Website of the Month: AICPA’s Center for Public Company Audit Firms

By Susan B. Anders

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OCTOBER 2005 - The AICPA’s Center for Public Company Audit Firms (CPCAF) has compiled and organized vast resources to support firms engaged in auditing public companies. The CPCAF is one of the AICPA’s three Audit Quality Centers and can be reached from the “Spotlight Area” of the AICPA’s homepage (www.aicpa.org) or at cpcaf.aicpa.org. The SEC Practice Section was reorganized into the CPCAF in October 2003 to provide technical and educational information, as well as meet other goals.

The CPCAF website is a useful tool even for those without access to its members-only materials. Many resources should be helpful to students, new auditors, and practicing CPAs that are new to public company audits. The website is designed as a comprehensive starting point in a search for public company audit information, and contains a variety of materials with links to the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO), FASB, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), the SEC, and other organizations.

The Center’s website minimizes the need to separately search the AICPA’s general website. Linked websites and PDF documents open in separate windows, and some webpages provide a printer-friendly view. An excellent feature is the introductory information on many of the topical area pages.

Organization and Navigation

The CPCAF homepage is organized with a top horizontal menu bar dedicated to the main features: resources, community, events, membership, and products. The left side is used to highlight specific resources, and the center is used to spotlight materials and news items. The main pages are similar to the homepage in appearance, utilizing the same horizontal menu bar, but sometimes varying the left-side highlights.

Users can navigate the website by utilizing the main menu buttons, the navigation path links beneath the main menu, and the small hyperlinks at the bottom of the homepage and main pages. There is also a keyword search feature, as well as a drop-down bar that lists the AICPA’s special centers. The overall topical organization is easy to follow; however, there is sometimes no obvious order to the materials within a particular topic. The members-only materials are not segregated, and a nonmember user cannot tell which materials are publicly available. Some main-page resources are well organized under subheadings, but those under “additional” or “other” generally are not.

Resources

One of the quickest ways to find materials is to go to the “resources” section. The CPCAF’s resources are organized under 14 topical headings. There is substantial overlap, with many individual items appearing under multiple topics, which simplifies the search process. The topical main pages include helpful explanations of the specific subject area, with links to the external websites, pertinent webpages on the main AICPA site, Journal of Accountancy articles, and PDF documents.

The Ethics and Independence section has several resources available to nonmembers, including AICPA PDF documents on the Code of Professional Conduct, Rule 101—Independence, and Rule 102—Integrity and Objectivity, and a comparison of AICPA and SEC independence rules.

The Sarbanes-Oxley section provides the full text of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 as well as links to the main AICPA website. An almost unnoticeable hyperlink is the Sarbanes-Oxley news and items of interest, which connects to a Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) Daily Tax Report on nonaudit service restrictions and a Journal of Accountancy article on tools for internal control reporting.
While many resources on the CPCAF website are external, the “best practices” topic under the SEC Practice Section Archive (under “resources”) provides valuable original material. The information is in HTML format and can be easily read and understood; it covers a consultative environment, accounting consultations, and communications with boards of directors, audit committees, and SEC staff.


Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA, is an associate professor of accounting at St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, N.Y.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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