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State Board Report

June 2014

As many of you may know, my first career was in law enforcement. State laws are often unique to each state. In recent years the disparity of laws regarding gun possession, self-defense and even the use of marijuana have been given extensive press coverage. It is seldom remembered that as late as the 1950s and 1960s even traffic laws were disparate in different states. One example is the “right turn on red” law that allows drivers to safely turn right after coming to a full stop. California was the first state to adopt right turn on red in 1947, but it took until the early 1980s for almost all states to adopt it. In my early days of law enforcement, I remember the nationwide discussion about the lack of uniformity of traffic laws, including right turn on red inconsistency, which was getting drivers into trouble across the country. You still better not make a right turn on red in New York City.

Very similarly, in the 1980s NASBA, the AICPA, Boards of Accountancy and State CPA Societies began considering the lack of uniformity of accounting laws across the United States. In 1984 the first joint model bill was published by the AICPA and NASBA, and in 1992 that was revised to become the Uniform Accountancy Act, developed to propose and persuade states to embrace some level of uniformity. The concept of “substantial equivalency” was mapped out in the third edition of the UAA, released in January 1998, and last month we released the seventh edition of the UAA. We just achieved a significant milestone when, on May 16, 2014, Virgin Islands Governor John P. de Jongh, signed the new VI Accountancy Act into law, paving the way for all U.S. states and territories to be deemed substantially equivalent (and creating the 51st mobility state). It has taken time, but this is a tremendous achievement.

Looking back, especially on the past decade, the diligent progression to uniformity has continued. Farsighted leaders in the 1980′s first proposed mobility, mandatory peer review, more flexible ownership, 150-hour licensure requirements and many other changes that are now adopted in the majority of our states and territories. So with these amazing achievements and successes, why revisit the “Uniform” in the Uniform Accountancy Act?

With the adoption of CPA mobility in almost every state, NASBA and AICPA developed and maintain the CPAMobility.org website, a tool that allows CPAs practicing in another state through mobility the ability to be aware of any unique or non-uniform requirement in the visited state. While this useful tool works well to keep CPAs in compliance with the law, it also puts a bright light on the remaining inconsistent and unique statutes and rules around the country.

Let me state clearly that NASBA is, and will always be, supportive of states’ rights including the right to deviate from the UAA. One good example is the decision of a majority of states now adopting 120 hours of education to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination. While we are supportive of the UAA which calls for 150 hours to sit for the Examination, we have supported and defended states that have chosen the dual (120 to sit/150 for license) path. However, when disparate statutes and rules affect practice, both consumers and professionals could be put into harm’s way. On these matters, NASBA will likely take an educational and persuasive posture.

In recent discussions with the AICPA, we are considering how to identify, prioritize and understand the remaining disparities from the UAA that exist around the country. Many Board of Accountancy members may not even realize that differences exist. Once we have completed that review, we will work to ascertain the reasons and justifications for the outliers and develop strategies to close potentially harmful gap(s)and to revive the “Uniform” in the Uniform Accountancy Act.

Wishing each of you a wonderful summer!

Semper ad meliora. (Always toward better things.)

— Ken L. Bishop
President and CEO

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