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

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the non-profit professional organization of certified public accountants in the United States. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants was founded in 1887, under the name American Association of Public Accountants, in order to ensure that accountancy gained respect as a profession and that it was practiced by ethical, competent professionals. The AICPA exists to provide more than 418,000 members in 143 countries 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 principals (GAAPs). However, the AICPA retains its standards-setting responsibilities in such areas as professional ethics, business valuation, financial statement auditing, attest services, and CPA firm quality control.

418,000

The number of current AICPA members.

How the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Works

Members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants represent 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. The AICPA is integral to rule-making and standard-setting in the CPA profession, and serves as an advocate for legislative bodies and public interest groups.

Certified Public Accountant is a designation earned by accounting professionals who pass a series of accounting exams and satisfy other experience requirements. The accounting industry is largely self-regulated, such as other industries like financial planning. The AICPA sets standards for obtaining and maintaining the CPA designation and oversees CPA practitioners to make sure they are meeting competence and performance standards.

History of the 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) opening 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 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 designation Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA). The two organizations created 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. However, the AICPA and the CIMA still exist and 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 in 2019 proposed a new standard with the goal of promoting skepticism as part of general auditing standards. The new standards are intended to supersede statements on auditing standards related earlier, including SAS no. 122 section 540, Fair Value Accounting Estimates, Related Disclosures, and auditing accounting estimates, among other sections of the AICPA Professional Standards.