California Board of Accountancy

A Brief History of the California Board of Accountancy

From its inception in 1901, by statute the California Board of Accountancy (CBA) has been charged with regulating the practice of accountants the public could rely upon as being competent. The original law prohibited anyone from falsely claiming to be a certified accountant, a mandate which exists today.

The standards for licensure always have been high. The first accountants certified by the CBA in 1901 were required to sit for a written examination, including questions on Theory of Accounts, Practical Accounting, Auditing and Commerce Law, with a passage rate of at least seventy percent for each section. Applicants were required to provide a notarized affidavit certifying at least three years accounting experience, at least two years of which must have been in the office of a certified public accountant performing actual accounting work. In addition, each applicant was required to submit three references testifying to his character, in the form of a "Certificate of Moral Character." Today's mandate that each CBA licensee pass an ethics course finds its antecedent in the CBA's original requirement of this certificate.

Sixty-five applicants were certified as licensees between 1901 and 1906. On April 18, 1906, the great San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed all the records of the original board, including the documents of the CBA's first 65 licensees. In 1907, the CBA's Secretary-Treasurer, Mr. T. E. Atkinson, meticulously reconstructed those records by corresponding with each licensee from his new Market Street address. Today, thanks to Mr. Atkinson's diligence, the CBA retains the papers of its original 65 licensees in its archival material.

From the beginning of the 20th Century, consumer protection has been the undertaking of the CBA. A December 1, 1913, letter to Governor Hiram Johnson signed by Secretary-Treasurer Atkinson states, "For the further protection of the business public, a statute should be enacted regulating the practice of public accounting so as to require all persons holding themselves forth as being qualified to obtain from this board the certificate of certified public accountant. Public accounting is now generally recognized in business to be of such importance that a standard should be set by public authority and no one allowed to practice without proper credentials."

In 1929, the Legislature placed the California Board of Accountancy within the Department of Professional and Vocational Standards. In 1945, the Accountancy Act was substantially revised. In 1971, the Legislature located the California Board of Accountancy within the newly-created Department of Consumer Affairs. Shortly thereafter, the CBA moved its office from San Francisco to Sacramento.