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.”