AICPA Launches Revised and Dynamic Code of Professional Conduct

From making the right determination on accepting gifts from vendors, to deciding whether it is appropriate to audit a friend’s business, CPAs face a myriad of ethical questions.

These questions often need to be answered quickly, which is why the AICPA’s Ethics Division and the Professional Ethics Executive Committee undertook a project in 2008 to restructure the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct for quick and easy navigation.  The revised code, now available at, will be effective starting December 15, 2014 and early implementation is encouraged.  The new code is broken down into different parts by line of practice, is intuitively arranged by topic and when necessary subtopics and sections.  The revised code incorporates the conceptual framework approach while retaining the importance of existing AICPA ethics standards.

Ellen Goria, CPA, CGMA, Senior Manager of Independence and Special Projects in the AICPA’s Professional Ethics Division, explains that the Code of Professional Conduct has been in existence for nearly a century, and was revised into its present form about 40 years ago.  Twenty years ago it was revised again, but remained largely in its original format.  Now, while the substance of the code remains the same, efforts are being made to re-organize the document and make it easily accessible.

“We thought it needed to be organized better so that users could find what they needed more intuitively and quickly,” she said. “The prior format made it tough for folks to research their ethical responsibilities.”

Goria is pleased with the results of the revision. She is confident that once members see the new format, they will appreciate the clarity of the language and the ease of the new layout and platform -- and will return to it often.
The revised code’s new and dynamic electronic platform allows users to conduct and save searches.  It also has the ability to email links, create and name bookmarks and add and save notes.  The code features pop-ups for defined terms as well as hyperlinks connecting to relevant content within the code and external non-authoritative material issued by the Ethics Division.  These new online capabilities will facilitate a more user-friendly experience. To view a short demonstration video, visit:

The code is now organized into three parts.  Part 1 applies to AICPA members in public practice; Part 2 to members in business; and Part 3 to all other members, including those who are retired or between jobs. This new organization allows members quick access to relevant information based on their line of practice.  The code is organized by topic, subtopic and section allowing members in business to avoid sorting through topics applicable to only members in public practice such as independence and confidential client information. These changes will allow members to quickly and efficiently apply the rules and reach correct conclusions.

The most significant change to the Professional Code of Conduct is the incorporation of two conceptual frameworks, one for members in public practice and one for members in business.  This approach, also known as the “threats and safeguards” approach, is a way of identifying, evaluating and addressing threats that may exist and safeguards that may be applied to eliminate or reduce those threats.  This new section broadens the reach of the code by allowing members to come to conclusions even if specific guidance is not written in the code.  The AICPA is working on a toolkit to assist members with implementing this approach.

The AICPA Professional Ethics Executive Committee (PEEC) and the Professional Ethics Division are pleased to share the revised Professional Code of Conduct in its new format, at For information and resources on the Ethics Codification project, including implementation tools, visit