Accounting

Followup on false complaint by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Office of General Counsel

I posted a message here a few months ago after being notified by a Pennsylvania government investigator that an employee of the Pennsylvania Board of Certified Public Accountants accused me of practicing public accounting without a license. I was told that I did not have the right to know the nature of the accusation, the identity of the accuser, what triggered the complaint or what evidence they may have to support the accusation. Recently I received a closing letter from the Office of General Counsel, Adam J. Williams, prosecuting attorney, that said in part:

“While the result of our investigation did not support filing formal disciplinary action at this time, the investigation did call into question whether you was in violation of Section 12(a) of the CPA Law by working from a home office in Pennsylvania”. (Grammatical error as written).

The letter continues to say that I am not entitled to question the accuser, the investigator, and may not have any access to the information held by the prosecutor that I can only assume was the basis for this false complaint.

First, I am upset because the accusation is false. While it is true that all of my relatives live in Pennsylvania, that I visit them as often as my work schedule allows, and that I work from their homes while visiting them there in Pennsylvania, it is not true that I have ever performed any public accounting work while working from a relative’s home in Pennsylvania.

Secondly, the ability of a CPA to practice accounting in another state is governed by the laws of each state that are based on standards promulgated and publicized to practitioners by the AICPA. Although we recognize that the AICPA is not the source of legal authority, we do rely on the AICPA for direction on CPA mobility through their compilation of the laws f the various states. The web site www.cpamobility.org provides the information that I (and most practitioners to my knowledge) information. There is no indication that am aware (especially without access to the complaint information) that I violated the mobility rules. I am properly licensed to practice public accounting in my primary state and I carefully consider the mobility rules when working in another state.

Finally, the fact is that 98+% (more than 49 out of 50 hours in a typical workweek) of my work is not public accounting work and is outside of the jurisdiction of the CPA Board. In other words, I estimate that I easily put more than 50 hours into working for other non-CPA businesses (this type of online blog writing, aquaculture development and other business support services) for every one hour spent on public accounting. The large majority of my public accounting work was performed while working for another Pennsylvania licensed CPA firm. It seems as if the Office of General Counsel was looking for a ‘needle in a haystack’ of some isolated wor where I might have worked from a Pennsylvania home office. (Again, I don’t know because I’m not entitled to see the evidence).

The larger concern surrounds the whole concept of having to answer to a false charge, not being able to face my accuser or see what false evidence has been accumulated by the government is appalling. This feels like ‘big brother’ government at its sleaziest.

It feels important for me to assert that simply because a CPA has an active lifestyle, works from various locations for different clients in different industries, and may sometimes work from home, does not mean that this person is in violation of CPA licensing laws.

 

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