State Board Report

January 2010

As 2010 begins, we look back at a busy year for Linda Biek, Director of Governmental, Professional and International Relationships, as she represented NASBA and State Boards throughout the world. Ms. Biek shared thoughts about an international code of ethics with members of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) in Canada and, later in the year, interacted with members of the Confederation of Asian‐Pacific Accountants in Beijing, China, at an IFAC forum. Representatives from the Chartered Accountants Ireland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales welcomed Ms. Biek’s clarification of the US regulatory system while sharing with her the foundational elements of the European system. In addition, she met with representatives of the Abschluss Prufer Aufsichts Kommission, in Germany, to discuss the potential for their involvement in future Forums of International Accountancy Regulators hosted by NASBA. While in Europe, Ms. Biek also met with members of the Haut Conseil du Commissariat aux Comptes (HC3), the independent regulatory authority in France. Additional information about Ms. Biek’s discussions can be obtained by visiting the International section of the NASBA Web site (www.nasba.org) or contacting her directly (lbiek@nasba.org). Her observations on the French regulatory system are highlighted below.

In France, Ms. Biek met with members of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and members of the Haut Conseil du Commissariat aux Comptes (HC3), the independent French regulatory authority. Differences between the US and French licensing of professional accountants include: France has two types of professional accountants. The Experts‐Comptables requires five years of university education, three years of work experience and successful completion of a rigorous professional examination. Many Experts‐Comptables choose to enter the field of auditing, which requires registration as a Statutory Auditor. While the Statutory Auditor designation does not require additional testing, individuals are required to register with the Compagnies Régionales des Commissaires aux Comptes (CRCC), a membership organization similar to the state societies in the United States. The Compagnie Nationale des Commissaire aux Comptes, similar to the AICPA, is recognized by the Law on Financial Security as a “public purpose establishment” working under the authority of the Minister of Justice. This authority is the main reason that many international accountancy regulators and accountants incorrectly assume that the AICPA regulates the accounting profession in the United States.

Due to a law change several years ago, Statutory Auditors are not allowed to perform any other services for their audit clients. As a result of this change, many larger firms were required to modify their firm structure. This has been a source of concern for these firms and they continue to lobby for an amendment.

While the differences are relatively minor, the similarities are vast. Both the CPA license and the Experts‐Comptables designation require significant university training; a high degree of professional experience and a rigorous entrance examination. Both are guided by a code of ethics with foundational support in either the laws or rules. Statutory Auditors must participate in an inspection process and violations could result in the auditor or audit firm’s ability to practice. The disciplinary process in both countries is similar with one small distinction: State boards of accountancy have the ultimate authority over a CPA’s license, while professional accountants are able to appeal disciplinary decisions that are handed down by the CRCC to the H3C.

Ms. Biek observed her meetings in France “provided a unique opportunity to share information about the authority and activities of state boards of accountancy. As NASBA continues to educate international regulators, state boards of accountancy will be more involved in conversations that affect the activities of international professionals within their states and, ultimately, the public that they are charged with protecting.”

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