The Enforcement (Professional Standards) section of the Board is responsible for all matters pertaining to the professional ethics and conduct of CPAs. The Professional Standards staff works closely with the Board’s Executive Staff and the Board’s Staff Attorney to enforce the Rules of Professional Ethics and Conduct adopted by the Board pursuant to NCGS 93-12(9).
Contacting the Professional Standards Staff
Ann Hinkle, Manager (919) 733-1426
Mary Beth Britt, Specialist (919) 715-2455
Jean Marie Small, Assistant (919) 733-1424
NC State Board of CPA Examiners
PO Box 12827
Raleigh, NC 27605-2827
Attn.: Professional Standards
Conduct and Ethics
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, 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.
The Rules of Professional Ethics and Conduct adopted and enforced by the Board cover a broad range of behaviors but do not enumerate every possible unethical act. These rules are applicable to all certificate holders. When interpreting or enforcing these rules, the Board may give consideration, but not necessarily dispositive weight, to relevant interpretations, rulings, and opinions issued by other boards of accountancy and by appropriately authorized ethics committees of professional organizations such as the North Carolina Association of CPAs (NCACPA) and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) .
A CPA is responsible for ensuring not only his or her compliance with these rules, but also the compliance with these rules by anyone who is the CPA’s partner, fellow shareholder, or supervisee. A CPA or CPA firm should not permit others (including affiliated entities) to carry out on the CPA’s behalf, with or without compensation, acts which if carried out by a CPA would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Ethics and Conduct. A CPA firm is responsible for assuring compliance with these rules by any of its officers, directors, shareholders, partners, proprietors, employees, or agents.
Unauthorized Use of CPA Title
North Carolina accountancy law allows 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 is restricted to using the term “accountant” and only “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. 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.). Similarly, persons outside of this State are subject to the same restrictions unless they are qualified to exercise a practice privilege by NCGS 93-10.
- 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. Non-resident CPAs who wish to practice in North Carolina may do so only in accordance with NCGS 93-10.
Third-Party Complaints and Complaint Procedure
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 Manager of Professional Standards.
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.
Publication of Consent Orders and Board Orders
Under 21 NCAC 08I .0101(d), the Board, at its discretion, may publish in the Activity Review all actions resulting in an Order, a Board Order, or a Consent Order. All Orders, Board Orders, and Consent Orders will be made part of the Board’s monthly minutes. Orders, Board Orders, Consent Orders, and Notices of Hearing may be placed in the licensee’s file or firm’s file in the database.