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Tougher Standards to Make Better Accountants

Proposed changes in the works - including more consideration of their careers - will improve evaluations of their competence.

The International Accounting Education Standards Board late last month released for comment its proposed revision of IES-6, the International Education Standard for Assessment of Professional Competence. The IAESB develops education standards and guidance for use by member organizations of IFAC, the global organization for the accountancy profession. (The AICPA is an IFAC member.)

IES-6 identifies the criteria to be used to assess an accounting candidate's professional capabilities and competence before admitting him or her to the profession. While the revised standard considers these as well, it also "addresses elements that are essential to assessing professional competence over the career of a professional accountant," the IAESB said in a statement. "The IAESB believes that the features of these proposed revisions, which demonstrate our desire to move to a more principles-based approach in standard setting, will be more useful to IFAC member bodies and other professional accountancy organizations, educational institutions, regulators, and other interested parties than the current approach," said IAESB chair Mark Allison.

Highlights of some of the changes laid out in the proposed standard:

* While the current IES-6 is intended to prescribe the requirements for the final assessment of a professional accountant before qualification, the proposed IES-6 looks at these requirements for the accountant's overall career. "The IAESB recognizes that the development and maintenance of competence must take place throughout the careers of professional accountants," the draft states.

* The current standard focuses on a final exam as a way of evaluating an accounting candidate's competence; the proposed IES-6 allows for several assessment methods. Among the examples provided: a series of written exams that focus on different areas of competence, or a combination of written exams and an assessment of workplace performance. The Draft goes on to say that the form of assessment may depend on factors specific to each member body, such as its remoteness, the availability of educational and other resources, and the number of candidates being assessed and their backgrounds.

* While the current standard indicates that an assessment should be valid and reliable, the proposed standard says that the measures used to assess professional competence also should be equitable, transparent and sufficient.

The proposal is part of the IAESB's project to redraft all eight IES's, as outlined in its 2010-2012 strategy and work plan.

These revisions are being made to improve clarity, ensure consistency with concepts of the revised framework document; and clarify issues resulting from changes in the environment of accounting education and the experience gained from implementation of the Standards by IFAC member bodies, according to the exposure draft.

"All in all, it sounds like the IAESB is taking a pretty competent approach in modernizing the standards for assessing professional competence," according to this article in Accounting Today.

The IAESB has provisionally agreed that the revised IES-6 will be effective for implementation for periods beginning on or after June 28, 2013, although this may change. Comments will be accepted until this July 28.

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