The two most influential organizations to the accounting profession are responsible for the development of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA):
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is a nonprofit organization that provides national leadership to state boards of accountancy and promotes high standards in professional accounting. It is NASBA that is responsible for administering and scoring the CPA exam for all states and jurisdictions. In fact, 32 state boards of accountancy refer directly to NASBA’s CPA Exam Services (CPAES) to determine candidate eligibility to sit for the exam.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), originally established in 1939, is more than just the most influential and relevant professional association advocating for CPAs. AICPA is also instrumental in implementing updates to the Uniform Accountancy Act and Uniform CPA Exam as practice standards for CPAs evolve to be fully inclusive of global commerce in the 21st century.
The first joint bill designed by the two organizations to regulate the practice of public accountancy was approved in 1984 and finalized in 1997 as the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA). The Uniform Accountancy Act includes UAA Model Rules designed to offer all jurisdictions a uniform approach to licensing CPAs. This uniformity among jurisdictions is termed substantial equivalency and involves a process comprised of three major components known as the Three Es: education, examination, and experience. The UAA also brings uniformity to the regulations governing professional practice in all jurisdictions, in part by limiting attestation and auditing functions to CPAs exclusively.
The 55 separate U.S. licensing jurisdictions —including the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands—have each adapted the UAA model in a way that suits their practical and political needs. The move towards total uniformity has been a gradual one, and is, in fact, still underway as some jurisdictions still make allowances for CPAs who were educated prior to the creation and implementation of the Uniform Accountancy Act.
The UAA itself is evolving. Motivated by evidence of professional accounting practice changes that developed as a result of expanded globalization and the universal use of information technology, the AICPA and NASBA made changes to the Uniform Accountancy Act as recently as 2007, as well as changes to the Uniform CPA Exam in 2011 so as to be inclusive of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
CPA Firm Names - In late 2010, the AICPA/NASBA Uniform Accountancy Act Committee proposed UAA changes related to criteria for CPA firm names and the addition of definitions for the terms "network" and "network firm". The changes are aimed at providing language to provide guidance to state boards of accountancy and firms regarding acceptable CPA firm name configurations so as to protect the public from names which may misleading by suggesting all accountants with a firm are indeed CPAs. To date, a decision has not been announced.
Ownership of CPA Firms – There have been concerns about whether non-CPAs can be allowed ownership interests in CPA firms. In 1997, the UAA adopted a recommendation that firms marketed as CPA firms be owned by a simple majority of licensed CPAs. Most jurisdictions have adopted a provision similar to the simple majority ownership practice.