Founded in 1887, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national professional organization of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in the United States, with more than 418,000 members in 143 countries in business and industry, public practice, government, education, student affiliates and international associates. It sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for audits of private companies, non-profit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It also develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination. The AICPA maintains offices in New York City; Washington, DC; Durham, NC; and Ewing, NJ. The AICPA celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding in 2012.
The AICPA's founding defined accountancy as a profession characterized by educational requirements, professional standards, a code of professional ethics, and alignment with the public interest.
|American Institute of CPAs|
|Purpose||Accounting and Finance|
|Headquarters||New York, NY|
President & CEO
|Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA|
|Eric L. Hansen, CPA, CGMA|
The AICPA and its predecessors date back to 1887, when the American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA) was formed. In 1916, the American Association of Public Accountants was succeeded by the Institute of Public Accountants, at which time there was a membership of 1,150. The name was changed to the American Institute of Accountants in 1917 and remained so until 1957, when it changed to its current name of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The American Society of Certified Public Accountants was formed in 1921 and acted as a federation of state societies. The Society was merged into the Institute in 1936 and, at that time, the Institute agreed to restrict its future members to CPAs.
In January 2012, the AICPA entered into a joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), a partnership that produced the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation. In 2014, the AICPA and the CIMA co-created the Global Management Accounting Principles (GMAPs). These principles, the result of research from across 20 countries in five continents, aim to guide best practices in the discipline of management accounting.
In June 2016, members of both the AICPA and CIMA approved evolving the joint venture through the creation of a new international association. The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants launched in 2017, bringing together the expertise and capabilities of the AICPA and CIMA to strengthen the entire accounting profession – both public and management accounting – through stronger advocacy, enhanced member resources and a broader platform to reach the next generation. The AICPA and CIMA membership bodies remain and provide all existing benefits to members.
The use of committees began even before the AAPA was formed in 1887. At the first meeting of what would become the AAPA on December 22, 1886, those present authorized the appointment of a committee to draft rules and regulations. Beyond this first preliminary committee the first Bylaws of the AAPA in 1897 established three committees: Finance and Audit Committee; Committee on Elections, Qualifications and Examinations; and the Committee on Bylaws. The number of committees grew continually over the years. In the 1940s, there were 34 committees. By 1960, there were 89. By 1970, the number had grown to 109.
In 1999, the nearly 120 existing committees underwent a re-organization with approximately half of the standing committees being replaced with a volunteer group model that placed an increased emphasis on the use of task forces. The increased use of task forces allowed for more targeted efforts with the task forces being given a specific assignment then disbanding upon completion of that assignment. Also in 1999, the first tracking and management of task forces began. Currently, 1,700 volunteers fill more than 2000 seats, each helping to fulfill the AICPA's mission.
The AICPA's mission is to "Power the success of global business, CPAs, CGMAs and specialty credentials by providing the most relevant knowledge, resources and advocacy, and protecting the evolving public interest." To fulfill its mission, the AICPA works with state CPA organizations and gives priority to those areas where public reliance on CPA skills is most significant.
The AICPA sets generally accepted professional and technical standards for CPAs in multiple areas. Until the 1970s, the AICPA held a virtual monopoly in this field. In the 1970s, however, it transferred its responsibility for setting generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to the newly formed Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). Following this, it retained its standards setting function in areas such as financial statement auditing, professional ethics, attest services, CPA firm quality control, CPA tax practice, business valuation, and financial planning practice. Before passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley law, AICPA standards in these areas were considered "generally accepted" for all CPA practitioners.
In the early 2000s, federal public policy makers concluded that where independent financial statement audits of public companies regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are concerned, that the AICPA's standards setting and related enforcement roles should be transferred to a government empowered body with more enforcement authority than a non-governmental professional association, such as the AICPA could provide. As a result, the Sarbanes-Oxley law created the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) which has jurisdiction over virtually every area of CPA practice in relation to public companies. However, the AICPA retains its considerable standards setting, ethics enforcement and firm practice quality monitoring roles for the majority of practicing CPAs, who serve privately held business and individuals.
The AICPA offers credentialing programs in certain subject areas for its members. The credentials are similar to state board certifications for attorneys, which also recognize subject matter-specific expertise. The AICPA offers the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) credential, the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential, the Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) credential, the Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)credential, and the Certified in Entity and Intangible Valuations (CEIV) credential.
The AICPA, along with CIMA, issues the Chartered Global_Management Accountant (CGMA) designation, which is designed to elevate management accounting and further emphasize its importance for business worldwide. United by global quality standards for ethics and performance, CGMA designees maintain distinct credibility and positioning among worldwide business designations and have access to resources and learning opportunities that further elevate their expertise, skills, ethical standards, and dedication.
The AICPA also runs extensive public interest programs, most notably the multiple award-winning campaign Feed the Pig and the award-winning site 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. Feed the Pig, a national public service campaign sponsored by the AICPA and the Ad Council, encourages Americans aged 25 to 34 to take control of their personal finances by providing free savings tips and resources. 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy is a national volunteer effort of the nation’s CPAs to help Americans understand their personal finances and develop money management skills. It focuses on financial education as a lifelong endeavor, from children learning about the value of money to adults reaching a secure retirement.
The AICPA has a Washington office and a political action committee. On behalf of its members, the AICPA monitors and advocates on legislative and other matters that affect the accounting profession. Working with state CPA societies and other professional organizations, the AICPA provides information to and educates federal, state and local policymakers regarding key issues. Whether serving as an information resource or offering recommendations, the AICPA represents the profession while protecting the public interest.
The AICPA is an affiliate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of the Caribbean.
Members of the AICPA must attest annually to meeting the requirements for their membership types, complying with the AICPA’s bylaws and upholding the AICPA’s Code of Profession Conduct. Members are subject to audit and, if found to be non-compliant, may be expelled from the AICPA.