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AICPA Offers New Audit Certificate Programs for CPAs

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Apr 21st 2016
Staff Writer and Editor AccountingWEB
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The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is now offering intermediate- and advanced-level certificates to CPAs who perform single audits of governmental entities and audits of employee benefit plans.

The new programs, which are part of the AICPA’s Enhancing Audit Quality initiative, are aimed at helping auditors improve and demonstrate competency and quality when conducting these specialized engagements.

“The launch of these programs helps fulfill the AICPA’s goal of helping auditors of governmental entities and grantees and employee benefit plan auditors improve audit quality by demonstrating their capability and competence,” Susan Coffey, CPA, CGMA, senior vice president for public practice and global alliances at the AICPA, said in a written statement.

The single audit certificate program offers two certificates: Intermediate Single Audit Certificate and Advanced Single Audit Certificate.

“These programs provide a way for audit practitioners to demonstrate their competencies surrounding single audit engagements and to distinguish themselves in the marketplace,” the AICPA said. “The programs offer an intensive exam, as well as optional courses at both the intermediate and advanced levels. The programs are based on the AICPA Competency Framework: Governmental Auditing, with a focus on common deficiency areas in practice.”

The employee benefit plans audit certificate programs will offer one intermediate- and three advanced–level certificates: Intermediate Employee Benefit Plans Audit Certificate, Advanced Defined Contribution Plans Audit Certificate, Advanced Defined Benefit Plans Audit Certificate, and Advanced Health and Welfare Plans Audit Certificate.

“These programs provide a way for audit practitioners to demonstrate their competencies surrounding employee benefit plan audit engagements and to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, offering flexible learning and rigorous exam options at both the intermediate and advanced levels,” the AICPA said. “The programs are based on the AICPA Competency Framework: Employee Benefit Plan Auditing, with a focus on common deficiency areas in practice, including those mentioned in the recent Department of Labor Audit Quality Study.”

The certificates are delivered through a digital badge, which makes it easy for professionals to demonstrate their competencies to employers, clients, and peers, according to the AICPA.

“The requirements can be updated as the knowledge and skills necessary to perform quality engagements in a practice area evolve,” the AICPA said. “Your digital badge has a unique URL that can be shared electronically via social media, in your email signature, on your firm site, in proposals, and more.”

To earn each certificate, CPAs must pass a competency-based exam. Individuals may enter the program at either the intermediate or advanced level. There is no requirement to sit for the intermediate certificate exams prior to taking an advanced certificate exam. Due to the flexibility of these programs, professionals have the control of selecting the program or programs at different levels of competency, according to the AICPA.

To determine what certificate level is appropriate, professionals may review the frameworks to self-assess or take sample exam questions from each level on the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning site.

Last year, the US Department of Labor sent letters to employee benefit plan administrators, urging them to exercise care in selecting a CPA firm that possesses the knowledge of plan audit requirements and expertise to perform the audit in accordance with professional auditing standards. The Labor Department asked plan administrators to consider the following factors in choosing a CPA firm to perform their plan’s audit:

  • The number of employee benefit plans the CPA audits each year, including the types of plans.
  • The extent of specific annual training the CPA received in auditing plans.
  • The status of the CPA’s license with the applicable state board of accountancy.
  • Whether the CPA has been the subject of any prior Labor Department findings or referrals, or has been referred to the state board of accountancy or AICPA for investigation.
  • The result of the CPA’s most recent employee benefit plan peer review and whether such review includes negative findings.

“Nearly 80 percent of auditors who took part in a recent AICPA webinar poll expressed interest in a benefit plan audit certificate program,” Coffey said. “And we believe the certificate programs will generate the same level of enthusiasm among CPAs who are single audit specialists.”

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