IMA pushes back on CPA Evolution

The Institute of Management Accountants is objecting to the possible elimination of management accounting from the future courses required for students pursuing a career in accounting.

The American Institute of CPAs and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy are set to unveil the model accounting curriculum they have developed for their CPA Evolution project during an online event Tuesday co-hosted by the American Accounting Association. While the curriculum is still in progress, IMA officials are concerned that it may de-emphasize management accounting and cost accounting skills. Last week, the IMA posted an article from its vice president of research, Raef Lawson, arguing against the possible changes. “IMA has concerns regarding the potentially deleterious effect dropping managerial/cost accounting from the required curriculum for CPAs proposed in the CPA Evolution model (and the Uniform Accountancy Act Model Rules of November 2020) will have on the ability of the accounting profession to protect the public and serve the public interest,” he wrote. “We challenge the implicit premise that a core knowledge of managerial accounting is not essential to the work of the CPA.”

The IMA is waiting to see what happens with the final curriculum. The IMA and the AICPA have had disagreements over the years after the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants jointly rolled out their Chartered Global Management Accountant designation in 2012 as a rival to the IMA’s Certified Management Accountant credential, but the organizations have since worked together on a number of initiatives. Still, the possible changes in the accounting curriculum are troubling to the IMA, and the board met to discuss their concerns on Saturday.

“There have been indications or innuendoes that management accounting or cost accounting would be an elective or an option, and that concerns us,” IMA president and CEO Jeff Thomson told Accounting Today. “We have to see what plays out, but we did issue a press release and a briefing. To be clear, it is absolutely not about a certification. It’s not about CMA, it’s not about CPA, it’s not about CGMA. In fact, we’re as concerned about CPAs in audit running CPA firms being prepared as we are about the profession. We’re concerned about the profession and the public interest. When you take away cost accounting, management accounting, and those kinds of domains, or make them electives, just think about it. These curricula for four-year or five-year programs are being squeezed today. It’s like a zero sum game. You can only fit in so much. And right now, data analytics and technology are forcing their way in, as they should. You want more data analytics and you want more technology courseware. But then if you’re saying, well, let’s take away management accounting courses, all the stuff that’s in that competency framework, potentially, and make it electives or optional. Well, that’s all the stuff that generates decision support, planning, forecasting, risk, all the things that lead to insight and foresight for a CPA or a business advisor, consultative thinking, critical thinking, whether you’re a CPA running a firm, a CPA in audit or tax, the rhythm of the numbers, the cadence of the numbers, not just producing the binary audit. We’re speaking not so much from a CMA perspective, but from the perspective of the public interest, from the perspective of the profession, from a long-run integrated view.”

He is willing to take a wait and see approach. “Now, granted, these are just indications we’ve gotten,” said Thomson. “We’ve not seen an actual curriculum, but as we begin to see indications, we figured we should get ahead of what we were hearing and put out a briefing and put out a press release, and then we’ll express our views to AICPA and NASBA. It’s not about associations. It’s not about certifications. It’s about the profession in the long run. And it’s about the professionals, preparing them to be well-rounded thinkers.”

Institute of Management Accountants president and CEO Jeff Thomson

Courtesy of the IMA

The AICPA and NASBA issued a joint statement Monday to Accounting Today in response to the IMA’s briefing. “Feedback from stakeholders is very important to us, which is why we’ve worked closely with a broad range of individuals from the profession, academia and regulation to develop the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum,” said the joint statement. “We received IMA’s concerns, which we feel are unwarranted as they don’t accurately reflect the content in the Curriculum. We have invited IMA representatives and all interested stakeholders to attend our launch event tomorrow, review the Curriculum and share feedback at that time.”

Meanwhile, the IMA is aligning with the AICPA in its support for a bill that was introduced in Congress last week to make accounting part of the STEM curricula for science, technology, engineering and mathematics at schools (see story).

“We want various stages, K through 12, to be thinking about the incredible pathways and careers that become open to how we have redefined accounting, how you can make a difference, how you can serve the public interest,” said Thomson. “Accounting has so many different facets to it. And this also ties into CPA Evolution. Accounting is audit. Accounting is compliance. It’s tax, it’s FP&A, it’s technology. It’s analytics, it’s supply chain. There are so many incredible pathways and careers and opportunities to make a difference. But if we narrowly define accounting, that’s where we kind of go off the rails. And so we need to make sure we define accounting from a holistic, interconnected perspective and not kind of pigeonhole or file it off as a certification. It’s not about CPA or CMA or CGMA or CIA. It’s about the holistic profession and all it has to offer. And if we tell that story, and if we begin telling that story to K through 12, let alone to millennials, I think we’ll attract the best and the brightest. Whether we call it STEAM versus STEM, it really is part of that interconnected set of disciplines beyond technology.”

The IMA has been modifying its own Management Accounting Competency Framework to include more technology skills and has been offering online courses in subjects such as robotic process automation and cybersecurity. The IMA conference on Monday included a session on how data can be implicitly biased for or against some racial, ethnic or gender groups, and how accountants can be on the lookout for that.

“There could be positive outcomes or negative outcomes from bias because, at the source of capturing this data and transforming it, there is a human being that is aiding that machine to learn how to work on this data set or what to look for in future data sets,” said Roopa Venkatesh, an associate professor of accounting at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “It almost becomes harder to identify it because most of us see the data in a usable structured format. We’re not out there capturing the data or standing by the video camera or monitoring that saying this is how we capture the traffic on this street or whatever it might be.”

Another recent course from the IMA discusses ethics in the digital age. “It talk
s about different types of biases in your data that you need to control for, like an algorithmic bias, algorithms that are preprogrammed that create unfortunate, targeted types of bias,” said Thomson. “You want to make sure when you program these algorithms that the algorithms are exposed in advance and don’t target certain minorities.”

He noted that the IMA recently issued a joint study with the California Society of CPAs on diversity, ethics and inclusion among U.S. accountants, and the IMA is working with think tanks on diversity solutions. “We’re going to be launching some global studies,” said Thomson. “We hired a director of…

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