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December 12, 2011
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Brought to you by the American Institute of CPAs

Looking Back at the Year
  • From the desk of Barry Melancon, CPA, president and CEO of the AICPA
    Barry Melancon, CPA, president and CEO
    When I think back on the past year, I am struck by the vibrancy of our profession, despite the continuing troubled economy and the serious challenges we all face. We reached all-time highs in both AICPA membership (nearly 380,000 members at July 31) and the number of accounting majors in colleges and universities (225,000). Just as gratifying were the results of our member satisfaction survey, with overall satisfaction with the AICPA once again topping 80%, leading to a remarkable retention rate of 94.83%. Clearly, the CPA profession is strong, in large part because of what the CPA means to business decision-makers, the public and others.

    The success of the CPA credential is supported by the profession's effort to continually look into the future. In October, immediate past Chairman Paul Stahlin, CPA, presented the final report of CPA Horizons 2025, which captured the insights of more than 5,600 CPAs who contributed more than 75,000 comments on the future of the profession. The research, which built on the CPA Vision Project in the late 1990s, identified ways for CPAs to respond quickly and competitively to shifting economic, demographic, technological and regulatory changes. I urge you to take a look at the final report and integrate its findings as you develop your strategies to move your firm or organization forward.

    One of the technical areas of significant activity for us in 2011 was the initiative to relieve reporting burdens on millions of private companies while improving the usefulness of their financial statements. Despite the strong recommendation of a specially appointed blue ribbon panel, letters from more than 3,000 private company constituents and a majority of state CPA societies, the Financial Accounting Foundation put forth a proposal that we believe will not bring lasting, meaningful change. We remain hopeful that FAF will revise its plan, and instead set up a new board with the authority to set modifications in U.S. GAAP to reflect the unique needs of private-company constituents. It's critically important that CPAs, private companies, small businesses and their financial-statement users participate in the process by sending FAF a comment letter.

    The AICPA also was very involved in a number of regulatory issues, and achieved important successes. We worked to limit the effects of the IRS's tax-return preparer registration program on CPAs, repeal expanded 1099 reporting requirements and ban new patents on tax planning strategies. We also helped win repeal of a mandatory 3% withholding on payments from government entities to contractors.

    Internationally, the AICPA enjoyed major achievements as well. In August we began offering the U.S. CPA Exam in Japan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and we are on schedule to extend into Brazil in February. We also now have mutual recognition agreements, which acknowledge that two regulated entities' professional qualifications are comparable, in place with Mexico, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and, most recently, Hong Kong.

    Through a new joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, we developed the Chartered Global Management Accountant. The new designation, which will be available Jan. 31, recognizes the important role CPAs play in management accounting, provides an exciting new opportunity for AICPA members to showcase their skills and expertise worldwide, and further demonstrates to employers, clients and the public the ethics, commitment and strategic advice that CPAs offer on key business decisions and issues.

    These are just some of the AICPA's significant accomplishments this year on behalf of members and the public. Others, including the launch of an IFRS Certificate Program, a new series of SERVICE ORGANIZATION CONTROL REPORTSSM, the substantial progress that was made to make GAAS easier to read, understand and apply and more can be found in the AICPA's 2010-2011 Annual Report, "Change. Vision. Opportunity."

    We are pleased to have been able to celebrate this past year together. The AICPA looks forward to continuing to serve you.

  The Year's Top Ten 

Top 10 news stories clicked by SmartBrief readers in the past year.

  • Results based on number of times each story was clicked by readers. Due to the time span, some links may be broken.
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  Your Predictions 
  • Which event had the single greatest impact on you and your firm/company in 2011?
Financial regulatory reform
S&P downgrade of U.S. long-term debt
Financial and business uncertainty
Implementation of part of health care reform
Economic sanctions on China

  • What do you think is most likely to happen to the economy in 2012?
Increased defaults in student-loan industry
U.S. trade war with China
European debt crisis escalates to other countries
A new recession or depression will occur
Continue with an uneven recovery

  • What is the most important issue for the CPA profession next year?
Future of private company financial reporting
FASB/IASB major convergence projects finalized
Incorporation of IFRS for U.S. public companies
Continued implementation of financial regulatory reform
Maintaining or expanding the firm/company
Staying on top of standards and new tax law

  • View the results of these polls in CPA Letter Daily's Special Report: Looking ahead to 2012, to be published Dec. 19.
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The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, founded in 1887, is the world's largest organization representing the accounting profession, with nearly 370,000 members in 128 countries. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education, and consulting; membership is also available to accounting students and CPA candidates. The AICPA 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 develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination.

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