Taking Care of Small Business: The Institute's Vice-President for Small Firm Interests Describes AICPA Programs for Small Firms and Their Small Business Clients

Article excerpt

Small businesses--the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy--rely on their CPAs for business advice, making them a core practice area for many practitioners. In recognition of this important relationship, the AICPA provides specialized resources, advocacy and other services aimed at keeping this connection solid."

THE PCPS FIRM PRACTICE CENTER

This dynamic, new online resource provided by the Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) offers free tools and information to help AICPA members strengthen their practices and better serve their clients. By clicking on the Resources tab on the center's home page (www.aicpa. org/pcps), members can find sections for closely held companies, not-for-profit entities and many other practice areas. The closely held companies section, for example, contains articles on how to find fraud in private companies or improve the value of boards of directors. The tax section provides news and informative articles on topics such as changes in the tax laws. Other sections address practice management, staffing, succession planning, keeping up with standards and technology and other issues important to firms serving small businesses. The center also contains a wide variety of premium content on subjects ranging from leadership to setting goals for firm partners. To introduce these special resources to practitioners who are not PCPS members, content on the site is available free to all AICPA members until May 15, 2006.

CRITICAL ADVOCACY EFFORTS

The Institute acts as an advocate for small firms and their clients, monitoring and responding to the many new and proposed standards and regulations in standard-setter boardrooms, in Washington, D.C., and wherever new regulations are being drafted.

Standards overload and complexity, for example, have long been burdens for smaller practitioners, and the current debate centers on whether accounting and disclosure requirements for public companies are appropriate for private companies. In 2004 the AICPA established the Private Company Financial Reporting Task Force to research and report on the financial reporting needs of private companies and the costs and benefits of GAAP requirements (www.aicpa.org/members/ div/acctstd/pvtco_find_reprt/index.htm). Last year a group of members and staff of the Institute and FASB began discussing standard-setting process changes to improve GAAP's usefulness and relevance to key constituents of private companies' financial statements.

While these issues are being explored, the AICPA continues to monitor day-to-day standard setting and to offer insights into how various proposals will affect small businesses. The PCPS Executive Committee and its Technical Issues Committee (TIC) regularly review and comment on guidance affecting small firms and their clients.

The TIC has worked with the AICPA Professional Ethics Executive Committee on several revisions to its Interpretation 101-3, Performance of Nonattest Services--a standard that provides guidance on which services can be offered to audit clients. This is a particularly important issue for small companies because they rely on their CPA firms for many kinds of services. Both the TIC and the PCPS Executive Committee have offered comments on frequently asked questions for the interpretation, and the TIC has noted areas in which clarifications or further examples are needed. For more information, go to www.aicpa.org/members/div/ ethics/intr_101-3.htm.

MONITORING LEGISLATION AND REGULATION

The Institute also testifies before Congress on issues important to smaller firms and their clients, in the interest of promoting effective and sensible regulation. For example, last October the Institute published Understanding Tax Reform: A Guide to 21st Century Alternatives, a report that offered a clear overview of many of the issues at stake and recommended 10 policy objectives that should be considered in any tax reform proposal (www. …