This past few weeks I learned more than I care to know about CPA mobility; that is, the ability of a CPA to provide services in a different state than the state where I am licensed. We should hope as professionals and as consumers that this is a clear and easy-to-understand issue. It is not. This is a partial list of things I learned, not in any particular order and not necessarily what I had hoped for:
- The intended purpose of the CPAmobility.org project is largeley disrupted by state revenue considerations that require firm registration, which, co-incidently, require individual professional licensing. The circular legal framework makes CPA mobility largely impractical.
- I’ve noticed that in informal communications, state accountancy board staff in two states and revenue department officials gave opinions that differed from the information posted at CPAmobility.org. This creates additional risk of offering these services.
- We need to pay attention to the issues surrounding the concept of nexus. This will continue to be a hot issue for years to come.
- Working from a home address in the evening that is in a different state than my daytime work location can trigger nexus. This is a problem in today’s fast-paced world when I often work day and night and sometimes in three different states in a single day. Additionally, I save telephone work for the drives between states. I don’t really track exactly what work I do where. According to the nexus theorists, this could be a problem.
- Interstate tax services that does not involve physical presence in another state does not trigger licensing requirements or tax obligations.
- I should not use a postal address in another state even if it is just a temporary physical mail pickup arrangement.
- A CPA like me with a transient lifestyle and without a stable traditional brick and mortar home and business building can expect this issue to resurface from time to time.
- My personal goal to replace my Sandy-damaged home/office trailer with a movable RV may prevent me from suffering future storm damage but could further aggravate the nexus issue. I’ll worry about that when and if it happens.
- Whenever I consider any work outside of the state where I am licensed that may be considered to be public accounting (other than tax work handled remotely), I need to check the specific state requirements and document the steps taken to verify them. Differing opinions on the state requirements are likely, and I should document how those differences were resolved.
- The possibility of unexpected additional state requirements and fees should be addressed in the engagement letter and reflected in the fee agreement. My standard engagement letter will be amended to reflect that a change in price of service is possible in the unlikely event that a state later asserts a fee that differs from the documented expectations.
- When advertising services on the Internet where the audience is likely to include people in different states that the state where I am licensed, and the material includes discussion of topics of public accountancy, then the published material should not include the words “Certified Public Accountant” or “CPA”.
- It is OK under all states’ laws to use the abbreviation “CPA” following my name in the by-line of articles, multi-media and live presentations regardless of whether the material discusses the topic of public accountancy as long as it is not a solicitation of public accountancy work.
- Likewise, it is OK to use the abbreviation “CPA” following my name on a business card or personal calling card that may be used in all states as long as the card does not solicit public accounting services. For example, I will not use a card that says “Certified Public Accountant” as a description of the business or services. But while traveling out-of-state it is OK to provide a card that says only “Tony Novak, CPA, MBA, MT” with contact information and no firm name or service mentioned.
- A disclosure statement will be added to all my web sites and social media platforms that the opinions offered on the site are not a solicitation of public accountancy services.
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