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
Mary Beth Britt, Specialist (919) 715-2455
Jean Marie Small, Specialist (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 high standards of technical competence, morality, and integrity. A CPA shall 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 CPA or CPA firm 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 may wish to file a complaint with the Board. All persons wishing to file a complaint with the Board (“Complainants”) must file a complaint 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 Board does not intervene in private disputes regarding the amount of a fee charged by a CPA. The Record of Complaint should 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 Complainant files a complaint with the Board, he or she may not later withdraw the complaint; 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.
Upon receipt, the complaint and evidence are reviewed by the Staff Attorney and the Professional Standards staff to make an initial determination of whether the complaint allegations fall within the Board’s jurisdiction. If the allegations contain issues that are arguably within the Board’s jurisdiction, an initial letter, along with a copy of the complaint in its entirety, is sent to the Respondent (the licensee against whom the complaint is filed) requesting a response to the allegations. Once the reply from the Respondent is received and reviewed, it may be sent back to the Complainant for a response. This investigative process may require additional information and/or evidence from the Complainant, the Respondent, and any related parties.
The parties should not attempt to discuss the case with any member of the Board, either directly or in hypothetical terms. Improper communications with Board members could disqualify them from hearing the case. The parties may communicate with each other after a complaint has been filed in order to attempt to resolve the issues in the complaint. Otherwise, the Board discourages contact between the Complainant and Respondent 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.
After the Staff Attorney and the Professional Standards staff have gathered information, the matter is referred to the Professional Standards Committee of the Board. The Professional Standards Committee (three members of the Board 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 guidance from the Committee, the Staff Attorney and the Professional Standards staff may approach the Respondent to negotiate a Consent Order for settlement prior to a Hearing. 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. The Complainant and other related parties may be requested to appear and testify at the Hearing. Mileage expense will be paid by the Board to witnesses upon their request for reimbursement. After the Hearing, the Board may issue an Order. The Respondent has the option of appealing the Board’s Order 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.