Established by Chapter 93-12 of the North Carolina General Statutes, the North Carolina State Board of Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examiners is an independent, self-funded occupational licensing board that grants certificates of qualification as certified public accountants (CPAs) to those individuals who meet the statutory 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.
Use of CPA Title
North Carolina accountancy law allows that anyone can practice public accountancy by paying a minimal privilege license fee to the NC Department of Revenue. However, anyone not licensed by the NC State Board of CPA Examiners or not granted a practice privilege by NCGS 93-10 is restricted to using the title “accountant” 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.). Therefore:
- it is unlawful for any person who has not received a certificate of qualification or not been granted a practice privilege under GS 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, co-partnership, 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 that the members of the firm, co-partnership, or association have been admitted to practice as CPAs, unless each of the members of the firm, co-partnership, or association have indeed received a certificate of qualification from the Board admitting him or her to practice as a CPA. However, the Board may exempt those persons who do not actually practice or reside in the State of North Carolina from registering and receiving certificates of qualification [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 that such corporation has received a certificate of qualification from the Board admitting it to practice as a CPA [NCGS 93-5].
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 or CPA firm are a good 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 in the Board’s 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. In addition, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) operates CPAVerify, a database that provides licensing information from more than 40 boards of accountancy.
- 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: 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 or the CPA firm, 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.
- Consult the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to determine if the CPA or CPA firm is listed with the BBB or if the BBB has a file on the CPA or CPA firm.
Public Record Disciplinary Action
As a service to the public, the Board has made its 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 any 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: You must turn off all pop-up blockers in order to see the full record.
Filing a Complaint
If you have reason to believe that a licensee has violated a statute or rule governing CPAs including, but 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 Board’s Complaint Procedure and complete a Record of Complaint form. The Board does not have jurisdiction over non-CPA accountants and the Board does not intervene in a dispute regarding the fees charged by a CPA or a CPA firm. 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 documentation that supports the allegation of wrongdoing. NOTE: Please redact all social security numbers, bank account numbers, etc., from supporting documentation. Although the Board may investigate an anonymous complaint if enough information and supporting documentation is filed with the complaint, if the anonymous complainant does not provide sufficient information and the Board is unable to contact the complainant for additional information, the investigation may be closed without any action being taken against the CPA or CPA firm.
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 may be subject to disciplinary action. Once a complaint is filed with the Board and the Board initiates an investigation, the Board does not cease its investigation until the Board resolves any disciplinary interest it may have in the matter. Please do not discuss your case with any member of the Board, either directly or in hypothetical terms, since to do so may disqualify that Board member from hearing the case. The Board discourages contact between a complaining third party (“Complainant”) and a licensee once a complaint has been filed. If contact occurs and a settlement is reached, be aware that the Board’s investigation will continue until the Board determines that its disciplinary interests have been resolved regarding the alleged violations of the Board’s statutes and rules.For assistance in filing a complaint, please contact the Board’s Staff Attorney.
Upon receipt, the complaint and evidence are reviewed by staff in light of case precedents and informal guidelines established by the Board’s Professional Standards Committee (three members of the Board). If the complaint does not appear to center on a violation that is within the Board’s jurisdiction, the Board may close the case. 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 (“Respondent”) against whom the complaint is filed. Once a reply from the Respondent 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, Respondent, or related parties. After the Board staff has gathered pertinent information or evidence, the matter is referred to the Board’s Professional Standards Committee (“Committee”). The Committee may recommend that more information be obtained, the case be closed, 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 may approach the Respondent 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 Respondent may appeal to Superior Court.
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 or have been granted the practice privilege under NCGS 93-10 to provide public accounting services to consumers in North Carolina.
- The Board offers access to its licensee and CPA firm database. The licensee’s name, preferred address, certificate number, certificate status, certificate issuance date, and certificate expiration date are available from the 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 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 or who has not been granted the practice privilege by the Board, 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. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) operates CPAVerify, a database that provides licensing information from more than 40 boards of accountancy.
- 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.