The Deficit. Income Tax. Social Security. 

The top teams in the 2012 AICPA Accounting Competition didn’t just know what to do about these thorny problems–they used their ingenious insights to create advice for a presidential candidate. The strongest strategy netted a cool $10,000. Want in next year? Join to get competition (and other enlightening) updates.

Here’s the original lowdown from 2012. The specifics change from year to year, but the general structure should help if you're prepping for a current competition. Read through to see what came when, and just how our most brilliant teams got to Washington, D.C.

  • The Finalists

    youtube thumb play button

    Working Capitol

    University of Texas at Dallas

    youtube thumb play button

    Team Albion

    Albion College

    youtube thumb play button


    North Carolina State University

  • The Assignment

    2012 AICPA Accounting Competition: Election Year
    Turning current issues into clever solutions

    You’ve joined a team running an election campaign for the next President of the United States of America.  Your organization has seen its clients struggling with the financial issues faced by many Americans and you believe that your years of experience in management accounting gives you the big picture perspective needed to provide practical solutions to these issues.   You are knowledgeable in the governmental process because of your active volunteer work on the AICPA’s Government Performance and Accountability Committee coupled with the work you did with the state auditor’s office a few years ago.  Your professional background has exposed you to the local and state government and work in the Federal arena is the next step for you.  You’ve received your CGMA designation (Chartered Global Management Accountant) this year, so your skills are also recognized internationally.

    Like in every election, your team must develop your candidate’s proposed solutions to address current issues as part of the candidate selection process. For the purposes of this debate, you will briefly outline your proposals for 2 of the 3 main issues stated in the full case.  You’ll receive the issues after you sign up for a team.

    Use your background and work with your campaign team to develop a brief summary on how your candidate will address your two selected issues. You've got 1,000 words, maximum, to outline the best solutions to some of our nation's biggest challenges.

    *Note: Teams got the full version of the case upon registration.

  • How It Worked

    **Note all information below is from the 2012 AICPA Accounting Competition

    It's official

    The 2012 AICPA Accounting Competition is a case competition open to currently-enrolled undergraduate students at two-year and four-year colleges, community colleges, and universities in the fifty United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and/or the U.S. Virgin Islands (collectively, the “Eligible Jurisdictions”).  You cannot participate in the Competition if you are not a permanent legal resident of an Eligible Jurisdiction. You need to be a Student Affiliate member of the AICPA (it’s free to signup) and at least 18 years of age (and if the age of majority in your state or territory is older than 18, you must submit a completed Parental Release Form with your first round proposal in order to be eligible to participate.)

    The competition will be open to teams of exactly four students:  two students on each team must be currently enrolled accounting students, and the other two may be currently-enrolled undergraduates from any discipline. All teams will have a Team Captain. The Captain will be responsible for turning in all submissions and all direct communications with the AICPA during the competition. The Team Captain must be a declared accounting major.

    Students may also choose to have an Advisor. This Advisor can help guide you or give you feedback on your responses, but they may not provide any of the final deliverable work. Advisors can be either a full-time Faculty member or graduate student at a two-year or four-year college, community college, or university.

    The competition comprises three rounds. The first round will involve a short written executive summary (1,000 words or less) that more broadly helps us understand your team’s take on the situation.

    20 teams will be selected to participate in the Semi-finals. Qualifying teams will be asked to create a video presentation (5-6 minutes) and supporting documentation (1-3 pages).

    Three of the top 20 teams will be selected to present again in front of an executive judging panel in Washington, D.C. This will be an in-person presentation, and all finalist team members and their Advisors will receive travel and hotel accommodations in our nation’s capital. Each finalist presentation will be 10 minutes in duration (and you may elect to use additional media for the specific audience), with an additional Q&A period.


    Who can compete in this competition?The 2012 AICPA Accounting Competition is open to currently-enrolled undergraduate students at two-year and four-year colleges, community colleges, and universities in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and/or the U.S. Virgin Islands.  You must be at least eighteen (18) years old and a current AICPA Student Affiliate Member as of date of entry to be eligible to enter.  If the age of majority in your state or territory is older than 18, you must submit a completed Parental Release Form with your first round proposal in order to be eligible to participate.

    How do we sign up?Simple: just go to the Team Dashboard page and start building your team.

    Do I have to be an AICPA Student Affiliate Member to participate?  Yes.  Student membership is required to participate in the competition. But the truth is membership is free to all currently enrolled students at two-year and four-year colleges, community colleges, and universities.  Not to mention you’ll also get a ton of perks like access to AICPA scholarships and discounts on conferences, events, and other resources. 

    Can multiple teams from the same school submit? Yes.

    What are the awards? See below.

    First Place:                          $10,000                

    Second Place:                    $5,000                                  

    Third Place:                         $2,500                                  

    Who is eligible for the trip package? The top 3 teams (all finalist team members and their accompanying advisor) are eligible for the trip package to the final presentation location. See the Official Rules, Section 5 for trip package information.

    I want to participate but need help rounding out a team. Can you help? Yes. In the Team Dashboard page you can browse the existing teams to see if there’s one you’d like to join, or start your own and invite other students to participate. As the founder of the team, you’ll automatically be the Team Captain, but you can elect to make another member Captain later if you choose.  Remember, your Team Captain must be an accounting-related major.

    One of our teammates will no longer be able to participate. May we make a substitution?  You can alter your team members until the close of the first round and you have submitted your case. No substitutions are allowed after you have made your submission.

    Why four team members? The simple answer is that the AICPA wants to help develop the next generation of CPAs. The more detailed answer is that we hope you’ll learn important concepts during the competition, including analysis of difficult and novel issues, communicating your thoughts clearly and compellingly, and – you guessed it – teamwork. In the real world your fate is entwined with that of your team, and the better you are at collaborating with them, the better. This competition is no different.

    Can I serve on two different teams? No. Besides, don’t you ever sleep?

    If I leave a team, can I join another team that needs a member? You can bounce from team to team as much as you like prior to submitting your first round proposal.  Once that is done, you’re locked in for the duration of the competition, so be nice to your teammates.

    How come the team captain gets to keep the video camera, and not me? Well, they’ve got considerably more work to deal with than the rest of the team, including increased communications, coordination of members and submissions, and representing/introducing the team at the finals. We offer them the camera as a token of gratitude. But they can still decide to give it to you if they want.

    Is there a required format for the video presentation? No. You have some creative license here, but all four members must appear in it at least once and you must use the AICPA provided video device to create the video footage for your video submission.

    Will my team’s written submission be judged on its style? While there is no official scoring mechanism for the style of the document, do bear in mind that a well-crafted, professional document for the competition only works in your favor – just as it would in a business environment.

    One of my team members is a graphic design major; may we submit the written portion in a different format? So: Want to expand beyond the boundaries of Microsoft Word 2003 or 2007, do you? That’s fine; just have your gorgeously designed case in a format that’s readable by Adobe Acrobat.

    Who can act as our advisor?   Advisors must either (a) be employed full-time in an undergraduate teaching capacity with a community college or four-year university within an Eligible Jurisdiction or (b) be enrolled as a full-time graduate degree student at a university within an Eligible Jurisdiction.  Advisor must also register on the Website and be included on your team roster by the close of the first round, just like your Team members.

    Can our advisor advise more than one team?  Yes.

    What is your definition of a graduate student? For the purposes of this competition, graduate degree students are defined as students who are currently enrolled at a college or university taking coursework consisting of 50% or more graduate-level classes, which will result in the receipt of a graduate level degree upon their graduation from that college or university.

    Do we have to have an advisor? Not at all. It’s up to your team, and in particular the team captain, whether to solicit the advice of a faculty member or graduate student, but we do recommend it. Just like in class, this advisor can help guide you and give feedback on your responses, but they can’t provide any of the final deliverable work (of course).

    What does a good executive summary (like what’s being asked in Round 1) look like?

    Good question. An executive summary is used to help decision makers (or judges) understand your perspective before going into the second round. So your response is basically a summary of findings, including:

    • Overview – Executive summaries are often looking for a high-level explanation and analysis that could be read by both business people and an average Joe. Keep your language simple, and be clear about your ideas and major points.
    • Recommendations – This includes both new ideas from your team and responses to direct questions from decision makers.
    • Justification – Like any good investigator, use the facts to get to the bottom of things. Present evidence or clues, then use reasoning to connect the dots for the judges.

    And, last but not least,

    • Brevity – As a general rule, executive summaries should be pretty short and sweet. Remember there is a 1000-word maximum on your submission.

    How many teams will be admitted into the Semi-finals? 20 teams.

    How many teams will be admitted into the Finals? 3 teams.

    We’ve been selected as finalists! What’s the dress code for the final presentation and networking dinner? Students will be expected to dress business formal (suit and tie, pantsuit, or skirt suit) for the presentation, as well as for the awards announcement.

    How will our response be judged? All entries will be judged on a scorecard metric. Each round will be judged on several factors.  If you like, you can read all of the Judging Criteria in the Official Rules, Section 4.

    Will my school affiliation give me an advantage during the judging process? No. Judges will come from various parts of the AICPA and business world, so nobody’s out there looking to heap awards on their alma mater.  What they are looking to do is score each team’s submission based upon the quality of the response.

    One of my relatives is a member of AICPA—will I still be able to compete? Yes. The AICPA is a professional association with more than 360,000 members, so you can see that if we limited entries on the basis of family membership, we’d be excluding a lot of students. So unless your relative is on the judging panel, you’re good. We’d like to keep the opportunity to compete as open as possible.

by the way

How bad is tax season, really?

The infamous tax season crunch is typically cited as a reason to avoid going into tax. So how bad is it? It’s true that you should expect to work longer hours during tax season – but so do a lot of CPAs in other fields. Plus, many tax firms are using innovative new ways to help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance. Either way, once tax season is over, life can be pretty sweet – just in time for summer.