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December 13, 2009

AICPA creeps towards global status

The world’s largest professional services institute has just a tiny percentage of members based overseas, but that number has increased significantly in recent years and the institute is extending its services accordingly.

With more than 350,000 members, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has more than double the membership of any of the other accounting organisation participating in this year’s World Survey, despite the fact that AICPA membership is voluntary.

The US CPA designation is awarded and maintained by individual boards in each state.

There are large populations of accountants with this designation in locations such as Russia and the Middle East, where there are no strong local accountancy bodies. However, the AICPA does not have statistics regarding the state boards’ overseas registrants, it only has records of its own international members. This currently stands at about 15,500.

The AICPA has identified areas where there are potentially large groups of US CPAs, including South Korea, Hong Kong, Germany and Mainland China.

Local membership groups

AICPA international relations director Gary Scopes told The Accountant that the institute is in the early stages of forming local membership groups in some of these locations.

These chapter-type organisations will offer networking opportunities and access to continuing education courses.

Scopes hopes strong local groups may attract more US CPAs living in those locations to join the AICPA.

The main factor behind the increase of AICPA members based abroad is probably staffing within the Big Six, Scopes said.

The move towards global standards is also making designations more consistent, he added. The AICPA plans to add IFRS to its exams over the next couple years

The advent of the internet and communication developments have also opened new ways for the AICPA to serve overseas members.

“In the old days, international members of any sort of association were sort of a dirty word because the only way you could support them would be through what was classically called snail mail, which was slow and expensive,” Scopes said.

“But now you can service those people very quickly and easily with no incremental costs.”

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