The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the leading professional organization for accountants in the United States. Establishing and enforcing the profession’s ethical and technical standards are among the AICPA’s most important functions. The AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct is a central piece of this oversight role.
The AICPA adopted the first draft of its Code of Professional Conduct a little over a century ago. Its long history has shaped the current version of the Code into a robust, road-tested model that state accounting regulators are encouraged to adopt to govern their licensed professionals. It is the formal standard in 20 states, and has been partly adopted by boards of accountancy in another 12. Even in states like California, which have not adopted the AICPA Code, accountants who are members of AICPA voluntarily comply as part of a profession-wide effort to maintain the highest standards of ethics and practice.
The overarching purpose of the AICPA Code is to ensure that its members serve the interests of their clients with a high degree of integrity, technical competency, and diligence. It has several component parts:
- Members are obligated to act in the public interest.
Accountants who act with honesty and in fulfillment of their obligation to the public to provide sound, ethical service also serve the best interests of their clients and their employers.
- Standards of integrity.
Integrity is the quality that enlists the public trust and the benchmark that tests every decision. Serving clients with integrity means being honest and candid within the constraints of the accountant’s professional obligations to maintain a client’s confidentiality. Integrity also means that members must not subordinate service and the public trust to personal gain. The rules recognize that integrity can endure in the face of mistakes or differences of opinion, but vanishes when a professional acts with deceit or subordinates core ethical principles to selfish motives.
- Data standards.
Accountants covered by the AICPA Code are obligated to obtain sufficient relevant data to support a reasonable basis for conclusions or recommendations. In practice this often requires accountants to dig deep, ask difficult questions, and explore problems from creative angles.
- Standards of objectivity and independence.
The AICPA’s philosophy is that objectivity is a state of mind that lends value to an accountant’s work for clients. Objectivity is a distinguishing feature of the profession. It imposes an obligation to be impartial, intellectually honest, and free of conflicts of interest. Likewise, the Code requires accountants to be independent, precluding relationships that may appear to impair a professional’s objectivity.
- Standards of due care.
The Code requires professionals to scrupulously adhere to the profession’s technical and ethical standards, continuously improve their competence and the quality of their services, and discharge their professional responsibility to the best of their abilities.
In the field of forensic accounting, maintaining high standards is essential to delivering reliable results for clients. HSNO is a proud member of the AICPA and adheres to the AICPA Code of Conduct in all of its U.S. locations. Following the AICPA Code adds substantial value to the work we do. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about how HSNO can serve you.