Why this Indian CA based in India upskilled himself with CPA (US) & how it opened doors to opportunities both in India and USA

Sohinee Dey

  • Hi, I am Pankaj Goyal, a CA, US CPA, and Manager of Financial Services in one of the Big 4 Accounting Firms.
  • The decisive moment for me to pursue CA was when I saw my father struggling with accounts/tax issues. Luckily, I cleared my CA exams in one go and qualified as a CA in 2013!
  • In an endeavor to find a new set of opportunities, I decided to upskill myself with CPA (US). With my parents’ continuous support and my dedicated effort, I cleared my US CPA in 2018.
  • Here’s is my journey studying for CPA US. 

What was your motivation behind pursuing Indian CA?

I always used to find my father struggling with accounts/tax issues, searching for a good tax/accounting practitioner while managing his business.

Certainly, this was not only the case with him but with other business owners as well. This, for me, proved to be the starting point for thinking of becoming a Chartered Accountant.

Despite scoring a decent percentage (93.33 %– though not the best one for securing a seat in the top commerce college of the country) in the 12th examination, I decided to pursue graduation offline (though I do not recommend this option to anyone) and prepare for the CA examinations.

With god’s grace and blessings (I believe this helps!) I cleared the examinations in one go.

Sitting in my principal’s office on July 17, 2013 (can’t forget this date), I clearly remember how the computer screen displayed that I had cleared my Chartered Accountancy!

My parents’ continuous support and blessing throughout my journey helped me succeed. I always believe that I am fortunate enough to have grown up in a decent family that could afford my educational expenses.

Why did you pursue CPA US after qualifying as a CA from India?

It was almost 5 years of being qualified as a Chartered Accountant and I found myself involved in routine tax and regulatory compliance for various companies.

In an endeavor to find a new set of opportunities and develop a credible skill set in global tax and regulatory compliance, CPA (US) was the only option left.

It could open the gateways for me to understand the US tax laws and regulations. This way I could start working for US clients (such as companies incorporated as per governing US regulations and their subsidiaries) from any part of the world.

In the year 2018, when all the road blockers got cleared, I emerged as a US CPA.

How can a CA in India pursue CPA US?

For passing CPA exams, one is required to select a Board of Accountancy recognized by CPA. 

As of date, there are 55 state boards of accountancy in the USA. To become a member in any of the states, one is required to pass the Uniform CPA examination. 

Since there are separate boards, there are separate guidelines of ethics. They govern their own evaluation criteria for determining the eligibility of national and international students.

For International students, NASBA evaluates the credentials (domestic graduation plus further studies) based on the evaluation criteria defined by different boards and provides credit hours. Some board requires 120 credit hours while some require 150.

In my opinion, for CAs, Oregon is the best board of accountancy as it recognizes CA, CS, and other professional qualifications in India, unlike others.

Here are the complete steps for pursuing a CPA US:

  • Evaluating degrees: One is required to evaluate all their degrees, certifications, post qualifications courses with NASBA so that they don't miss any chance of scoring the minimum credit hours. For Oregon, B. Com coupled with CA would be enough to obtain the minimum credit points of 120. 
  • Choosing a State: One is required to select the state first for evaluating their credentials. Every state has its own evaluation criteria.
  • Give four exams: Audit, Regulations, Accounting, and BEC (costing + FM).
  • Get Trained with CPA: Just like CA articleship, one-year training is required under practicing CPA.
  • Applying for Visa: There is no such condition that people won't get a visa for CPA exams. It is to be noted that exams can be given on a tourist visa as well. So, there is no connection between CPA and US VISA. Exams can also be given in Dubai/Qatar. Recently, examination windows were opened in India as well considering the pandemic and lockdown situations. One needs to figure this out more in detail before sitting for the examinations.

What was your preparation process for CPA and do you recommend coaching?

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) never recognizes any coaching institute (say, Becker’s). However, this set of modules are helpful as they provide many questions for practice and have the model test papers to solve. The format is identical to the one which appears on the examination screen.

  • For beginners, I would recommend coaching. Although I had enrolled in a private coaching institute earlier, going forward, I did not find it useful. Hence, I started self-study.
  • According to me, the only subjects that can create a bit of a hurdle for CAs are Regulations and Accounting. One may consider opting for online/offline lectures in this regard. However, self-study is always a preferable option.
  • I used to refer to Becker’s study material only for preparing the examinations. For some topics, it is advisable to take help from Youtube lectures since many faculties post free videos on difficult topics.

How did you balance your CPA studies and work?

Frankly, it would depend on how good your relationship is with your Manager/Boss.

For CAs, 2 hours of regular and dedicated study for approx. 2.5 months may turn out to be fruitful. The success to pass these examinations actually depends on the number of questions one practices.

I took leave for 40 days including the time needed to appear for the exams.

Where did you give your CPA Exams and why?

I enrolled for CPA in the year 2015 and gave all four of my exams initially from the USA.

(Please don’t assume that it took me 2 years to prepare for the exams. I studied for around 2 months only for the balance part the work pressure does not allow me to think beyond the line.)

However, I did not succeed in passing the regulations exam. The reason for my failure was a lack of attention as I was lost in exploring the nearby places. So, I went to Dubai to give the pending exam.

One may appear for all four exams simultaneously. Passing the exam successfully gives credit for 18 months, which means one would have 18 months timeline for clearing the balance examinations. In case of failure, passed exams need to be reappeared again.  

Being an Indian CA in India how has CPA US helped you in your career?

Being honest, searching for client opportunities for practicing chartered accountants in India from a US CPA standpoint is a bit difficult.

However, job openings in various US MNCs (relevant for experienced professionals) and outsourcing firms/KPOs can be a point of start.

Since I was a part of Big-4 firms in India, I had the opportunity to undertake a variety of work with different teams that serve US companies in and/or outside India.

The set of unique qualifications actually helped me in developing a credible skill set.

While it might not impact the remuneration immediately, but in long run certainly it might benefit one.

It also plays a great role in Networking, as CPA US has a huge network. You can connect with US professionals (very easily on LinkedIn) with US CPA as professional accreditation in your profile.

Would you recommend other CAs to pursue CPA?

Those who are looking for outsourced work of US-based companies and individuals in India can pursue CPA. Being an accountant, US CPA is a valuable option for settling outside India, especially in countries like Canada and the USA. One can practice like a Certified Accountant who is eligible for performing identical services like CAs in India.

Let us understand with the help of an example. Vodafone was once listed in NYSE; hence, their books of accounts were prepared in accordance with US GAAP. The financials would be signed by the practicing US CPA. So, rather than searching for the US CPA in/outside India, it’s better to become one.

Many US associate companies are registered and are operating in India. They also need CPAs to report their financials to their US companies.

I do understand that many classes are operating in India promulgating the concept of CPA, my advice would be whether to pursue or not to pursue depends on your career goals. 

Now It's Your Turn...

Do you feel pressured to upskill yourself? And in that pressure do you pursue any certification? Comment below and let us know your thoughts. 

 

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