Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I obtain an application for licensure?
There are three ways in which an application for licensure can be obtained:
Is a United States Social Security Number required?
Yes. Prior to issuance of a California CPA license, all applicants must provide a United States Social Security Number (SSN). Section 30 of California Business and Professions Code prohibits the issuance or renewal of a license by a licensing board if the applicant fails to disclose or is unable to provide a United States SSN. California law does not permit the CBA to make any exceptions to the SSN requirement.
Should the CBA determine that the applicant has met all licensing requirements except for the United States SSN, the CBA will send written notification that the applicant has one year in which to provide a United States SSN. If no United States SSN is provided within that period, the application will be deemed abandoned pursuant to Section 71 of the CBA Regulations, and the application fee will be forfeited. To reapply for licensure, a new Application for Certified Public Accountant License and the application fee must be submitted. In addition, all requirements in effect at the time of reapplication must be met.
Is an ethics examination required?
Yes. However, it is not necessary to take the ethics examination until you are prepared to apply for the CPA license. Section 10 of the CBA Regulations requires that the ethics examination be passed no sooner than two years prior to the CBA's consideration of the application for licensure.
Which ethics examination is acceptable for initial licensure?
The only ethics examination accepted by the CBA is the California course in Professional Ethics for CPAs (PETH) available from the California CPA Education Foundation, P.O. Box 44364, San Francisco, California 94144, (800) 922-5272. You may also fax the California CPA Education Foundation at (650) 802-6214. An order form, to be mailed directly to the California CPA Education Foundation, is enclosed in the licensure application package mailed from the CBA. Applicants obtaining the licensure application from the CBA website should contact the California CPA Education Foundation directly at (800) 922-5272.
The examination is a self-study course and must be returned to the California CPA Education Foundation for grading. Each applicant must indicate on the ethics exam answer sheet that the CBA is to be notified of the passing grade. Key Topics include:
- Ethics in business
- Basic concepts and philosophy of professional conduct
- Code of Professional Conduct
- Independence, integrity and objectivity
- Interpretations and Securities and Exchange Commission rules
- Commissions and fees
- Form of practice and name
- Advertising and solicitation
- Tax Services
- California Accountancy Act and Board of CBA Regulations
Is a criminal conviction disclosure form required?
Yes. All applicants are required to complete a Criminal Conviction Disclosure Form. A conviction includes the initial plea, verdict, or finding of guilt, plea of no contest, or pronouncement of sentence by a trial court, even if that conviction may not be final or sentence actually imposed, until appeals are exhausted. You must include any conviction that arose from military service; any in which the imposition of execution of sentence was suspended, any which arose as a result of a failure to appear; an order of rehabilitation was entered; any record of conviction which was expunged, or a pardon was granted. Only minor traffic infractions may be excluded.
Is fingerprinting required for licensure?
Yes. Pursuant to Section 144 of the California Business and Professions Code, applicants for the California CPA license are required to furnish their fingerprints for purposes of conducting a criminal history record check with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Fingerprinting Packet Request form can be downloaded here.
Applicants residing in California must use Live Scan, which will expedite the clearance process. However, due to the time required to process non-Live Scan fingerprint cards, applicants residing outside of California are encouraged to submit completed fingerprint cards at least four months prior to completing the experience requirements. An application for licensure will not be considered complete until the criminal history record check is completed, and all other required documentation is received.
Fingerprinting provides the CBA with vital information upon which to base licensing decisions. Under Section 475 of the California Business and Professions Code, an applicant may be denied licensure based on the following:
- Knowingly making a false statement of fact, or knowingly omitting to state a material fact, in an application for licensure.
- Conviction of a crime.
- Commission of any act involving dishonesty, fraud, or deceit with the intent to substantially benefit himself or another, or substantially injure another.
- Commission of any act which, if performed by a licentiate of the business or profession in question, would be grounds for suspension or revocation of the license.
Once applicant fingerprints are submitted to the DOJ, the CBA receives subsequent criminal conviction information on the applicant or licensee. This is another means of providing consumers with ongoing protection, even after the applicant is licensed.
The DOJ has implemented Applicant Live Scan, a system for the electronic submission of fingerprints and the subsequent automated background check. Live Scan is available in California only and replaces the process of recording an individual's fingerprints using ink and a standard 8" x 8" fingerprint card. Live Scan is inkless fingerprinting by which the prints are electronically submitted to the DOJ. Digitizing the fingerprints enables the automatic transfer of the fingerprint image data in combination with personal information to the DOJ computers in a matter of seconds, instead of the days required to send hard copy fingerprint cards through the U.S. mail. The DOJ also coordinates other processing resulting from the automated submission of fingerprints, including forwarding the fingerprints to the FBI.
While hard copy fingerprint cards may take up to four months to process, 95 percent of the electronic fingerprints are completed in three days or less.
A list of Applicant Live Scan Sites may be found by visiting the Department of Justice's website at http://ag.ca.gov/fingerprints/publications/contact.php.
Applicants must use the cards furnished by the CBA. No other cards will be accepted. Fingerprint cards must be taken to a qualified technician trained in fingerprint-taking techniques. Some law enforcement agencies will provide this service, and a fee may be charged. In addition, telephone yellow page directories may list fingerprinting services. Also, some notary publics provide this service.
Do I need to submit transcripts?
Yes. Transcripts detailing completion of all required courses and the conferral of a baccalaureate or higher degree must be sent directly to the CBA from the college(s) or university. If the examination was taken in California prior to May 2000, it is possible no transcript was submitted or the transcript on file is "unofficial" or "issued to student" and, therefore, requires an official transcript be submitted. If official transcripts were submitted to the CBA during the exam process it may not be necessary to have additional transcripts submitted. Type B and C applicants must have transcripts submitted directly to the CBA from the college(s) or university.
How much does it cost to apply for the license?
The following is a list of options and fees under which you will be applying for licensure.
What if my check does not clear the bank?
If an applicant's check is returned by the bank, the applicant is responsible for the entire licensing fee (application fee and fingerprint fee, if applicable). The fee will be assessed immediately upon discovery of a stop payment or if a check is returned. In addition, the applicant will be charged a $25 fee for returned checks. An application for licensure will not be processed until all fees have been paid in full.
NOTE: The CBA accepts only checks issued by a U.S.-affiliated bank with the Federal Reserve Bank account number printed on the check.
Do I need to notify the CBA of an address or name change?
Yes. To keep you informed of the status of your application, it is important that you notify the CBA of any address or name change. Address and name change forms may be obtained by visiting our website at www.cba.ca.gov. All name and address changes must be signed and be provided to the CBA in writing within 30 days of the change. Failure to provide a current mailing address or change in name may delay the processing of your application.
How do I know the status of my application?
The CBA takes the following steps to keep you informed of the status of your application:
For your privacy protection, CBA staff are not authorized to provide information regarding the receipt of or status of your application or documents by fax, e-mail or telephone.
- Upon receipt of the application, the CBA will send you an acknowledgment card that your application has been received. The acknowledgement card is included in application packages mailed directly from the CBA to the applicant. It is the applicant's responsibility to self-address and return the acknowledgment card to the CBA with the application for licensure. The acknowledgement card is not available on the CBA's website. Therefore, CBA staff will address the acknowledgment card for applicants submitting an application downloaded from the CBA website.
- The CBA will mail a status letter following staff's initial review of the application. This letter will advise you of any outstanding documents required to complete your application.
- If your application is not yet completed, the CBA will send a second status letter advising you of any remaining documents still outstanding approximately 60 days following receipt of the initial application.
- Applications with outstanding documents following issuance of the 60-day status letter will be placed in a pending status. If subsequent documentation is submitted to the CBA, the pending application will be reactivated, and an additional status letter will be sent.
- When all documents have been received to complete your application, the CBA will mail a letter advising your file is complete and is in the review process.
How long does the application review process take?
The review process will take approximately 4 to 6 weeks from the date the application file is complete. If your application is approved for licensure, the CBA will mail a letter with information necessary to receive your license number.
When is my application considered abandoned and my fee forfeited?
If an applicant fails to complete the application process within two years of its original submission, or within one year of notification by the CBA of any deficiency in the application, pursuant to Section 71(c) of the CBA Regulations, the application fee will be forfeited, and the application will be deemed abandoned. The CBA will retain all documents submitted.
Once an application has been abandoned, to become licensed as a CPA in California, the applicant will need to submit a new Application for Certified Public Accountant License, the application fee, and meet all requirements in effect at the time of reapplication. Transcripts, evaluations, examination grades, and Certificates of Experience previously submitted to the CBA will be retained on file.
What is required after my license is approved?
Upon approval of your California CPA License application, you will be required to pay an initial license fee. The initial license fee must be paid in addition to the application fee. The initial license fee is based on the date of licensure, the applicant's birth month and year and first expiration date of the new license. Upon receipt of the initial license fee, a congratulatory letter will be mailed to you with your CPA license number and your, suitable for framing, CPA wall certificate. You may not engage in the practice of public accountancy or use the CPA designation until you have received your CPA license number from the CBA.
When will I receive the wall certificate?
Each applicant will receive a CPA wall certificate, suitable for framing, approximately 15 days after payment of the initial CPA license fee. If a CPA wall certificate has been lost, stolen, or damaged, a duplicate will be issued upon submission of the Wall Certificate/Pocket ID Replacement Request and payment of the required fee.
How do I appeal a decision or action of CBA Committees or staff?
Pursuant to California Code of Regulations, Title 16, Division 1, Section 49:
(a) Any applicant who is aggrieved by any action of any of the board's committees or its staff may appeal from such action to the board. The appeal shall be filed within 24 months of the action being appealed or the mailing of written notification from the board, whichever is later. Two signed copies of the appeal shall be mailed or delivered to the office of the State Board of Accountancy. The appeal shall contain the following information:
(1) The name, business address and residence address of the applicant making the appeal.
(2) The action being appealed from and the date of any written notification from the board.
(3) A summary of the basis for the appeal, including any information which the applicant believes was not given adequate consideration by the committee or staff.
(b) The board will consider only appeals based on information previously considered by its committees or staff. If the applicant wishes to submit for consideration additional evidence or information not previously submitted to the board's committee or staff, such additional information should be submitted directly to the committee or staff within the request that its previous action be reconsidered. An appeal based on evidence or information not previously submitted to the committee or staff will be referred by the board to the appropriate committee or staff for further consideration.