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Lawmakers advance plan for 'competency-based' CPA license renewal

February 10, 2017

An Indiana House panel has advanced a bill that would allow certified public accountants to use “competency-based” education to renew their licenses, which the author said it could spur changes to continuing education requirements for other licensed professionals.

The bill, authored by Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, would give the Indiana Board of Accountancy the ability to create a professional development system where CPAs could complete their entire license renewal process by mastering specific material.

Currently, CPAs in Indiana have to do 120 hours of continuing professional education every three years to renew their CPA license.

“There’s no requirement to actually learn,” Carbaugh said. “Competency-based would allow for potentially less time but better quality. They have to pass tests to get credit. They’re getting a lesson out of it.”

HB 1467 describes competence-based learning as "systems of instruction, assessment, grading and academic reporting that are based on individualized learning to allow an individual to demonstrate proficiency of professional development content." It can include "traditional hours-based learning; competency-based learning opportunities; or experiences designed to increase the licensee's professional competence."

There are about 10,000 certified public accountants in Indiana, according to the Indiana CPA Society. Indiana has been written up in several national CPA and accountant publications, and is being heralded as the first state to institute such a system.

Over the summer, the Indiana Board of Accountancy changed its rules to allow CPAs to use competency-based education to complete ethics requirements.

Carbaugh, who is an investment adviser in Fort Wayne, said that as someone who has to take part in continuing education regularly, he sees value in creating competency-based continuing education systems for other professions.

“If it proves to work and be beneficial, why would we look at that for other licenses?” he said.

Indiana CPA Society President and CEO Gary Bolinger said the changes are needed in order to adjust to advancements in technology and learning, as well as to ensure that accountants are well-educated.

“No matter if you’re a CPA or a landscaper, there are people who do better work than others because they do a better job at staying current,” Bolinger said. “Any kind of requirement for education and learning is an imperfect system. But a system that is focused on competency instead of hours in a classroom stands a better chance of improving professionals."

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