Many CPAs may be unaware that the AICPA is now offering its Accredited Business Valuation (ABV) credential to non-CPAs. The decision was made by the AICPA Council behind closed doors on May 22, 2018 (http://bit.ly/2NV6T31), with no prior communication to ABV credential holders, the stakeholders most impacted by the change, nor to AICPA members or the public. The outcry from this reversal in policy has been ferocious: a survey of CPAs, both ABV and non-ABV holders, conducted by a group of several ABVs (four of whom are in the AICPA’s Business Valuation Hall of Hall of Fame), showed a resounding disapproval of the action. Of the 1,800 responders, 94% answered “no” to the question: Are you in favor of changing the ABV criteria to admit non-CPAs?
The decision to allow non-CPAs to obtain an ABV credential flies in the face of the AICPA’s original rationale for encouraging CPAs to obtain the credential:
People who hold both the CPA and the CPA/ABV provide the business and legal community confidence in the services they provide and a perceived advantage over competing valuation credentials.
The AICPA’s decision dilutes the CPA/ABV brand and creates confusion—clients may assume that anyone who holds an ABV from the AICPA possesses the education, skills, and ethics necessary to be a licensed CPA and is bound by the full scope of the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. As CPAs, we bring a level of competence and trust that non-CPAs cannot possibly offer. That level of trust is now irretrievably tarnished by lowering the standards for granting the ABV credential. All AICPA members, CPAs as a whole, and the general public are losers here—not just ABVs.
Core Values and Principles
The ABV designation is anticipated to be the first of the several specialty designations that will be granted to non-CPAs (http://bit.ly/2NTB0HW). The attack on our professionalism will continue. The AICPA is surprised at the uproar, a clear indication of how out of touch it is with its membership. The lack of understanding of the values of the membership is astounding. The AICPA is not a business. The organization stands for setting high standards for competence and integrity that its members accept as core values. The abandonment of the very principles that the organization was established to promote is a kind of treason against the membership.
Gone is the edge we as CPAs and ABVs once held.
Gone is the edge we as CPAs and ABVs once held. Gone is the level of trust associated with CPAs that transferred to ABV holders. Gone is our ability to distinguish ourselves from non-CPA business valuation professionals. Gone is our enhanced earning capacity. Gone will be the public’s trust in CPAs as competent advisors.
In my opinion, the clear motivation for allowing non-CPAs to qualify for specialty designations is money. The change to the ABV requirements, when extended to other specialty designations, will fulfill the AICPA’s apparent goal of expanding its revenue sources at the expense of our status as trusted advisors and our earning capacity. Bringing all who seek to perform valuation services under our umbrella is antithetical to our image and standing as CPAs.
The goals of the AICPA are no longer consistent with those of the vast majority of ABV credential holders. As a protest, many ABV holders are considering boycotting the upcoming AICPA business valuation conference scheduled to take place in Atlanta this November. One prominent speaker has cancelled his AICPA membership, as well as his scheduled conference appearance; his wrath is directed at the current management of the AICPA as it tears down what we as ABVs have spent decades building up. I have been told that other speakers will be cancelling in the coming weeks.
It may be that boycotting conferences and resigning from the organization will cause the AICPA to reverse its position. Cooler heads are suggesting a wait-and-see attitude. There is hope that a change back to requiring a CPA certificate to obtain the ABV designation will occur at the next AICPA Council meeting. I personally am waiting to see what, if anything, the AICPA will do to reconsider their decision. If no sufficient backpedaling happens, I too will boycott the conference and resign as a member of the AICPA; I encourage others to follow.
The American Society of Appraisers’ ASA credential is equally powerful as the now deflated ABV. The incentive to remain an ABV has been lost. Those of us who hold both credentials can easily drop the ABV with no loss to their professional standing. The ASA holds an annual business valuation conference equally rich in content and speaker quality as the AICPA conference. This year’s conference will take place in Anaheim, California, in October; I expect to see former ABVs there.