What Is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)?

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is a non-profit professional organization representing certified public accountants (CPA) in the United States.

Key Takeaways

  • The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is a non-profit professional organization representing certified public accountants (CPA) in the United States.
  • The AICPA was founded in 1887, under the name American Association of Public Accountants.
  • The organization is integral to rule-making and standard-setting in the CPA profession, and serves as an advocate for legislative bodies and public interest groups.

Understanding the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) was founded in 1887, under the name American Association of Public Accountants, to ensure that accountancy gained respect as a profession and was practiced by ethical, competent professionals. The AICPA exists to provide its more than 418,000 members with the resources, information, and leadership to provide CPA services in the highest professional manner.

From its earliest iteration in 1887 to as late as the 1970s, the AICPA was the only body setting generally accepted technical and professional standards for CPAs in a number of areas. In the 1970s, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) took over responsibility for setting generally accepted accounting principles (GAAPs). However, the AICPA still retains its standards-setting responsibilities in such areas as professional ethics, business valuation, financial statement auditing, attest services, and CPA firm quality control.

The AICPA is integral to rule-making in the largely self-regulated CPA profession and serves as an advocate for legislative bodies and public interest groups. It sets standards for obtaining and maintaining the CPA designation, which is earned by accountants who pass a series of accounting exams and satisfy other experience requirements, and oversees CPA practitioners to make sure they are meeting competence and performance standards.

418,000

The number of current AICPA members.

Members of the AICPA consist of professionals in business and industry, public practice, government, and education. Offices are located in New York City; Washington, D.C; Durham, North Carolina; Ewing, New Jersey; and Lewisville, Texas. 

History of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

Although the AICPA obtained its current appellation in 1957, the organization traces its history back through several iterations, beginning when the American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA) opened in 1887.

Subsequent iterations included the Institute of Public Accountants in 1916 and the American Institute of Accountants in 1917. The American Society of Public Accountants, created in 1921, was later merged into the American Institute of Accountants in 1936, at which time, the Institute chose to restrict future membership to CPAs.

More recently, in 2012, the AICPA partnered with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to create the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation. The two organizations then went on to create the Global Management Accounting Principles (GMAPs) in 2014, in order to formalize best practices in the field of management accounting.

In 2017, the two organizations formed a third international association, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, which seeks to strengthen the accounting profession by combining the skills and knowledge of both public and management accountants. Despite all these developments, the AICPA and the CIMA still continue to provide all of their previous benefits to existing members.

New Auditing Standards

In response to auditors across the public accounting industry consistently failing to apply a healthy amount of skepticism to clients’ statements, the AICPA proposed a new standard with the goal of promoting skepticism as part of general auditing standards.

In 2020, Statement on Auditing Standards No. 143 was issued to supersede SAS no. 122, amending section 540, auditing accounting estimates, including fair value accounting estimates, and related disclosures, as well as various other sections in AICPA Professional Standards.