CPA USA structure changes from 2024

What is US CPA current structure

The CPA USA is a very popular professional qualification. In fact, this qualification enjoys being one of the apex professional qualification in Public accounting in the world. There are entry level criteria. Once you pass the exams, you are eligible for a license which gives you the right to practice. This is quite similar to the Chartered Accountant (CA) status in India.

The US CPA qualification is awarded by American Institute of Certified Public Accountant (AICPA). The eligibility criteria is different for each of different states of USA. However, the examination is an Uniform exam which is common for all the states of USA.

The current structure of the exam consists of 4 papers which a student needs to clear. The moment you clear the first paper, within the next 18 months, you need to clear the balance 3 papers. Clearing all the 4 papers are compulsory and there are no exemptions available irrespective of which qualification you may hold.

This structure has been in place for quire sometime now.

To view the current CPA US course structure click here

What is changing in CPA from 2024

The 2024 CPA USA exam is now moving into a Core + Discipline model. This means, that you will need to clear all the core papers along with any one additional discipline. The expected date of such a change is 1st January 2024 onwards.

Since CPA is a professional exam, constant updates happen in the syllabus as per the latest trend in the industry. This requires the syllabus of a professional course to be constantly on the change. So the syllabus of a CPA who cleared 10 years ago is very different from the current CPA syllabus. With new technologies in the field of accounting, the need for introducing changes in the CPA examination system was inevitable.

So, what are the changes in the CPA exam system and how does it look now?

There are 3 core subjects which are AUD, FAR and REG. There are no changes in the core subjects. A student aspiring to be a CPA will have to clear these 3 core subjects. Experts predict that the new model will change the difficulty levels of these subjects.

They will remove BEC. 3 disciplines as given below will replace it :

Business Analytics & Reporting (BAR)

This is an extension and continuation of the FAR core topic. Consider the BAR discipline if you are interested in assurance or advisory services, financial statement analysis and reporting, technical accounting, and financial and operations management. The content in the BAR discipline includes a data analytics focus and assesses topics like financial risk management and financial planning techniques. BAR could also include more advanced technical accounting and reporting topics, including assessment of revenue recognition and leases, business combinations, derivatives and hedge accounting, as well as employee benefit plan financial statements.

Information Systems & Controls (ISC)

This is an extension of AUD core topic. Technology and business controls is a focus of the ISC discipline. CPA candidates who are interested in assurance or advisory services related to business processes, information systems, information security and governance, and IT audits are encouraged to choose this discipline. The content for this discipline focuses on IT and data governance, internal control testing, and information system security, including network security, software access, and endpoint security.

Tax compliance & Planning (TCP)

This is an extension of the REG core topic. The focus of the TCP discipline includes taxation topics involving more advanced individual and entity tax compliance. The content could also cover personal financial planning and entity planning, inclusions and exclusions to gross income, and gift taxation compliance and planning.. Coverage of advanced entity tax compliance might include consolidated tax returns, multijurisdictional tax issues, and transactions between an entity and its owners. Entity planning could also include the inclusion of tax treatments in the formation and liquidation of business entities..

So a student has the following 3 options to choose from

AUD+FAR+REG+BAR -> This option is to be used by students who have a strong inclination towards core accounting and would like to specialize in the same.

AUD+FAR+REG+ISC -> This is ideal for students wanting to have a specialization in the auditing field. ISC includes a lot of technological subjects which can facilitate the audit process in todays automation scenario.

AUD+FAR+REG+TCP -> Students with a flare for taxation and regulation, should go for this combination as TCP will enhance the regulation knowledge of the student.

What should be the exam strategy for CPA USA?

The next big question is that how can a student study the CPA exam now since the syllabus is going to change within a few months. There is a high chance of overlap of the old structure with the new structure while continuing the CPA USA journey.

Since the BEC exam will be removed, students must target to clear the BEC exam before the new structure rolls in.. There will be no CPA exam from 15th Dec 2023 till 10th Jan 2024. Post that, the new exam structure will be applicable.

Let us take a worst case scenario. The student has already cleared the BEC paper in the old structure. Now what if the student is not able to clear the balance 3 papers within the 18 months window. In this case, the student will have to give one of the new 3 discipline paper based on their choice and preference to complete the CPA US exam.

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