Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Taking Account: Key Dates for the Profession

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Taking Account: Key Dates for the Profession

Article excerpt

A timeline details the ups and downs of the last century for CPAs.

The accounting profession has made remarkable progress since its early days, when practitioners struggled to establish credibility. An examination of some of the most important events during the first nine decades of the 20th century offers a glimpse into what has made the profession what it is today. Although it can't include all of the period's important events, the timeline does offer a sense of issues that shaped the profession's first century. A follow-up article will consider which events of the last decade are likely to have the greatest long-range impact on the profession's future.


The American Association of Public Accountants opens in 1887 with 31 members. Its successor organization has 9,500 members in 1945 and 95,000 in 1973.


Organization of profession.

The profession takes the first steps toward organization with the formation of the American Association of Public Accountants. However, since the profession has no statutory base, the group's influence is limited. The name and primacy of the national CPA organization will change throughout the 20th century until it finally becomes the AICPA in 1957.


First CPA law.

New York State's legislation marks the launch of the accredited accounting profession in the United States.


First woman CPA.

Christine Ross receives New York State CPA certificate no. 143, dated December 27. She has offices at 45 Broadway in New York City.


NYU opens School of Commerce.

Urged on by the New York State Society of CPAs, New York University opens a School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance, one of the first of its kind (along with the Wharton School of Commerce and Finance), with Charles Waldo Haskins as its first dean. Creation of the school was a hard-won battle. "Leaders of the New York State Society had approached several universities," according to A History of Accountancy in the United States: The Cultural Significance of Accounting, by Gary John Previts and Barbara Dubis Merino, "often to be met with condescension and ultimately rejection; accounting was not deemed an appropriate element of a higher education curriculum." By 1930, however, more than 300 schools would award degrees in accountancy at the graduate or undergraduate level.


Congress calls for audit reports.

The final report of the Industrial Commission created by Congress to investigate restraint of trade and competition during an age of monopolies, says, "The larger corporations--the so-called trusts--should be required to publish annually a properly audited report." (In England, which has a strong influence on early U.S. accounting, audits of corporations have been required since an 1856 act.) However, there are no formally accepted U.S. accounting principles and companies continue to publish information as they see fit.


Accountancy gains professional stature. The Journal of Accountancy is born.

Accountants continue to gain recognition, which brings problems as well as benefits. In this year, a judge in the case of Smith v. London Assurance Corp. says, "Public accountants now constitute a skilled professional class, and are subject generally to the same rules of liability for negligence in the practice of their profession as are members of other skilled professions." In the same year the Illinois society's publication, The Auditor, is taken over by the national association and renamed the Journal of Accountancy.


First federal income taxes.

The Sixteenth Amendment is ratified, permitting federal tax on incomes.

A 1913 editorial in the Journal of Accountancy predicts that tax engagements "will undoubtedly lead in many cases to a realization by the clients of the wider usefulness of the work of accountants and so to more extensive instructions. …

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