Hong Kong and mainland accounting bodies came one step closer to mutual recognition at the end of July when they agreed to additional measures under the next phase of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa). The latest agreement also brings more opportunities for Hong Kong accountants to practice on the mainland and in other jurisdictions worldwide. For the accounting profession, the signing under Cepa means that Hong Kong certified public accountants need to pass only the mainland tax and law papers of the exam of the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CICPA) to become CICPA members. Mainland CPAs need pass only the taxation module and the final exam of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) qualification programme to become HKICPA members. Individuals who have qualified as CICPA members are now exempt from HKICPA's financial management, auditing and information management, and financial reporting papers. The exemptions will make it easier and faster for accountants of both bodies to qualify or become licensed in each other's markets, said Winnie Cheung, HKICPA chief executive and registrar. 'Our qualification now amounts to the world's most portable, which increases the mobility of our members. As well as enjoying access to the mainland, our members can now also easily qualify worldwide because we already have other recognition agreements with many institutes around the world,' she said. The HKICPA has reciprocal membership agreements with chartered accounting bodies in England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The exam exemptions announced under Cepa are also extended to 10,000 HKICPA students and all 27,000 members, including those who qualified through avenues other than the HKICPA's own qualification programme, which was put in place after 1997. Previously, the exemptions applied only to qualification programme qualified members, a pool of about 1,000 people. In return, the HKICPA is making the same exemption for all of CICPA's 100,000-plus members. In addition to allowing the HKICPA's locally certified accountants to practise on the mainland once they pass exams on mainland economic laws and taxation, the pact is also an important step to full mutual recognition of qualifications. It should enable closer ties between the accountancy professions in Hong Kong and the mainland, and pave the way for those studying for the HKICPA qualification programme or CICPA qualification to get dual membership of both institutions, Ms Cheung said. 'These exemptions make it faster and easier for accountants to qualify, or become licensed, in each market,' she said.