A society or group can define ethics as a set of values. A ruling body can refer to ethics as a benchmark to assess whether a person is acting correctly or not. Strong ethics distinguishes the accounting profession from other professions. This is what makes accountants trustworthy to others outside the profession.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is the standard-setting and rule-making body for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The Code of Professional Conduct of the AICPA outlines the ethical standards required to be used for the title of CPA. Many states use this code as the foundation of their ethics CPE guidelines for their licensees.
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Each state's board sets a minimum number of ethics hours as part of its required CPE programs. Along with the CPE requirements for ethics by the boards of accountancy, many federal, state, and local governing bodies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the Government Accountability Office, and the Department of Labor (DOL), set and follow ethical regulations.
Most ethics CPE courses are based on the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct (the Code). The Code of Professional Conduct outlines some principles for professional conduct:
Members have responsibilities:
They must exercise professional and moral judgment in the course of their career and work. The members have a duty to provide professional services to others and to uphold the profession's standards.
The Public Interest:
Members must act in a way that serves the public interest and maintains public trust.
Members should be truthful and open with clients while still keeping their identities private.