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Accounting & Audit

NASBA: Is It Time for a COVID-19 CPE Break?

If you've attended an accounting conference in person, you know that there is much more to a conference than sitting in a seat, listening to speakers, and logging your CPE hours. Accounting conference events are about networking, meeting peers, sharing...

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If you’ve attended an accounting conference in person, you know that there is much more to a conference than sitting in a seat, listening to speakers, and logging your CPE hours. Accounting conference events are about networking, meeting peers, sharing real-world experiences with other members of the profession, experimenting with new technology, and learning about how the profession is changing and the role you will play in that change.

One of the many results of COVID-19 has been the change from in-person conference events to a variety of online alternatives. I’ve been watching the experiences evolved as different groups try various platforms and methods for dispensing the training that is at the core of conference events. After all, pandemic or not, CPAs need CPE, and so, on with the show.

But how essential is CPE in the midst of the pandemic? I find it interesting that, while most of life as we know it has been suspended or at least upended in the era of COVID-19, NASBA has not suspended the CPE requirement for 2020. I believe we can say that anyone who is actively practicing in the accounting profession is learning every single day, connecting with clients in new ways, improving the use of technology, staying on top of all of the changing COVID-19-related government programs and procedures available to our clients.

In fact, I would suggest that we as a profession have experienced more, learned more, achieved more, adapted more in the past six months than we have in the past several years. We just didn’t have the CPE 50-minute hour clock turned on, and no one was issuing us credits for the extra hours we logged keeping this profession front and center without missing a beat.

As for actual CPE, for the most part, our only alternative, in order to preserve our licenses, is to attend online training or participate in self-study programs. Many people in remote areas don’t have the bandwidth to access online courses, and may not even be aware of how to find the courses, who to trust as presenters, how online credit works. Many states don’t allow CPAs to take all of their CPE classes online. The same goes for self-study. I’m licensed in Indiana where a maximum of 50 percent of our training will be accepted as self-study.

Everywhere I look, CPAs are turning to the people and the organizations they trust to get the education they need in this unprecedented time, and they’re not as concerned about CPE as they are about learning what they need in order to carry on with their businesses and help their clients – right now. Fortunately, those people and organizations we trust are rising to the challenge of providing up-to-the-minute education with an unprecedented level of expertise and outreach.

NASBA has taken one big step forward in allowing what would be otherwise in-person training to be presented online without the presenters having to go through the rigorous licensing procedures that NASBA normally requires of presenters. Kudos to the team for that. Some states have been easing requirements as well. Thomson Reuters is doing an excellent job of tracking how the ruling bodies are responding to this issue in its regularly updated blog post, “Have my CPE requirements changed as a results of COVID-19?” https://tax.thomsonreuters.com/blog/have-my-cpe-requirements-changed-as-a-result-of-covid-19/

But this seems like a small step. How about helping those who are actively engaged in the profession by letting us concentrate on learning what we need to know to serve our clients in the best way possible. We can make up NASBA-sanctioned CPE classes in the future. Right now our only future is today, and, while it seems like the year we expected hasn’t even really started yet, one thing I know is that accountants, at least those with whom I’ve been in contact, seem to be stepping up to the challenges presented by the pandemic. Let’s let the profession focus on that and take a little break from required CPE.

Register for CPA Practice Advisor’s online CPE conference Ensuring Success. The event will be live-streamed on Dec. 2-3, with the ability to earn up to 16 hours of totally free CPE credits.

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