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Monday, Jun 5, 2023

Certification in IT is Another Tool in the CPA Arsenal

By THOM SENZEE Contributing Reporter From establishing IT metrics that can be readily and systematically reported to the top brass, to building in Sarbanes-Oxley compliance to software applications, and even ensuring compatibility among a company’s and its vendors’ IT systems, CITPs are the wave of the future in accounting. What exactly is a CITP? Certified Information Technology Professional is a relatively new designation offered to CPAs by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). And although only 1,200 of the nation’s more than 330,000 CPAs are also CITPs, proponents of the designation believe the day is just around the corner when not having a CITP on staff will be a major handicap for accounting firms. “What happens is when you combine a CPA with a CITP credential you get the best of both worlds a certified public accountant and a business advisor with a strong understanding of information technology and how that integrates with every aspect of the business,” said Bob Green, partner at SingerLewak in Woodland Hills. Green, who was recently appointed to AICPA’s CITP Credential Committee, believes soon at least 10 percent of CPAs will also carry the CITP designation after their names in five years. Currently less than one percent of AICPA’s members can make that claim. “CPAs are used to giving fiduciary advice to people in management roles,” Green said. “It would make sense for us to be the source for similar business-based IT advice.” Although Green is the newest member of the CITP Credential Committee, he points out that his vision of at least 10 percent of CPAs holding that credential in five years is only his personal goal, not an official one of the American Institute of CPAs. Potential practice areas of the CITP credential are: – Technology Strategic Planning – IT Architecture – Business Process Enablement – System Development, Acquisition, Implementation and Project Management – Information Systems Management – Systems Security, Reliability, Audit and Control – IT Governance and Regulation For accounting firms looking to differentiate themselves from the competition, CITP is just what the doctor ordered. “In many ways, many CPA firms aren’t ready to take that jump,” he said. “But ask yourself: How can you offer business advisory services without some kind of technology expertise at the partner level?” California is one of the fastest-growing states as far as the number of CPAs who have earned the CITP credential to date having tied with Texas for the title of most new holders of the designation (50) since the last official count. Yet, according to the California Society of CPAs, the state’s largest accountants’ membership organization, the number of designees is still quite small as a percentage of accountants practicing statewide. In fact, a search of certified public accountants described by CalCPA.com as having “comprehensive” IT expertise yielded just 12 individuals representing only 11 firms in the 818 area code. The 805 area code rendered just six CPAs with “comprehensive” IT expertise, while the same search of the 626 region returned a mere two hits from the California Society of CPAs website. The site does not search specifically for the CITP designation, but as more accountants seek to sell themselves on their tech-based knowledge, CalCPA is likely to add the criteria in the near future. As awareness and demand for the designation grows, it will become an added driver for membership growth in CalCPA. That is because in order to get a CITP designation, a CPA must be a member of the state organization where they practice as well as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Such is the case for other designations and certifications as well. But the designation was created by and is administered at the national level. Bob Green’s recent appointment to the credential committee for the CITP designation puts him, and indirectly SingerLewak, at the center of one of the most significant new practice areas as it develops during the next couple of years. “My appointment to the national AICPA CITP Credential Committee is one that will allow me to increase the value of the CPA community, to its constituents and clients, as it relates to the kind of expertise that CPAs can be known for,” Green said. “Technology has been the key to the future of business for a long time,” he added. “For CPAs, business and information systems are now and forever inextricably linked.” To paraphrase Green, it’s not your grandfather’s accounting firm anymore. In recent years, CPAs had already moved into fields once held by investment brokers and banking institutions such as financial planning (effectively investment advice), business consulting and estate planning as well as the staples of accounting. But with still relatively few CITPs out there, it is possible for firms to differentiate themselves. “I would recommend to any young CPA, any accountant, really; get your CITP as soon as possible,” Green said. “It’s a unique and in-high-demand distinction.”

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