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.
 


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