Author: Ken Bishop, NASBA Executive Vice President and COO
As NASBA begins administering the Uniform CPA Examination in five international sites, with more locations to come, we are fielding some questions about how Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) and the related IQEX Examination, fit into the growing international accounting picture.
It’s very important to note that the exam and the MRA pathway are very different, and that the international exam is in no way replacing what the MRAs do, and who qualifies. For some context, understand that the MRAs are political in as much as they are designed to ease accounting activities between nations. There has to be a political desire to have reciprocal practice privileges between two countries, such as Ireland and the United States, or the U.S. and Canada. Secondly, there has to be a review and acceptance from both sides – we look at their educational testing competency model, and they explore ours.
After that there has to be a discussion to see if those models are substantially equivalent, and a way to evaluate people from MRA countries to see if they meet our standards. To make that happen, we use the IQEX, or International Qualification Examination to see if they can be allowed to have full practice privileges in the United States, and if our CPAs can have practice privileges in their countries.
The United States currently has MRA agreements with Canada, Ireland, Australia (CPA Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia), Mexico and the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants. We have been asked why none of these countries were designated as test sites during our first phase of international exam administration. That was in large part because we didn’t want to be administering the Uniform CPA Exam and also IQEX in the same country, because they mean two different things.
If a licensed accountant in an MRA-approved country has a specific engagement in the United States and wants to be able to practice here, then their best route would probably be the IQEX. They already are licensed in their country; this would give them the privilege. But if the individual wants to become a CPA in order to practice in the U.S, or for other career and professional reasons, they will need to take the full CPA exam to achieve the designation and to have that practice capability. As we continue discussions with other countries regarding the exam’s administration, we are sure to encounter this issue again, and likely will have both testing opportunities in the same location eventually.
This might seem a bit confusing, but it really does provide two distinct routes for people who wish to practice here to pursue. It really breaks down to where the individual is located and where he or she wants to do business. At NASBA, we are working to ensure that all channels of opportunity remain open, so that international mobility becomes a way for more qualified, certified accountants to practice wherever their business needs take them.
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