A three-year initiative to transform the rules for continuing professional education (CPE) has culminated in the release of a new standard by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).
To comply with the new standard, CPAs whether employed in public practice, industry, government or academia, should complete 120 credit hours of CPE in each three-year reporting cycle and comply with the following rules:
- Participate in learning activities that maintain or improve their professional competence.
AICPA Vice President John Morrow points out this rule may disqualify some of the easier courses that formerly qualified for credit. In the past, some courses gave practitioners credit for reading Internal Revenue Code sections and then passing a simple quiz about them. Under the new standard, if a course doesn’t improve one's professional competence, the CPE credits won’t qualify.
- Comply with all applicable CPE standards, rules and regulations of state licensing bodies, other governmental entities, membership associations, and other professional organizations or bodies.
- Claim the recommended CPE credit only for CPE programs that comply with the standards.
- Accurately report the appropriate number of CPE credits earned, and maintain documentation of their participation in learning activities giving rise to those credits.
In the past, Mr. Morrow points out, some CPAs have allowed daily business to interrupt their participation in CPE. Not any more. “You can’t spend half the day on the phone during a seminar,” he says, “and take credit for the whole day.”
The new standards also introduce the concept of independent study learning, allowing a CPA to engage in a program of learning with a qualified sponsor on a one-on-one basis.
These rules are effective January 1, 2002 subject to approval by each state board. Members of AICPA who began their current reporting cycle prior to the beginning of 2001 may complete their CPE under the rules in effect when their current reporting period began. Members whose reporting period began on or after January 1, 2001 must comply with the new standard. The standard can be downloaded here.