Hong Kong and U.S. Sign Mutual Recognition Agreement for CPAs

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By Vivian Ni

Oct. 28 – The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) and its U.S. counterpart recently struck a mutual recognition agreement (MRA), which enables both sides to recognize the accounting qualifications obtained in each other’s jurisdiction. The move is believed to be a great stride in advancing the reciprocity of CPAs in the United States and Hong Kong.

The MRA – signed at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) between the HKICPA and the U.S. International Qualifications Appraisal Board (IQAB) – means CPAs in Hong Kong and the United States will be able to obtain accounting profession licenses in each other’s jurisdiction without going through the entire qualification process.

The agreement signing with the IQAB – which is a joint body of both the NASBA and the American Institute of CPAs – allows the five-year reciprocal pact to be recommended to the boards of accountancy in all 55 U.S. jurisdictions and will streamline the recognition process.

In order to reach the agreement, the HKICPA and the IQAB went through a lengthy and thorough review of each other’s education, examination, as well as experience requirements, and the standards of professional practice of each institute. The IQAB – which is usually stringent in their overseas CPA recognition – said it is “confident” that CPAs in Hong Kong are “substantially equivalent to those of the U.S. CPA.”

HKICPA President Philip Tsai believes that the MRA is “a tribute to the quality of the HKICPA’s qualification program.”

“The fact that our graduates can now qualify in the United States says a lot about the depth and breadth of the Hong Kong program,” Tsai emphasized.

According to information provided by the HKICPA, U.S. CPAs who intend to apply for the equivalent qualification in Hong Kong should meet the following requirements:

  • Have acquired the full membership status of a U.S. accountancy body recognized by the HKICPA’s Council through completion of its professional examinations and have sat and passed the HKICPA’s Aptitude Test on local law and practice, unless exemption is granted
  • Have acquired the specified practical experience (three years for approved degree holders, four years for approved accountancy diploma holders and five years for holders of other academic qualifications)

Since the earliest Aptitude Test will not be available for U.S. CPAs until June next year, the Institute’s acceptance of U.S. applications may only start after that time.

Applicants can find out more information on CPA registration in Hong Kong on HKICPA’s web site.

The addition of the U.S. deal to Hong Kong’s existing package of reciprocal membership agreements with chartered accountant bodies in other parts of the world – including Australia, Canada, England as well as Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, and South Africa – will make Hong Kong’s accounting profession qualifications the most internationally recognized and grant HKICPA members the greatest mobility.

“Now, our members can be assigned to work anywhere from New York to Toronto to London and have their qualification recognized,” said Winnie Cheung, chief executive of the HKICPA.

The HKICPA’s qualifications now also get special treatment with four out of seven paper exemptions for Mainland China’s qualifications, under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.

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