Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are complaints filed against a licensee public information?
No. Complaints are not public information. However, if a complaint results in a citation or enforcement action, the citation or enforcement action is public information.
Are CBA citations and enforcement actions public information?
Yes. An enforcement action may result from the CBA filing an accusation seeking to revoke or suspend a license or certificate.
In lieu of enforcement action, the CBA may issue a citation for violation of various provisions of the Accountancy Act or Regulations. A citation is not enforcement action. Upon request, the CBA will confirm a licensee's compliance or noncompliance with the citation. There is no time limit for providing information on an enforcement action or issuance of a citation.
I prepared income tax returns for a former client and provided him the original returns for filing with the taxing agencies and a copy for his records. He is now requesting an additional copy of the returns. Assuming that I still have copies, am I required to provide this former client with an additional copy of the income tax returns?
A licensee who was engaged and prepared income tax returns for a client and provided the client with the completed original and a copy of the income tax returns, as defined under Internal Revenue Code Section 6107(a), is not required to provide additional copies under applicable California accountancy statutes and regulations. However, licensees are required to return tax records provided by the client and provide a copy of the licensee's working papers that support information on the tax returns.
Under Business and Professions Code Section 5037:
(b) A licensee shall furnish to his or her client or former client, upon request and reasonable notice:
(1) A copy of the licensee's working papers to the extent that those working papers include records that would ordinarily constitute part of the client's records and are not otherwise available to the client.
(2) Any accounting or other records belonging to, or obtained from or on behalf of, the client which the licensee removed from the client's premises or received for the client's account. The licensee may make and retain copies of documents of the client when they form the basis for work done by him or her.
Will I be in violation of any of the accountancy statutes or regulations if I allow my CPA license to expire, and I continue to practice public accounting as a CPA?
Yes. Business and Professions Code Section 5050 requires that certified public accountants and public accountants licensed by the CBA maintain a current, active license to practice public accountancy, as defined under Section 5051.
Under current law, an individual's CPA or PA license is subject to renewal every two years, on the last day of the licensee's birth month. In addition, an expired license may be renewed at any time within five years after expiration. If the license is not renewed, it will be canceled by the CBA on the next day following the end of the five-year period.
When a license expires, practice rights end. No certified public accountant or public accountant with an expired license can engage in the practice of public accountancy in California.
If a licensee continues to practice with an expired license, and the matter comes to the attention of the CBA, the licensee will be subject to an enforcement action.
Restatement Reporting Obligations
If reissuing an audit report on financial statements that includes the correction of an error in financial statements previously issued to the client, or adjustment to opening balances due to errors in previous period, what are my reporting obligations under the California Accountancy Act?
Business and Professions Code Section 5036 (b), effective January 1, 2003, requires a licensee to report to the CBA in writing any restatement of a financial statement and related disclosures by a client audited by the licensee.
A new, related regulation effective January 23, 2004, (CBA Regulations Section 59) was adopted to further define the reporting requirement under Section 5063(b).
Under Section 59, a licensee who issues a report on a client's restated financial statements shall report to the CBA any restatement of a financial statement reporting the correction of any error in a previously issued financial statement of a client that is:
- A publicly traded company required to file a tax return with the California Franchise Tax Board.
- A governmental agency located in California when the restatement(s) exceeds the planning materiality used in conjunction with the current year audit.
- A charitable organization registered by the Office of the General's Registry of Charitable Trusts, when the restatement has resulted in the filing of an amended or superseding Internal Revenue Service Form 990 or 990PF.
The report required under Section 5063 shall be made by the licensee issuing the report on the restatement even if the licensee did not perform the original audit. The report must be provided to the Board within 30 days of issuance of the restatement, be signed by the licensee, and set forth the facts constituting the reportable event.
Section 59 requires that the report of restated financial statements for publicly-traded companies and governmental agencies must include copies of the original and the restated financial statements. The report involving a charitable organization should include only those portions of the original and amended Forms 990 or 990PF related to the reissued financial statements.
Section 54.1 - Disclosure of Confidential Information
If a CPA uses an external service provider (separate legal entity) to process confidential information such as tax returns, will written permission from the client be required?
Yes, if confidential information is disclosed to an outside third party, written permission from the client is required.
What constitutes written permission?
Any reasonable written document that acknowledges the client is aware that the information may be disclosed and confirms in writing the client's permission for the disclosure. The approval always should be secured in advance of the disclosure. Written consent may be through an engagement letter or in a separate consent agreement. Written permission includes faxes and emails.
Can the written permission be obtained through the use of an engagement letter that discloses the anticipated use of the external service provider?
Yes, an engagement letter signed and dated by the client could serve as written permission provided it complies with the requirements of Section 54.1.
If software such as tax or accounting software is typically used wholly within the CPA firm's office, but confidential client information needs to be disclosed to an external technician or software vendor in order to resolve software problems, will written permission from the client be required?
Yes, written permission from the client is required.
If a CPA anticipates that he or his external service provider will disclose confidential client information to persons or entities outside the U.S., will the fact of anticipated disclosure require specific informed written consent of the client?
Yes. Disclosure of confidential information to persons or entities outside the U.S. will require written client notification and permission, even if the information will be going to persons within the same firm.
CPAs who use external service providers should always inquire regarding the provider's transfer of information to persons or entities outside the U.S. If it is anticipated that this will occur (CPA or external service provider will disclose), under Section 5063.3 and Section 54.1, the CPA must inform the client in writing and obtain the client's written permission for the disclosure.
Would written permission from the client be required if a CPA "stored" confidential client documents or information on an Internet file server?
No, written permission would not be required because the documents or information are being stored with an outside service provider, rather than being disclosed.
If a client telephones his or her CPA and requests that the CPA provide confidential client information such as a tax return to the client's bank, is written permission from the client required?
No, under Section 54.1(a)(7), a client may request the CPA to disclose the client's confidential information to a designated person or entity without providing written permission for the disclosure.