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AICPA Publishes Blueprints for New CPA Exams

Soyoung Ho  Senior Editor, Accounting and Compliance Alert

Soyoung Ho  Senior Editor, Accounting and Compliance Alert

The AICPA on Jan. 4, 2023, unveiled updated Uniform CPA Examination® Blueprints. This is the official document of content eligible for assessment on the CPA exam.

This comes as the AICPA is modernizing the CPA Exam, which will have a greater emphasis on emerging technology.

The revised exam will be rolled out in January 2024. The last day to take current CPA exams is expected to be Dec. 15, 2023.

The association said that the blueprints are based on the knowledge and skills required of a newly licensed CPA to be able to do their job.

In today’s world, the AICPA said that CPAs must have deeper skillsets and competencies as well as more knowledge of emerging technologies and their impact on tax, accounting and audit.

To prepare CPA candidates and accounting students for this new environment, the licensure model is changing through a joint CPA Evolution initiative between the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

“The CPA Exam has evolved to align with a digital-driven marketplace, and that means a greater emphasis on technology and analytical skills,” Susan Coffey, AICPA’s chief executive officer of public accounting, said in a statement. “Through CPA Evolution, new Exam candidates will gain the skills and competencies they need to better meet the public’s, clients’ and employers’ needs. Candidates will also have the flexibility to choose their preferred area of focus within the multitude of career paths available in the profession.”

Under the new licensure model, CPA candidates must take three core sections:

  • Financial Accounting and Reporting
  • Auditing and Attestation
  • Taxation and Regulation

Candidates must then choose a discipline to demonstrate additional knowledge:

  • Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR)
  • Information Systems and Controls (ISC)
  • Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP)

Because the use of data and technology is increasing and becoming more important in the accounting profession, the organization said that there is an increased focus on data and technology concepts in all core and discipline exam sections.

According to the blueprint, each section will take four hours. The exams consist of multiple choices and tasked-based simulations.

The Financial Accounting and Reporting section assesses a candidate’s knowledge and skills in the financial accounting and reporting frameworks used by for-profit and not-for-profit entities.

The frameworks eligible for assessment include the standards and rules issued by the FASB, the SEC and the AICPA. The assessment of financial accounting and reporting concepts will focus on a CPA’s role in the preparation and review of financial statements, account balances and transactions to make sure they comply with SEC, FASB and AICPA standards and rules.

The Auditing and Attestation section, according to the blueprint, tests a candidate’s knowledge and skills in performing audit engagements, attestation engagements, and accounting and review service engagements.

It will focus on a CPA’s role in planning, risk assessment, performing procedures, obtaining evidence and reporting for these engagement types.

The Taxation and Regulation section tests the knowledge and skills that CPAs must demonstrate on:

  • ethics and professional responsibilities related to tax practice
  • business law
  • federal tax compliance for individuals and entities with a focus on recurring and routine transactions

The AICPA said that there is additional new content, and it is primarily in the ISC and TCP discipline exam sections.

IT infrastructure, platforms and services; security, confidentiality and privacy; and considerations for System and Organization Controls engagements are included in the ISC Discipline Exam section.

Personal financial planning and tax planning are assessed in the TCP discipline exam section.

The professional association said that the blueprints are a result of its analysis and research to align the CPA exam to the CPA evolution initiative, which is all explained in a final report.

To do its analysis, the AICPA gathered input from a wide range of groups and individuals who want to make sure that the mission of the profession continues.

“The CPA Evolution-aligned Exam will ensure that candidates possess the knowledge required for the profession now and in the future,” NASBA executive vice president and chief operating officer Colleen Conrad said in a statement. “For current candidates, we developed a transition policy to allow them to seamlessly continue their CPA Exam journey from where they are when we transition to the 2024 CPA Exam.”

NASB on its website has a transition policy, webcast recordings and frequently asked questions.

Proposed CPE Standards

Separately, the AICPA and NASBA on Dec. 14, 2022, issued proposed changes to the Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) programs.

Comments are due by March 31, 2023.

The organizations explained that the proposed changes come amid advances in technology.

For example, the proposal addresses common issues with digital programs, such as Group Internet Based CPE leaning.

The revised Standards would clarify how CPE providers can award credits when multiple presenters are actively involved in running one CPE program session. The proposal would also provide clarity on how to communicate and document the required attendance and monitoring mechanisms for this program.

“CPE helps CPAs maintain professional competence and provide quality services,” Michael Grant, AICPA’s senior director of Learning Innovation & Assessment, said in a statement. “Through continued education, CPAs are more prepared to instill confidence in an unstable and evolving economic environment, strengthen capital markets and expand opportunities for sustainable growth worldwide.”

 

This article originally appeared in the January 9, 2023 edition of Accounting & Compliance Alert, available on Checkpoint.

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