Rule 101 - Independence

A member in public practice shall be independent in the performance of professional services as required by the standards promulgated by bodies designated by Council.

Independence is a highly subjective term because it concerns an individual’s ability to act with integrity and objectivity. Integrity relates to an auditor’s honesty, while objectivity is the ability to be neutral during the conduct of the engagement and the preparation of the auditor’s report. Two facets of independence are independence in fact and independence in appearance. The second general standard of generally accepted auditing standards requires that an auditor be independent in mental attitude in all matters relating to the engagement. In essence, the second standard embraces the concept of independence in fact. However, independence in fact is impossible to measure, since it is a mental attitude; the Code of Professional Conduct takes a more pragmatic approach to the concept of independence.

Rule 101 is applicable to all professional services provided by a CPA that require independence.

A CPA may conduct a compilation engagement when he or she is not independent, but the compilation report must be modified to disclose the lack of independence.

Rule 102 - Integrity and Objectivity

In the performance of any professional service, a member shall maintain objectivity and integrity, shall be free of conflicts of interest, and shall not knowingly misrepresent facts or subordinate his or her judgment to others.

Rule 102 is very broad on purpose. The Code of Professional Conduct could not possibly proscribe every action that is to be avoided. Thus, Rule 102 could cover a variety of misconduct.

Rule 201 - General Standards

A member shall comply with the following standards and with any interpretations thereof by bodies designated by Council.

A. Professional Competence. Undertake only those professional services that the member or the member’s firm can reasonably expect to be completed with professional competence.

B. Due Professional Care. Exercise due professional care in the performance of professional services.

C. Planning and Supervision. Adequately plan and supervise the performance of professional services.

D. Sufficient Relevant Data. Obtain sufficient relevant data to afford a reasonable basis for conclusions or recommendations in relation to any professional services performed.

In general, these standards are applicable to all professional services rendered by an accounting firm. For example, an accountant who performs a consulting services engagement must properly plan and supervise the job (ET 201.01).

Rule 201 requires that a firm have a certain level of expertise before an audit, tax, or consulting engagement is accepted. This does not suggest that an accounting firm must have complete knowledge in an area before the engagement is accepted -- a lack of competence is not apparent just because an accounting firm accepts a client knowing that additional research may be necessary to complete the job.

Rule 202 - Compliance with Standards

A member who performs auditing, review, compilation, management consulting, tax, or other professional services shall comply with standards promulgated by bodies designated by Council.

Rule 202 requires members to observe technical standards promulgated by bodies designated by the AICPA Council. To date, the bodies designated by the Council are the Auditing Standards Board (ASB), Accounting and Review Services Committee (ARSC), and Management Consulting Services Executive Committee (MCSEC).

The AICPA Council has not given the Federal Tax Division (of the AICPA) the authority described in Rule 202. Each pronouncement in the Statements on Responsibilities in Tax Practice carries the notation that each Statement’s authority depends on its general acceptance. However, a practitioner must observe the standards and rules established by the U.S. Treasury Department.

OBSERVATION: The Code of Professional Conduct does not refer to Audit and Accounting Guides that may be issued by a committee or task force established by the AICPA. Although each Audit Guide contains a preamble that states that a Guide does not have the authority of a pronouncement by the ASB, it does note that a member may be called upon to justify departures from the Guide if the member’s work is challenged.

Rule 203 - Accounting Principles

A member shall not (1) express an opinion or state affirmatively that the financial statements or other financial data of any entity are presented in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles or (2) state that he or she is not aware of any material modifications that should be made to such statements or data in order for them to be in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles, if such statements or data contain any departure from an accounting principle promulgated by bodies designated by Council to establish such principles that have a material effect on the statements or data taken as a whole. If, however, the statements or data contain such a departure and the member can demonstrate that due to unusual circumstances, the financial statements or data would otherwise have been misleading, the member can comply with the rule by describing the departure, its approximate effects, if practicable, and the reasons why compliance with the principle would result in a misleading statement.

OBSERVATION: The AICPA Council has designated FASB and GASB as bodies to promulgate accounting principles.

Rule 203 also provides flexibility in the application of accounting principles.

When the auditor concludes that a written accounting rule should not be followed, the auditor’s standard report must be expanded to include an explanatory paragraph. The explanatory paragraph would describe the nature of the departure; however, the opinion expressed would be an unqualified opinion and no reference to the explanatory paragraph would be made in the opinion paragraph.

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