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The Enforcement (Professional Standards) section of the Board is responsible for enforcement of the Board’s Rules of Professional Ethics and Conduct. CPAs who violate those rules may be subject to disciplinary action by the Board. The Board’s enforcement processes are not intended to be an alternative to civil or criminal court. The Board does not have the authority to award damages and does not adjudicate contractual disputes, fee disputes, criminal charges, or other matters that are best left to the court system.

Contacting the Professional Standards Staff

Frank Trainor,  Staff Attorney (919) 715-9185

Julia L. Mayo, Specialist (919) 715-2455

Jeffrey Tankard, Specialist (919) 715-8413

Mary Beth Britt, Specialist (919) 733-1424

Mailing Address
Professional Standards
NC State Board of CPA Examiners
PO Box 12827
Raleigh, NC 27605-2827

Fax Number
Attn.: Professional Standards
(919) 733-4209

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

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 as a CPA 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 (e.g., inactive, retired, lapsed, etc.).

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 in this state, 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.

Publication of Consent Orders and Board Orders

Under 21 NCAC 08I .0101(d), the Board may publish all actions resulting in an Order, a Board Order, or a Consent Order in the Activity Review. 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.

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