The North Carolina State Board of Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examiners is an independent, self-funded, occupational licensing board responsible for protecting the public through regulation of the CPA title in North Carolina.
Use of CPA Title
The North Carolina General Assembly, through the North Carolina Accountancy Act, has authorized the Board to regulate the use of the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) title. Non-CPAs are allowed to practice accountancy in North Carolina as unregulated accountants. Individuals who live in North Carolina and are licensed by another jurisdiction, but not by this Board, can use “CPA” or “certified public accountant” on a résumé if they include the jurisdiction that granted the CPA certificate/license and the status of the certificate/license if it is on any status other than active (inactive, retired, lapsed, etc.).
- it is unlawful for any person who has not received a certificate of qualification or who has 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, 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 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 CPA or CPA firm may be 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 their license expires. Check the date the firm was registered with the Board and if the registration is current and active. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) operates CPAVerify, a database that provides licensing information on about 97% of licensees in the US and its territories.
- Check whether there have been any enforcement actions against the licensee or CPA firm. If there has been an enforcement action against a CPA or CPA firm by this Board, that information is available under the “public documents” section of the licensee/firm “detail” page. CPAVerify may show if enforcement action has been taken by another board of accountancy.
- 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. Is the office open year-round or only during tax season? Is 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 they participate in a peer review or quality review program. Ask for the most recent date a peer review was completed and the result of that peer review. You can check the peer review status of many CPA firms through a database managed by the American Institute of CPAs.
- 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.
After selecting a CPA or CPA firm to perform services for you, but before any work is done by the CPA or CPA firm, make sure you receive a written engagement letter. The letter should, at a minimum, detail the work to be performed, name the specific employee(s) who will be performing the work (if the work is outsourced, confirming that all private and personal information is secure), and the cost of the services.
Public Record Information
To fulfill the requirements of NCGS 93B-3, the Board makes the public record portions of its database (including public disciplinary action) available through this website. If an individual or firm has any public disciplinary action on file with the Board, a “Public Documents” link will display on the Details page of the record. The information obtained from the database is not an official endorsement of any licensee or CPA firm.
Register of Active North Carolina CPAs
A Register of Active North Carolina CPAs is available for purchase. The Register is $75 (payable by check) and is provided as an Excel document. The Register does not include individuals on inactive, retired, suspended, revoked, or surrendered status.
The Register contains the following public record information:
- Preferred Mailing Address;
- Preferred Telephone Number;
- NC CPA License Number;
- Date of Initial CPA Licensure; and
- Expiration Date of NC CPA License
In the context of the Board’s records, a licensee’s email address is not a public record and is not part of the Register. To purchase a Register, please complete this form and send it and payment to Communications Officer, State Board of CPA Examiners, PO Box 12827, Raleigh, NC 27605.
Filing a Complaint
If you have reason to believe that a CPA or CPA firm has violated a statute or rule governing CPAs, you may file a complaint with the Board. The Board does not intervene in private disputes about the fees a CPA charges, and does not have disciplinary authority over non-licensees such as accountants. Please use the Board’s database to determine if the person or business is licensed by, or registered with, the Board. The NC Dept. of Justice may be able to assist you with a complaint against non-licensees. If you have documentation regarding a non-licensee using the title “CPA” or “certified public accountant,” please forward that information to the Board so that the Board can take actions to prevent future use of that title.
You may file a complaint with the Board online or by mail on the Record of Complaint form. The complaint must center on a violation of North Carolina General Statute 93 or the North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 21, including the Rules of Professional Ethics and Conduct. The Record of Complaint must provide a specific and detailed summary of the complaint, including all evidence in support of the allegations. Please redact all social security numbers, bank account numbers, etc., from supporting documentation.
Once a complaint is filed with the Board, it cannot be withdrawn; the Board retains the authority and discretion to determine whether the matter may proceed. If the complaint does not center on a violation that is within the Board’s jurisdiction, the Board may close the case without taking further action. In matters where there is a criminal or civil proceeding regarding the same issues, the Board will generally wait until the criminal or civil matter has been resolved before making a final determination regarding the complaint.
The Staff Attorney and the Professional Standards staff review all complaints and evidence to determine if the allegations are within the Board’s jurisdiction. If the allegations contain issues that are arguably within the Board’s jurisdiction, the Board staff sends the Respondent (the person or firm against whom the complaint was filed) an initial letter and a copy of the entire complaint and asks the Respondent to respond to the allegations. The Board staff will review the Respondent’s reply, and may send it to the Complainant (the person who filed the complaint) for their response. The investigative process may require additional information or evidence from the Complainant, the Respondent, and any related parties.
Although the Complainant and Respondent may communicate with each other to resolve the issue (such as the return of client records), the Board’s investigation will continue until the Board determines that its disciplinary interests have been resolved. The Complainant and Respondent cannot discuss the case (either directly or hypothetically) with any Board member; improper communication with Board members could disqualify those Members from hearing the case.
After the Staff Attorney and the Professional Standards staff have gathered information, they refer the case to the Board’s Professional Standards Committee. The Committee (three Board members appointed by the Board president) reviews the complaint and may recommend that additional information be gathered, recommend to the full Board that the case be closed, or recommend that the case continue forward. The Committee does not determine guilt or innocence; it simply reviews the complaint to determine whether the allegations, if supported by competent evidence, would warrant a contested case proceeding. After receiving the Committee’s guidance, the Staff Attorney and the Professional Standards staff may approach the Respondent to negotiate a Consent Order. The majority of disciplinary actions are achieved by Consent Order because this allows the Board more options in achieving a balanced resolution. If a settlement cannot be reached, a Public Hearing will be held, and the Board may issue an Order. The Respondent has the option of appealing the Order 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 on about 97% of licensees in the US and its territories.
- 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 will be performing the services, and the cost of the services.
Resources for Consumers
NC State Board of CPA Examiners CPA and CPA firm database: Public record information, including disciplinary action, on the Board’s licensees
NASBA’s CPAverify: Licensing information on about 97% of licensees in the US and its territories (helpful if individual/firm is not licensed in NC)
AICPA’s Public Peer Review Database: a list of public accounting firms and their enrollment status in the AICPA Peer Review Program (PRP)
Excerpts from North Carolina General Statutes: statutes that are applicable to the NC State Board of CPA Examiners, its applicants, and licensees
North Carolina Administrative Code: rules that are applicable to the NC State Board of CPA Examiners, its applicants, and licensees
NC State Board of CPA Examiners online complaint form and Record of Complaint form
NC Department of Justice Consumer Complaint Center: Assistance filing a complaint against a non-CPA accountant
Excerpt from the AICPA’s Guide to Financial Services Your CPA Can Provide: an explanation of four types of financial services 1) financial statement preparation; 2) compilation; 3) review; and 4) audit
IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications: searchable directory that provides a list of preparers who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion