The new IESBA standards emphasize fundamental principles, independence, and a conceptual framework. The code is now organized as follows:
- Part 1—Complying with the Code
- Part 2—Professional Accountants in Business
- Part 3—Professional Accountants in Public Practice
- Part 4A—Independence for Audit and Review Engagements
- Part 4B—Independence for Assurance Engagements Other than Audit and Review Engagements.
Readers may notice the emphasis on independence with the new specific sections, which were the focus of the most recent updates, and as such demonstrate a different presentation than in the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. CPAs are no doubt aware that the AICPA code is available in an online format (https://pub.aicpa.org/codeofconduct/Ethics.aspx). Several additional AICPA resources are listed in the Sidebar for readers’ convenience and comparison to IFAC and IESBA materials discussed below.
International Federation of Accountants
The federation (https://www.ifac.org/) is a global professional organization for the accountancy profession, establishing international standards for auditing, government accounting, independence, quality control, education, and ethics. IFAC has more than 175 members and associates from 130 countries and jurisdictions, representing almost 3 million accountants in public practice, education, government, and industry. Members include the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
IFAC supports four international standards setting boards: the International Audit and Assurance Standard Board (IAASB), the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB), the IESBA, and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB). IFAC provides an online platform for the IAASB handbook, the IPSASB handbook, and the IESBA code, which are accessible online (https://eis.international-standards.org/) as are their individual websites. Electronic access to these standards does requires a one-time free registration. Downloadable PDF versions are available for free with no log-in, and hard copies can be purchased for a relatively low cost. Readers may find it helpful to view a seven-minute quick tour video on this main webpage that demonstrates the features of the online tool. The online application includes a navigation panel for the table of contents on the left, definitions and resources on the right, and the content in the center. Definitions and application materials are also hyperlinked within the text of the standard, as well as more general resources related to a topic. A very useful feature is a “share” button next to every paragraph of a standard that allows for the easy e-mailing of specific text.
International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants
The IESBA (https://www.ethicsboard.org/) works to set international ethics standards for professional accountants, including auditor independence requirements. The board consists of an independent chairman and 17 volunteer members from public practice, public sector members, and other nonpractitioners. Members are appointed by the IFAC board.
The IESBA website offers a variety of accounting ethics-related resources, including newsletters, reports, and webinars. One of its latest initiatives concerns the impact of technology on ethics and independence; of course, the major creation of the IESBA is the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants.
IESBA Handbook of the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants.
Readers can obtain the “Handbook of the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants” (2021 Edition) as a 342-page PDF that is downloadable without registration (https://bit.ly/3DI0x1X). A printed copy is also available for purchase. The handbook includes introductory material, an overview of the code, the text of the standards, an extensive glossary with definitions and abbreviations, and an explanation of changes made to the previous version.
Many users will prefer the electronic version, which requires a one-time free registration. The online code can be utilized on a computer, tablet, or cellphone. A 19-minute video under Resources and Tools, “Introducing the IESBA eCode,” demonstrates how to use the electronic platform; a video is available (https://youtu.be/dHnqqBx-aZA).
There is also an easy-to-use guide to the code, in webpage format (https://bit.ly/37iHW0m), that provides online access to the entire document with simple navigation, and requires no user registration.
IFAC Knowledge Gateway
The IFAC Knowledge Gateway (https://www.ifac.org/knowledge-gateway) has many resources that are too numerous to address in this column, even limiting the focus to professional ethics. In particular, readers may want to examine the “Ethics” (https://bit.ly/3DMaQCb) and “IESBA Code of Ethics” (https://bit.ly/3ubpBve) subsidiary pages.
IFAC Knowledge Gateway: Exploring the IESBA Code.
“Exploring the IESBA Code” is a joint project between the IESBA and IFAC to develop a 12-part publication series of one- or two-page articles focused on specific topics with links to related resources. The easiest way to access the “exploring” documents is via the Exploring the IESBA Code main page (https://bit.ly/3Jc53qN). Most of the installments have subsidiary pages with links to download the publication and associated materials.
A good place to begin is “The IESBA Code—Overview of Parts and Sections,” which serves as a table of contents for the major parts of the code, listing their individual rule sections—similar to the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. “Installment 1: The Five Fundamental Principles” addresses integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, professional behavior, and confidentiality. The Conceptual Framework is covered in three parts: Step 1—Identifying Threats, Step 2—Evaluating Threats, and Step 3—Addressing Threats. Separate installments present summaries on independence, conflicts of interest, and inducements.
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is a professional management accounting association (https://www.cimaglobal.com/) that is based in the U.K. and associated with the AICPA through the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation. Its “Ethics and Accountancy” webpage (https://bit.ly/3Kt58YJ) offers access to its code of ethics, which should look very familiar to readers. There is also an interesting collection of articles, pod-casts, videos, and even quizzes on business ethics, ethical dilemmas, anti-bribery measures, technology, speaking up, fraud, and responsible business. As a member of IFAC, CIMA also provides links to the IESBA and IFAC Knowledge Gateway.
AICPA Code of Professional Conduct Archives
AICPA Professional Ethics Resources
AICPA Ethics Tools and Aids
AICPA Professional Ethics Division
AICPA Personal Financial Planning Professional Responsibilities