As a result of attendance and travel restrictions, the 2020 Executive Director and Society CEO Conference and the Legal Counsel Conference became NASBA’s first virtual conferences.  Attendance numbers for both conferences neared those of the same conferences’ previous years’ attendance, with approximately 197 individuals listening in as Executive Directors Committee Chair Grace Berger (MT) welcomed all.  The meetings covered ongoing topics such as legal cases, peer review, cybersecurity, and the Uniform CPA Examination, but also included sessions on contingency planning and Zoom as the coronavirus climate demanded.

 “Contingency planning” was a late addition to the agenda, calling on NASBA Vice President – State Board Relations Daniel J. Dustin to report on how NASBA, AICPA and the Prometric testing centers were handling the coronavirus issue.  NASBA had sent out recommendations to all states that CPA candidates who have expiration dates on their notices to test between April 1 until June 30 should be automatically extended until the end of September.  As of March 13, most Boards had already approved the recommendation, Mr. Dustin reported, and NASBA would be reaching out to the candidates to update them.    Although much of the AICPA team is working from home, no impact on the Examination’s scoring is anticipated, Mr. Dustin was told by AICPA Vice President Mike Decker. “We are organized to transmit scores to the Boards and follow our normal procedures,” Mr. Dustin assured the Executive Directors.

The significance of meetings between the regulators and the professional associations was underscored in a presentation by Beth Thoresen, the American Institute of CPAs’ Director of Peer Review Operations.  Information about the peer review process, which years ago Accountancy Boards were told could not be made available to them through the AICPA’s Facilitated State Board Access program, now are becoming accessible. 

Ms. Thoresen reported that the Nevada Society of CPAs held a meeting in May 2019 with representatives from the six state Boards for which the Society serves as the Administering Entity of the peer review program.  The meeting provided a valuable opportunity for the Society and the Boards to learn about each others’ processes and they expect to hold a similar meeting later this year.  She recommended other states hold similar meetings with their administering entities

The AICPA’s Facilitated State Board Access program, first launched in 2009, is now giving access to firm information to 45 State Boards.  As of January 2020, firms in 15 states are requiring some form of facilitated access for re-licensure. 

AICPA polled the State Boards to find out what more information would be helpful to them, and 42 Boards responded with their requests.  Ms. Thoresen explained: “Now when firms are enrolling, or re-enrolling in the peer review program, they give permission on what information will be shared.”  New information items added to the list of shareable reports include:

  1. Enrolled Firms
  2. Firms Expanding Access
  3. Firms with Accepted Reviews
  4. Firms by Report Grade
  5. Firms with Pass with Deficiencies or Fail Report Grades
  6. Dropped and Terminated Firms.

The AICPA has prepared a six-page frequently asked question document to explain all the information currently available to the Boards and has also prepared a video on the FSBA.    

Ms. Thoresen said the coronavirus is expected to impact the dates of peer reviews and the AICPA is considering a webinar for State Boards on that topic.  The Administering Entities already have the authority to permit off-site system reviews without advance permission.  Those firms that can’t accommodate off-site reviews can request extensions.

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