Is the US CPA, without CA, valuable in India?

US CPA Course

This has been the  question  in  most  of  the  students  mind  especially  those  who  are  looking  at  US CPA  Course as  an  alternative  when  they  have  found  it  difficult  to  clear  their  CA.  Before finding an answer to this question, one needs to understand the,

  • Structure of the USA CPA course including the eligibility and duration for completion and
  • Different functional roles a professional accountant is expected to perform.

Structure of the US CPA Course:

 While the exams are conducted by the AICPA across the globe, each candidate has to affiliate himself to a particular State which awards the certification based on their own rules and regulations. The eligibility requirements play an important role  in  determining whether a candidate can enroll for US CPA course or not and if yes in which State would he/she be eligible. It is not very relevant to get into the details at this stage but all one needs to know is one must have some basic credentials before one can enroll for US CPA Course.

Once evaluation of the eligibility is done, there is a strong possibility that one can complete the US CPA in about 12 months time if one stays focused.  With only 4 papers to pass, the option to write them paper by paper, and the exams conducted for around 300 days in a year, US CPA offers a lot of flexibility to a candidate pursuing the same.

On the other hand , to become a  qualified  CA,  a  candidate  will  have  to  spend a  minimum of 58 months        ( in the new syllabus ) after completing his/her Class XII. During this long term, there is a  very  crucial 36 months period when he/she does his/her Articles which enables him/her get hands on experience which is very critical from an employment perspective. Thus we need to understand very clearly that it is not just the qualification that adds value to a CA but the articles experience also plays a vital role in the same.

Different functional roles performed:

While there is no limitation to the scope of work a professional accountant can do we can broadly classify them as under for analysis purposes. The list while indicative is definitely not exhaustive.

  1. Finance related
  2. Accounting related
  3. Tax (both Direct and Indirect) related
  4. Corporate Legal requirements and compliance related
  5. MIS / Management Accounting related
  6. Audit related

Thus a professional accountant can be employed across industries  in  any  of  the  roles  mentioned above and more.  While the idea  is  not  to provide  an  exhaustive list of  roles  that can be played, the focus is more on  item nos.  3 & 4  which  is  more  specialized  and  India  centric in terms of the requirements. Thus a CA will definitely  have  an  edge  over  a US CPA  in  these two roles since a CPA Course curriculum does not cover these two  areas.  However  one  also  needs to understand that with the Tax and Corporate Laws getting complicated  the  role  demands specialists and not generalists anymore at least in big and medium size companies.

Hence it is true that a US CPA will not be able to fill in the shoes for these roles. However the role of a professional accountant is not confined to these two areas alone. In the  areas  relating  to Finance, Accounting, MIS / Management Accounting and Auditing they can play a very important role on account of their specialization.  This is very evident with the global recognition a qualified US CPA enjoys.  In addition to this, with India being a favored destination  for many MNCs for running their backend operations, a US CPA will  be  definitely  seen as  a  better  value add considering the  international  operations  in  mind.

To  sum  it  up  the US CPA Course  can  be a  very good option in the following circumstances :

  • Opportunities in MNCs since they can speak their language in Accounting & Finance.
  • Suitable for back end requirements for MNCs involving their Global operations.
  • It would also make sense for them to recruit  a US CPA  since  they  could  be  potential candidates for them for their global operations at a later date.

The  only  caveat  as  the  author  sees  is  a  qualified US CPA  lacks  the  audit / articles  experience  of a CA besides the Tax / Corporate  Laws  background  as  discussed  earlier.  If  a  qualified CPA  is  prepared to take minor compromises in the initial part of his career, he/she can definitely look  forward to an exciting career  ahead  in  the  India  scenario  also.  After all its not for nothing  do  they say Its worth losing a few Battles to win the War.

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