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International rules to become part of test next January

[caption id="attachment_24408" align="alignright" width="209" caption="Mark Rubins"][/caption]

NORTH BAY -- The examination to become a Certified Public Accountant, the CBT-e, is changing dramatically starting January of 2011, creating a push for candidates to take the test before the end of the year.

The main change being made is the introduction of questions on International Financial Accounting Standards. This is because in the next several years, public companies will be required to use the international standards, which focus on principle-based reporting instead of rules-based reporting.

Peter Yen is a year out of college and works for Burr Pilger Mayer in Santa Rosa in the tax department. He is currently studying for the exam and is taking the first section in October.

“There are plenty of reasons to get the CPA exam out of the way,” he said. “But the changes are a big one.”

He said he wants to get it completed before the changes go into effect because they are altering the way the test is graded and structured. He is not concerned that he will miss out on learning things he eventually can learn.

“I look at the CPA exam not as a learning tool but as a hurdle,” he said. “The majority of my training will be on the job and with professional development, not what I study for on the exam.” 

He also said he did not want to be one of the first to take the new exam.

“I want something that is tried and true,” he said.

The introduction of international standards is not only changing the exam process but also the training for accountants.

“In our November 2009 joint statement, we, the International Accounting Standards Board and the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board, again reaffirmed our commitment to improving International Financial Reporting Standards and U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and achieving their convergence,” read a statement published by the International Accounting Standards Board and the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

So to be in compliance with the Securities & Exchange Commission when it switches from U.S. GAAP to the international standards, accounting firms are continuing to train their employees in international standards.

Because there are so many things to learn, compliance is going to be the biggest issue, said industry experts.

The current plan is for the changeover to take place in 2014. But the SEC said it wants three years of comparative information, meaning if the changeover is confirmed, companies would have to begin to practice the standards as soon as 2012.

With the addition of international standards to the CPA test, there will be new questions and problems to be solved, said Mark Rubins, a senior manager in the audit assurance department at Moss Adams.

He said that while the international standards are not coming into play right away, they are relevant now because a lot of companies have subsidiaries overseas and have to be in compliance now anyway. He said he also expects the measurement for a passing score will change as well.

Also, the percentage of questions in certain areas will be different. Some of this is known already, but a lot will only come out when candidates begin taking the exam.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants said, "Over the next several months, a series of announcements will be made with more details about each of the scheduled CBT-e changes to be implemented—from the transfer of written communication tasks to the Business Environment and Concepts section to the introduction of new Task-Based Simulations."