforcing any holding out prohibition against CPAs in unlicensed firms performing nonattest services. Accounting Today, in reporting the results of the decision, quoted Richard Miller, counsel for the AICPA, as being supportive of the decision. The guess here is that Miller recognizes the inevitability of the decision and therefore is saying it is time for the profession to give up on those kinds of restrictions and move forward realistically with a strong program of self-regulation for all licensed practitioners.

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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