Toys. Tactics. $10,000 for the taking.

The 2015 AICPA Accounting Competition gave students the opportunity to display their business acumen and hone their strategic savvy to help a toy company make the best possible changes through this complex company crossroad. It wasn't just fun and games, but the top three teams walked away with $10,000 each, bonus cash for their schools and a trip to North Carolina.

This is the original lowdown from the 2015 competition. The specifics change every year, but the general structure will still be helpful if you’re prepping for a current competition. You can see what came when, and what it took for the most brilliant teams to make it to the finals.

  • The Finalists

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    Let's Get Fiscal

    University of Kansas

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    NorthWest Accountants

    University of Portland

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    Ellsworth, Green and Gold

    The College at Brockport, State University of New York

  • The Assignment

    2015 AICPA Accounting Competition: Management Accounting

    Gizmo Toys, Inc. was established in 2001 by husband and wife team Adam and Jessica Ramirez. The company initially designed a small range of products that were manufactured in the United States and sold in local toy stores in their hometown of Joliet, IL, and nearby Chicago. Since these toys proved to be very popular in the local market, Adam and Jessica decided to expand the range of products.

    By 2006, within five years of starting Gizmo, the founders were encouraged to see increasing requests for Gizmo’s products ordered by many large toy retailers across Europe. By this stage, the company had grown considerably, and had annual sales of nearly $3 million. In 2008, to keep up with demand, Gizmo started outsourcing all of its manufacturing to a range of Chinese plants in order to reduce its cost base and to enable the company to price its products more competitively.

  • How It Worked

    It's official

    **Note all information below is from the 2015 AICPA Accounting Competition

    • The 2015 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 three or four students: two students on each team must be currently enrolled accounting students, and the other one or 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 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 a full-time Faculty member, a graduate student at a two-year or four-year college, community college, or university who is at least 21 years old or a licensed CPA practitioner that has a current and active membership with the AICPA.
    • 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.
    • In the second round, or Semi-finals, the top 15 teams will be selected to participate. Qualifying teams will be asked to create a video presentation (5-6 minutes) and supporting documentation (1-3 pages).
    • Three of the top 15 teams will be selected to present again in front of an executive judging panel in Durham, NC. 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 2015 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 also be a legal permanent in one of these countries/territories, 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? Each of the three finalist teams will score $10,000 for themselves, and compete for cash for their college. The campus awards are $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second and $2,000 for third.

    Who is eligible for the trip package? The top three 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.

    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. Teams are required to have at least three and up to four members. No team member substitutions are allowed after you have made your submission.

    Why three or four team members? The simple answer is that the AICPA wants to help develop the next generation of CPAs and we want you to work with others to do it. 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. Whether you're in a team of three members or four, you'll be putting your brains together to submit a proposal that showcases your combined talent. 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 team 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 (b) be enrolled as a full-time graduate degree student at a university within an Eligible Jurisdiction, or (c) be a licensed CPA practitioner that has a current and active membership with the AICPA within an Eligible Jurisdiction. Advisor must 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 serve on 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.

    Does my CPA advisor have to be a member of the AICPA? Yes. Advisors who aren't full-time faculty or graduate students must have an active CPA license and be a current member of the AICPA.

    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, graduate student, or regular AICPA member, 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.
    • Brevity – As a general rule, executive summaries should be pretty short and sweet. Remember there is a 1,000-word maximum on your Round 1 submission.

    How many teams will be admitted into the semi-finals? 15 teams.

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

    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 412,000 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.