An analysis of certified public accountants' attitudes regarding the acceptance of commissions and contingent fees
The purpose of this research was to identify the factors that influence accountants' attitudes about the desirability of commission and contingent fee type arrangements. The AICPA has changed its rules to allow commissions and contingent fees, which were expressly prohibited in the past. However, the AICPA rules do not prevail over state laws or rules of the state boards of CPAs. In fact, CPAs in numerous states are still expressly forbidden to accept commissions or contingent fees. The conflicting rules in different states evidence the differences of opinion concerning the issues of acceptance of commissions and contingent fees by CPAs. Important questions center on: (1) factors that influence CPAs' attitudes with regard to commissions and contingent fees (i.e., why some CPAs are opposed to commissions and contingent fees while others are not); and (2) whether the factors that influence CPAs' attitudes are entirely of an ethical nature.
To conduct this study, a questionnaire was mailed to 1,500 CPAs in public accounting. The 478 usable responses represented an overall response rate of 31.87%.
The survey employed various existing measurement instruments to define the attitudes of the respondents. In addition, respondents were asked to give ethicality ratings on scenarios involving commissions and contingent fees and the likelihood that they would enter into a similar type fee arrangement.
Factor analysis, multiple regression, and cluster analysis were used to analyze the survey data. Results of the analyses show that most of the variation in the CPAs' ethicality ratings of the scenarios and their behavioral intent can be explained by their ethical evaluations. These findings attest that CPAs believe the issues of acceptance of commissions and contingent fees are ethical ones.
Knowledge of CPAs' attitudes on the acceptance of commissions and contingent fees may help determine appropriate rules and useful codes of professional conduct and can serve to guide training efforts of licensing and regulating bodies. The information may be useful in the political influence process as well.