September 1999


One of the most controversial aspects of the third edition of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) now under consideration by many states is the change in the experience requirement to qualify for the CPA license. Ronald Huefner in his article on the UAA in the August 1998 issue of The CPA Journal identified many of the concerns.

The UAA requires one year's experience using CPA-type skills, but the experience need not be in the employ of a CPA firm nor under the supervision of a CPA. One of the major justifications for not requiring experience in a CPA firm was a further stipulation in the UAA that CPAs supervising attest engagements would be subject to an additional experience test to be established under professional standards. In this way the public would be protected.

The Auditing Standards Board chose to address the additional experience requirement through the Statements on Quality Control Standards. On June 17, 1999, the ASB proposed a change that would require firms doing attest work to have an appropriate system to reasonably assure that individuals supervising accounting, auditing and attest engagements possess the kinds of "competencies that are appropriate given the circumstances of the individual client engagements."

The result of the proposal is that the idea of experience has been replaced with competence. Recognizing this change, the language in the recent exposure draft of changes to the UAA (see the related article on compilations) says that those supervising attest and compilation engagements "shall meet the experience or competency requirements set out in the professional standards for such services (emphasis added)."

The deadline for comments on the proposed changes to quality control standards was August 17, 1999. Usually standard setters will consider comments received after the deadline to the extent they are still deliberating the issues. The issue is whether competency is alone enough to protect the public. What about the need for experience in identifying and resolving issues that a client may not wish to face up to? What about the development of a culture that values the public interest above self-interest? These are surely more than matters of competency. *

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