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New IFAC Standard Requires Accountants To Maintain Competence Through Ongoing Education

The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has issued a new International Education Standard (IES) calling on every professional accountant to develop and maintain competence relevant and appropriate for their work and professional responsibilities.

Developed by IFAC's Education Committee, the new standard, IES 7, Continuing Professional Development (CPD): A Program of Lifelong Learning and Continuing Development of Professional Competence, emphasizes the profession's commitment to serving the worldwide public interest and presents CPD as a key means of meeting this commitment.

The standard prescribes mandatory CPD for all members of the profession, including those working in public practice, in commercial, governmental, academic and not-for-profit entities as well as those who may no longer work in traditional accounting roles. It also calls on IFAC member bodies to facilitate access to CPD opportunities and resources to assist professional accountants in meeting their responsibility for lifelong learning.

“The public rightfully expects all professional accountants involved in any area of the economy to be competent. The environment across all sectors continues to change at a rapid rate, and it is the profession's responsibility to make sure its members continue to have the knowledge and skills expected of them,” states Warren Allen, chair of the IFAC Education Committee. “To meet the needs of those who rely on the profession's services and expertise, it is critical that all professional accountants make a commitment to lifelong learning and maintaining competence throughout their careers.”

The standard does not specify subject areas in which professional accountants must maintain competence, as these will vary depending on the accountant's role and area of employment and focus. Instead, it focuses on the principle that appropriate development opportunities should be relevant to the individual's current and future professional responsibilities and should be able to be objectively verified.

All IFAC member bodies are expected to comply with the standard, from the effective date of January 1, 2006. While some IFAC member bodies and national regulators already require continuing professional education development of professional accountants in their jurisdictions, the standard clearly establishes that all IFAC member bodies are expected to implement such policies.

The standard has been developed as a result of two exposure periods in July 2002, and October 2003. It may be downloaded from the IFAC website by going to www.ifac.org/store.

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