Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
CPAs are licensed and regulated by their state boards of accountancy. While state laws and regulations vary, the education, experience and testing requirements for licensure as a CPA generally include minimum college education (typically 150 credit hours with at least a baccalaureate degree and a concentration in accounting), minimum experience levels (most states require at least one year of experience providing services that involve the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax or consulting skills, all of which must be achieved under the supervision of or verification by a CPA), and successful passage of the Uniform CPA Examination. In order to maintain a CPA license, states generally require the completion of 40 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) each year (or 80 hours over a two year period or 120 hours over a three year period). Additionally, all American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) members are required to follow a rigorous Code of Professional Conduct which requires that they act with integrity, objectivity, due care, competence, fully disclose any conflicts of interest (and obtain client consent if a conflict exists), maintain client confidentiality, disclose to the client any commission or referral fees, and serve the public interest when providing financial services.
In addition to the Code of Professional Conduct, AICPA members who provide personal financial planning services are required to follow the Statement on Standards in Personal Financial Planning Services (SSPFPS).
Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
The PFS credential demonstrates that an individual has met the minimum education, experience and testing required of a CPA in addition to a minimum level of expertise in personal financial planning. To attain the PFS credential, a candidate must hold an unrevoked CPA license, certificate, or permit, none of which are in inactive status; fulfill 3,000 hours of personal financial planning business experience; complete 75 hours of personal financial planning CPE credits; pass a comprehensive financial planning exam and be an active member of the AICPA. A PFS credential holder is required to adhere to AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct and the Statement on Standards in Personal Financial Planning Services, when providing personal financial planning services. To maintain their PFS credential, the recipient must complete 60 hours of financial planning CPE credits every three years. The PFS credential is administered through the AICPA.
Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA)
The CVA credential is governed by the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA). To attain the CVA credential, a CPA candidate must hold an active, valid, and unrevoked CPA license issued by a legally constituted state authority. In addition, the candidate must be a Practitioner member in good standing with NACVA; successfully demonstrate that the candidate meets NACVA’s “Experience Threshold” by completing a sample Case Study or submitting an actual and sanitized Fair Market Value (FMV) report (FMV as defined by Revenue Ruling 59–60) prepared in the last 12 months for peer review; attend an optional five-day training program; submit three personal and three business references; and pass a comprehensive, five-hour, multiple-choice, proctored examination.