Standards are the foundation of a profession. The AICPA has established general standards for all CPAs in the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct (the Code). The Code applies to all AICPA members, setting standards for CPAs and establishing basic responsibilities to:
* Serve the public interest, honor the public trust, and demonstrate a commitment to professionalism;
* Perform all professional responsibilities with the highest sense of integrity;
* Maintain objectivity and be free of conflicts of interest in discharging professional responsibilities;
* Be independent in fact and appearance when providing auditing and other attestation services;
* Discharge professional responsibilities with competence and diligence. In 1964, the AICPA released the first of 10 Statements on Responsibilities in Tax Practice (SRTPs) that supplemented the Code then in effect by setting best practices for members who prepared tax returns. The SRTPs, released between 1964 and 1977, became de facto enforceable standards of professional practice for CPAs providing tax services. The courts, the IRS, state accountancy boards, and other professional organizations recognized and relied on the SRTPs as the appropriate articulation of professional conduct in a CPAs tax practice. The AICPA Tax Executive Committee (TEC) subsequently determined standards were needed for tax practices. The SRTPs were the basis for the first Statements on Standards for Tax Services (SSTSs) issued in August 2000.
The original SSTSs largely mirrored the predecessor SRTPs to alleviate concerns regarding enforceability of the standards. Over time, the SSTSs have been revised to address tax law changes and clarify issues as requested by members. Two interpretations and several guidance documents issued in the form of FAQs have also been released to supplement the SSTSs.
The SSTSs have been extremely useful and will continue to be relevant authority. However, changes in tax practice, including changes in technology and law, have created a tax environment unrecognizable from even 10 years ago. To address these changes in the profession, the TEC authorized the formation of a task force to review and update the SSTSs in September 2018. The task force has formed three subgroups to draft revised SSTSs. The draft SSTSs will be reviewed by the Tax Practice Responsibilities Committee (TPRC) and the Professional Ethics Executive Committee before they are submitted for approval to the TEC. (See the box, "SSTS Revision...