American Institute of CPAs (AICPA)

A non-profit organization of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in the United States

What is the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA)?

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is a non-profit organization of Certified Public Accountants in the United States. It was established in 1887, and its role is to create and grade the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examinations. Individuals seeking to practice as accountants in the United States must pass the CPA examination. AICPA was the first organization to create the original financial accounting standards under GAAP before handing over the role to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). It is the largest member association in the world, with over 418,000 members in 143 countries.


Main Objectives of the AICPA

Members of the AICPA represent different areas of practice such as public practice, government, education, business and industry, and consulting. The association is tasked with setting ethical standards for CPA professionals, auditing standards of private companies and non-profits, as well as state, federal, and local government accountants. It also offers specialty credentials to CPA professionals who focus on personal financial planning, information technology, business valuations, and fraud and forensics. Management accountants can receive the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation from both the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

History of the AICPA


The history of the organization dates back to 1887 when its predecessor, the American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA), was established. The founders were mainly English and Scottish chartered accountants who settled and practiced accounting in the United States. During the first year, AAPA listed only 30 members. AAPA was then succeeded by the Institute of Public Accountants in 1916. The organization later rebranded to the American Institute of Accountants in 1917, and it remained so until 1957 when it adopted the current name, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. AICPA opened its Washington D.C. office in 1959, later opening other offices in Durham, Ewing, and Lewisville.

Partnership Between AICPA and CIMA

In 2012, the AICPA started offering the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation in a joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). In 2014, the two bodies also partnered to create the Global Management Accounting Principles (GMAPs) to guide best practices in management accounting. The two associations entered into another joint venture in 2016 to establish the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. The new organization aims to strengthen the accounting profession and provide a broader platform for CPAs and Management Accountants to share ideas and resources. However, the two founding associations continue to operate as independent bodies.

AICPA Committees

When the founders of AAPA met to discuss the formation of the first accounting body, they created the first committee to draft rules and regulations of the association in 1886. The association’s bylaws authorized the formation of three critical committees – Finance and Audit Committee; Committee on Elections, Qualifications, and Examinations; and Committee of Bylaws. The role of the committees was to guide how the association would operate and draft rules that would govern new CPA members.

The number of committees grew over the years to 34 in the 1940s, 89 in the 1960s, and 109 in 1970. In early 2000, AICPA transitioned from committees to task forces. The advantage of task forces over committees is that members would serve on a voluntary basis to execute specific assignments and the task forces would be disbanded when these assignments were completed. AICPA lists over 2,000 volunteer members who fill up the task force membership, and this has helped the association save money and increase the efficiency of its operations.

Functions of the AICPA

The AICPA is responsible for:

Establishing professional standards

The organization held a monopoly in setting the generally accepted professional and technical standards for the CPA profession until 1970. The function of setting the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) was later transferred to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), while the organization retained the role of setting professional standards for CPA professionals. The association sets the standards in financial statement auditing, private practice, CPA firm quality control, business valuation, financial planning, and professional ethics. It also disciplines members who are accused of misconduct while in active professional practice.

Recruiting and educating prospective members

AICPA develops the Uniform Certified Public Accountants examination for CPA practitioners. Students and other individuals seeking to practice as Certified Public Accountants are required to pass the CPA examination. AIPCA also publishes journals and newsletters to educate and inform CPAs on any issues that are of concern to CPAs. The association conducts seminars on a continuous basis to update its members on any developments in the profession and changes in laws that may affect them.

Certification and licensing of new members

AICPA grants the CPA designation to accounting professionals who pass a series of accounting exams and meet the experience requirements before venturing into private practice. The body also offers credentialing programs for members who specialize in certain areas. Some of these specialties include Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Personal Finance Specialist (PTS), Certified in Financial Forensics, Certified Information Technology Professional, and Certified in Entity and Tangible Valuations designations.

Public Interest Campaigns

The AICPA is involved in various public interest programs, including:

Feed the Pig Campaign

The goal of the Feed the Pig campaign is to encourage Americans aged 25 to 34 years to take control of their finances and attain financial stability. Feed the Pig’s website provides saving tips and free resources to help Americans manage their spending habits and work towards reducing debts and growing their savings.

360 Degrees of Financial Literacy

The campaign is a national volunteer effort sponsored by the AICPA and Ad Council to help Americans understand their finances and develop money management skills. It recognizes financial education as a lifelong process and it provides money management resources for all categories of people, from teens, students, employed, parents, and homeowners, to retirees.

More resources

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