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May 16, 2010

CPA mobility overhaul on track

The US is on the verge of harmonising state CPA licensing and practice rules that will allow professional accountants to practice freely interstate.

By the end of this year, mobility legislation will be enacted in 49 out of 55 CPA jurisdictions as Washington DC, New York and Alaska prepare to become the latest states to sign up. California is the major jurisdiction that has not yet set a date for enactment.

US firms widely support the mobility laws, which first gained traction in 2007.

Prior to the legislation, CPAs and firms had to be licensed separately in every state where they serve client interests. Gaining a practice privilege differs greatly from state to state and is almost impossible to keep up with across the country.

The new mobility laws, which provide state oversight bodies more power, is vastly more efficient for firms serving interstate clients. They will save firms considerable time, as the impractical notification requirement is scraped, as well as provide savings on licensing fees and red tape.

Managing licensing issues costs considerable man-hours for large national firms.

Grant Thornton US chief executive Stephen Chipman said the mobility laws are long overdue.

“Our clients are national, they are global, and we provide services across state borders and across international borders,” Chipman said.

“When you are dealing with 50 separate CPA licensing authorities in the US, it creates all kind of complexities and challenges, which frankly, no longer align with the operations of our clients. This is a big step forward in helping the profession to be more in tune with the real world today.”

Crowe Horwath does business in all 50 states so the mobility laws are significant for the firm.

“We are moving people across state borders every day and the more freedom we have to do that, the easier it is for us to do business from a compliance standpoint,” chief executive Charles Allen said.

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