So you've timely and properly renewed your license.  You've taken all the CPE credits required and you checked the box saying that you took them.  Now you've received a letter stating that your renewal application has been accepted for a CPE audit.  What should you do?  These letters will start going out after the Board Staff has processed all the renewal applications.  As you can imagine with all the renewals at one time in Pennsylvania, this is a busy time of the year for them.

        First, don't panic.  According to the information I have received the Accountancy Board will audit approximately ten (10%) percent of individual licensees as they have done after past renewals.  You are not the only one in this position.  I recommend you consult with an attorney because of the problems I have seen arise when licensees try to handle these situations on their own, but I understand that you probably won't want to go through the cost and aggravation of an attorney when you believe you have taken all the required CPE and can demonstrate that to the Board.  The issues of course are whether you have in fact taken all the required CPE and can demonstrate that.  

        I recommend putting each of your courses in a spreadsheet with the dates taken and categories each course satisfies.  CPAs must remember that you need at least twenty (20) credits in each calendar year in addition to the hours in ethics, taxation, and accounting and auditing.  You will need to gather each of your certificates of attendance.  Your provider is required to provide you with a certificate and is most likely able to provide you with a replacement if you have misplaced the original.  You need to review each certificate and make certain it provides the amount of credits, the type of credits, the date(s) of attendance, and the providers ID number(s).

        CPAs and other professionals have found themselves in trouble when the course provider is not approved or the specific course is not approved.  Your certificate of completion or attendance should state the provider's approval numbers and what entity or entities have approved the course.  It is the licensee's responsibility to make certain that the courses were approved.  For CPAs in Pennsylvania, that generally means approved by NSBA or one of the State Boards of Accountancy.   In practice, most CPAs do not look at their certificates and do not check if the provider is approved to provide CPE in Pennsylvania.  It is too late after the fact to make up any missing CPE after 12/31 of the renewal year.

        Of course if you did not take all your required CPE you will find yourself in trouble with the Board.  This is a situation several CPAs find themselves in after each renewal period.  You will certainly have to make up the missed CPE and will most likely find yourself with a licensing violation and fine.  This will be reported on your record and available to anyone who looks up your license.  Unfortunately, at this time, there is no means to have this removed from your license.   However, legislation has been introduced that would allow for a one time expungement of violations like these.  See SB 619 at the following link.   http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txt&sessYr=2013&sessInd=0&billBody=S&billTyp=B&billNbr=0619&pn=0595 

        Keep in mind that if you have taught a course you may be entitled to additional credits for your time preparing your materials and your presentation.  This has on occasion saved a licensee from a license violation and fine if these additional credits can satisfy what was otherwise missing.  Further, if Pennsylvania does not accept some or all of your credits, you do have an equitable argument that you attempted in good faith to obtain the proper credits and that your actions do not deserve punishment.

        If after the audit the Board is not satisfied that you have taken the required CPE, then an Order to Show Cause will be filed against you and a prosecutor from the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs will seek a determination by the Board that you have violated the CPA Law and that you should be subject to discipline which will certainly include a fine, notice of violation, and possibly costs of prosecution.  In extreme cases, like not taking any CPE but stating that you did, they might seek to have your license revoked.  Frankly, any time there is a question from the Board concerning your license or request by a Board investigator to meet you, should have the advice of counsel.  But, if you recieve an Order to Show Cause, you really must seek legal advice.

If you have any questions about licensing please contact me at jmcguire@c-wlaw.com.
 
 
The Pennsylvania CPA Journal - link to article - http://goo.gl/Y3FKu

        link to video - http://t.co/g1AYoHRXCc

Comfort letters – the fight continues. . . CPAs beware. . . 
  
Unfortunately, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has muddied the waters while implementing the Truth in Lending Act.  Although not even in effect, lenders are already pointing to the new regulations as justification for the need for a comfort letter.  Are you prepared to respond?


 
C & W Website - link to article - http://goo.gl/dDQkw


Two CPA firms “not guilty” of practicing without a license
 
The Pennsylvania Board of Accountancy has dismissed prosecutions against two of my clients for practicing without a license.  In both instances, the prosecutor was seeking substantial fines of $5,000 or more. However, the CPAs had done what they thought was required and the Board appropriately dismissed each case. 

 
 
On Saturday, December 1st, it became official. The revised regulations were published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and now all licensed accountants in Pennsylvania must obtain at least four hours of CPE in ethics during each renewal.  Pennsylvania has not made this ethics requirement state or statute specific, so any ethics course from any approved sponsor is acceptable.  Be sure to obtain your 4 hours from an approved sponsor before December 31, 2013.
             
Speaking of approved program sponsors, the new regulations clean up what entities are approved sponsors, which will eliminate most of the prosecution that has historically resulted from courses not being approved by the Board.  Now any sponsor who is approved by the state board of another state that has substantial equivalency is deemed to be an approved sponsor along with anyone who is NASBA approved.  This is good for PA accountants because all of our neighboring states and almost every state has substantial equivalency.

In other items of interest, the Board did elect to maintain “specialized knowledge and applications” as an approved subject area. CPAs further retained the ability to obtain CPE credit for authorship of writings.  However, to receive credit for authorship each licensee must receive approval from the Board prior to renewal for these credits to apply, so if you are considering this, please keep the time constraints in mind and review the regulations for the specific requirements. 
          
Also published the same day, were regulations adopted by the Board which set forth a schedule of civil penalties for first offenses for CPE violations and unlicensed practice.  Hopefully, the prosecutors who handle accounting licensing cases will begin to use this process for these “minor violations” rather than the formal filing that results in a hearing and full prosecution. Further, it is hoped that someday there will be legislation that passes allowing expungement of these “minor violations”.  Legislation was introduced in the last session by Representative Harper [HB 646]that would have made this the law.  Unfortunately, while it passed the house (unanimously I believe), it stalled in the Senate and never came out of committee.  Therefore, this legislation will have to be reintroduced in the next legislative session.
             
Here are links to the PA Bulletin where these regulations were published.  
http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol42/42-48/2312.html  (Continuing Professional Education)
http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol42/42-48/2313.html  (Schedule of Civil Penalties)
           
If you have any ethics or licensing questions please contact me at jmcguire@c-wlaw.com.  Please sign up for any of my ethics courses through PICPA or contact me if you wish an in house ethics course.

 
 
The Pensylvania State Board of Accountancy has posted on its website a Special Notice concerning unlicensed and never licensed firms.  The notice is available at 
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_185581_1262397_0_0_18/Acct%20Notice%20Amnesty%20Program%20for%20Firm%20Licensure%20Registration.pdf
Mike Colgan, PICPA's CEO and Executive Director, has posted a blog about this program and other issues at
http://cpanow.picpa.org/2012/06/25/state-board-announces-firm-license-amnesty-plus-other-disciplinary-issues/
"A firm of any size, other than an individual/sole proprietorship is required to be licensed."  Unfortunately, the amnesty is only available for those firms that have never been licensed.  If your firm is not currently licensed please feel free to contact me and we can determine what options you have.  jmcguire@c-wlaw.com  This amnesty will be available until December 31, 2012.
 
 
CPA firm not 'guilty' of practicing without a license.  See why in this article.  http://goo.gl/mLYBX

Every case is different. If you have a licensing matter please contact me and I will see if there is anything I can do to assist you.