California Board of Accountancy
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Special Message For California Consumers
Who Are Thinking About Selecting
A Certified Public Accountant

It is now possible to purchase public accounting services on the Internet. While this appears to be a convenient way to access a broad range of services, it is important to "do your homework" before selecting a practitioner. Keep in mind that because Internet practice involves no face-to-face client contact, it may be easier for unqualified persons to masquerade as licensees. Also, remember a practitioner offering services on the Internet may be physically located anywhere in the world.

The following information from the California Board of Accountancy should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation to purchase public accounting services on the Internet. Rather, these tips are offered simply as consumer protection suggestions in advance of contemplating the selection of such an Internet practitioner.

  • Keep in mind that if you encounter a problem with an accountant who is not licensed by the California Board of Accountancy, the Board probably will not be able to assist you.

  • Check the status of the license by using our Web License Lookup or call the California Board of Accountancy at (916) 263-3680. Make sure the practitioner holds a current California license with active practice rights. Also inquire whether there have been any enforcement actions against the practitioner.

  • Interview the practitioner either by e-mail 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 help with an audit.

  • Verify that the information about the firm on its website is accurate. Does the firm provide the same information when you make contact by telephone? Does the address on the website match the address you received from the California Board of Accountancy?

  • It is of primary importance to make certain that before any work is done by the CPA or PA, you receive an engagement letter or other written documentation detailing the work to be performed for you, who specifically will be performing the work, and the cost of services.

  • If you are using the Internet to obtain a directory of Certified Public Accountants or Public Accountants, keep in mind 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.

Please visit Selecting a CPA or PA for more information.