The AICPA has taken the position that accreditation of CPAs in specific areas of practice is an important aspect of repositioning the CPA profession for the future. The AICPA currently offers two designations exclusively to CPAs, one of which is the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) designation. However, the issue of accrediting CPAs by granting official AICPA designations is a complex and highly debated issue with opposing sides having compelling arguments supporting their positions.

CPAs and other professionals specializing in personal financial planning have opportunities to obtain designations other than the PFS. This paper examines the relative value of these alternative options for financial planners. Specifically, the research was designed to examine the differential effects of alternative financial‐planning accreditations on users' perceptions. These perceptions relate to various professional attributes of a financial planner such as their knowledge and expertise, objectivity, and level of trust and ethics possessed. In addition, these perceptions relate to fees charged and the influence that the designation has on the public's choice of a financial planner.

Our results indicate that the CPA designation used in conjunction with the PFS designation is generally perceived to signal a higher level of professional attributes than the other designations examined in the study. In addition, a CPA with a PFS designation has a significantly greater influence on the public's choice of a financial planner than do the other designations. These results suggest that important benefits may accrue to CPAs from holding the PFS specialty accreditation.

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