Consumer Information Regarding North Carolina CPAs

 

Use of CPA Title | Requests for Public Record/Disciplinary Action | Complaints | Practice of Accounting via the Internet | Search for a CPA or CPA Firm

Established by Chapter 93-12 of the North Carolina General Statutes, the North Carolina State Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners is a self-funded occupational licensing board that grants certificates of qualification as certified public accountants (CPAs) to those individuals who meet the legal requirements. The reliance of the public and the business community on sound financial reporting and advice on business affairs imposes on the accounting profession an obligation to maintain a high standard of technical competence, morality, and integrity. To this end, the Board enforces the rules of professional ethics and conduct to be observed by CPAs in this State.

"A CPA should at all times maintain independence of thought and action, hold the affairs of clients in strict confidence, strive continuously to improve professional skills, observe generally accepted principles and standards, promote sound and informative financial reporting, uphold the dignity and honor of the accounting profession, and maintain high standards of personal conduct."

Use of CPA Title

North Carolina accountancy law is unique in that anyone can practice public accountancy by paying a privilege license fee to the NC Department of Revenue. However, anyone residing in this State who is not licensed by the NC State Board of CPA Examiners as a CPA is restricted to using the term "accountant," and only the term accountant in connection with his or her name on all reports, letters of transmittal, or advice, and on all stationery and documents used in connection with his or her services as an accountant, and must refrain from the use in any manner of any other title or designation in such practice while in this State. The exception to this restriction is when an individual residing in this State who is licensed by another jurisdiction wishes to provide a résumé to a prospective employer, the individual may use “CPA” or “certified public accountant” on his or her résumé. However, the individual must clearly indicate the jurisdiction in which he or she holds a CPA certificate as well as the status of that certificate if other than active (inactive, lapsed, retired, etc.).

 

It is unlawful for any person who has not received a certificate of qualification or not been granted a practice privilege under NCGS 93-10 admitting the person to practice as a certified public accountant to assume or use such a title, or to use any words, letters, abbreviations, symbols or other means of identification to indicate that the person using same has been admitted to practice as a certified public accountant [NCGS 93-3].

 

It is unlawful for any firm, copartnership, or association to assume or use the title of certified public accountant, or to use any words, letters, abbreviations, symbols or other means of identification to indicate that the members of such firm, copartnership or association have been admitted to practice as certified public accountants, unless each of the members of such firm, copartnership or association first shall have received a certificate of qualification from the State Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners or been granted a practice privilege admitting each member of the firm, copartnership, or association to practice as a certified public accountant; provided, however, that the Board may exempt those persons who do not  actually practice in or reside in the State of North Carolina from registering and receiving a certificate of qualification under this section [NCGS 93-4].

 

It is unlawful for any corporation to assume or use the title of certified public accountant, or to use any words, letters, abbreviations, symbols or other means of identification to indicate that such corporation has received a certificate of qualification from the State Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners admitting it to practice as a certified public accountant [NCGS 93-5].

 

A person licensed as a CPA in another jurisdiction who moves to North Carolina with the intention of practicing as a CPA (whether in public practice, industry, government, or education) must obtain a certificate of qualification from the Board prior to using the CPA title in any way in this State. Oral or written statements such as, “I am a licensed CPA in another jurisdiction” when used in connection with the individual’s name on all reports, letters of transmittal, or advice, and on all stationery and documents used in connection with the individual’s services as an accountant do not exempt the individual from obtaining a certificate of qualification from the Board. The exception to this restriction is when an individual residing in this State who is licensed by another jurisdiction wishes to provide a résumé to a prospective employer, the individual may use “CPA” or “certified public accountant” on his or her résumé. However, the individual must clearly indicate the jurisdiction in which he or she holds a CPA certificate as well as the status of that certificate if other than active (inactive, lapsed, retired, etc.).Non-resident CPAs who wish to practice in North Carolina may do so only in accordance with NCGS 93-10, Practice Privileges.

Selecting a CPA

Because the Board cannot endorse or recommend a specific CPA or CPA firm to consumers, word-of-mouth referrals from individuals who have used the services of a particular CPA are probably the best way to select a CPA. However, there are certain steps you should take when selecting a CPA to perform services for you or your company or organization.

  • Check the license status on the Board’s website-based database. Specifically, make sure the license is current and active. Note the date the CPA was licensed and the date his or her license expires. Check the date the firm was registered with the Board and if that registration is current and active.
  • Check whether there have been any enforcement actions against the licensee or CPA firm. If there has been enforcement action against a CPA or CPA firm, that information is available under the “public documents” section of the licensee/firm “detail” page NOTE:  The public record/disciplinary actions are either PDF documents; which require Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print the documents, or TIFFs (images) which require Microsoft Office Document Imaging to view and print the documents. NOTE:  You must turn off all pop-up blockers in order to see the full record.
  • Interview the prospective CPA either by telephone or in person. A common inquiry is, "What type of accounting work do you typically perform?" Compare the CPA's experience to your service needs.
  • Ask about the office hours of the CPA; determine whether the office is open year-round; inquire if the CPA is available to take telephone inquiries. Ask what type of continuing education the licensee has taken recently.
  • If the services you require include either reviewed or audited financial statements, ask the CPA if he or she participates in a peer review or quality review program. If yes, ask the year and month (and the result) of the most recent review.
  • Before any work is done by the CPA, it is important to make certain that you receive an engagement letter detailing the work to be performed for you, who will specifically be performing the work, including whether the work is outsourced, confirming that all private and personal information is secure, and specifying the cost of the services.

 

Public Record Information & Public Disciplinary Action

As a service to the public, the Board has made its public record information and public disciplinary action files available through this website. To determine if an individual is, or has been, licensed by the Board as a CPA, or if a firm is, or has been registered with the Board, you may search the Board’s database. If an individual or firm has public disciplinary action on file with the Board, a link, “Public Documents” will display on the Details page of the individual’s record or the firm’s record. You may view and print the document(s).

NOTE:  The public record/disciplinary actions are either PDF documents; which require Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print the documents, or TIFFs (images) which require Microsoft Office Document Imaging to view and print the documents.

NOTE:  You must turn off all pop-up blockers in order to see the full record.

If you prefer, you may contact Lisa R. Hearne by e-mail at lisahearne@nccpaboard.gov or by fax to 919/733-4209. Your request must include the following:

·         licensee’s name and certificate number or the CPA firm’s name; and

·         your name; and

·         appropriate contact information for delivery (fax, e-mail, US postal service)

Please allow at least 5 business days for a response to your request.

 

Complaints

 

If you have reason to believe that a licensee has violated NCGS 93-12(9), which includes, but is not limited to, conviction of a felony; conviction of a crime in which deceit, dishonesty, or fraud is an essential element; fraud or deceit in obtaining a certificate as a CPA; or dishonesty, fraud, or gross negligence in the public practice of accountancy; you should review the "Complaint Procedure," and obtain a "Record of Complaint" form. All third-party complaints submitted to the Board must be made on this form and the form must be notarized. The Record of Complaint should provide a specific and detailed summary of the complaint and must include any supporting documentation that supports the allegation of wrongdoing.

For assistance in filing a complaint, please contact Ann Hinkle, Manager of Professional Standards, by telephone at (919) 733-1426 or by e-mail at ahhinkle@nccpaboard.gov.

Upon receipt, the complaint and evidence are reviewed by staff and legal counsel in light of case precedents and informal guidelines established by the Board's Professional Standards Committee. If the complaint does not appear to center on a violation that is within the Board's jurisdiction, the Board may close the case with prejudice. If the complaint does center on a violation that is within the Board's jurisdiction, an initial letter requesting a response to the allegations is sent to the licensee or CPA firm against whom the complaint is filed.

Once a reply from the licensee or CPA firm is received by the Board, a copy of the response may be sent to the complainant for his or her response. This portion of the investigative process may be quite lengthy and may require additional information or evidence from the complainant, licensee, CPA firm, or related parties.

After staff and legal counsel have gathered pertinent information or evidence, the matter is referred to the Board's Professional Standards Committee. The Committee may recommend more information be obtained, the case be closed with or without prejudice, or that the case continue forward. The Committee does not determine guilt or innocence; it simply reviews the complaint to determine whether the allegations, supported by competent evidence, would warrant a contested case proceeding.

After guidance from the Committee, staff and legal counsel may approach the licensee or CPA firm to negotiate a Consent Order for settlement prior to a hearing. The majority of cases are resolved through a Consent Order because this allows more options in achieving a balanced resolution. If a settlement cannot be reached, a public hearing will be held. All involved parties may be requested to appear and testify at the hearing. After the hearing, the Board may issue an order which the licensee or CPA firm may appeal to Superior Court.

If you are considering filing a complaint with the Board, please keep in mind that licensees or CPA firms who are found to be in violation of the statutes or rules are subject to disciplinary action. The Board cannot intervene in a dispute regarding the fees charged by a CPA or a CPA firm. Disciplinary action is considered carefully on a case-by-case basis since the action may drastically affect the licensee's or CPA firm's reputation and ability to make a living. Remember that it takes more than a claim of wrongdoing to file a complaint with the Board; the allegation must be substantiated.

Practice of Accounting via the Internet

Although purchasing public accounting services on the Internet is a convenient way to access a broad range of services, it is important to do your research before selecting a practitioner. Because Internet practice involves no face-to-face client contact, it is easy for an unqualified person to masquerade as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In addition, a practitioner offering public accounting services on the Internet may be physically located anywhere in the world.

The following information should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation to purchase public accounting services on the Internet. Instead, these tips are offered as consumer protection suggestions for consumers contemplating the selection of an Internet practitioner.

A practitioner must be licensed as a CPA by the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners to provide public accounting services to consumers in North Carolina.

The Board offers access to its licensee and CPA firm database through this website. The licensee's name, preferred address, certificate number, certificate status, certificate issuance date, and certificate expiration date are available from the Board's database.

Disciplinary actions against a CPA or CPA firm are not considered public information unless there is formal action, such as a Notice of Hearing, Consent Order, or Board Order, issued by the Board. If an individual or firm has any public record/disciplinary action on file with the Board, this information is available through the Board’s licensee and CPA firm database.

Keep in mind that if you encounter a problem with a CPA who is not licensed by the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners, the Board may not be able to assist you with a complaint against that practitioner. However, the Board will attempt to provide you with contact information for the appropriate regulatory body.

If you are using the Internet to obtain a directory of CPAs, be aware that a directory listing does not ensure that the practitioner is well qualified or licensed. You still need to ask the appropriate questions and check the status of the practitioner's license.

  • Verify that the information about the practitioner or firm is accurate on its website. Is the individual or firm currently licensed? Has the individual or firm ever had its license disciplined in any way? Does the firm provide the same information by telephone as on the Internet? Does the physical address on the Internet match the address you received from the Board?
  • Interview the practitioner by email or by telephone to ensure that he or she can provide the services you need. Inquire about procedures for providing and receiving information. Is the practitioner concerned about timeliness, accuracy, and confidentiality? If you are interested in income tax preparation services, ask if the practitioner can be reached later in the year if you need assistance with an audit.
  • It is of primary importance to make certain that before any work is done by the CPA that you receive an engagement letter or other written documentation that details the work to be performed for you, who specifically will be performing the service, and the cost of the services.