March 30, 2017
James M. Holland, CPA
Chair, Virginia Board of Accountancy
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 402
Richmond, VA 23233
Dear Mr. Holland:
The Executive Committee of the Virginia Society of CPAs (VSCPA) has reviewed the Virginia Board of Accountancy’s (VBOA) proposed revisions to the guidelines related to penalties for continuing professional education (CPE) violations. We understand these guidelines are intended to be used as staff guidance in offering consent orders for CPE violations, a responsibility the VBOA has delegated to the VBOA’s Enforcement Division staff. Since these revised guidelines will influence how the VBOA interacts with our members, we are providing the following comments for consideration.
First, what constitutes an offense is not clearly defined in these guidelines. Specifically, it is unclear whether the penalties associated with second and third offenses assume that the prior offense was the same deficiency or if any deficiency would result in a second/third offense penalty being applied upon a subsequent deficiency. This should be clarified for transparency purposes.
Second, it is unclear whether the compounding penalties identified in Section III may also be applied as standalone penalties. It may be appropriate to separate this section into one for penalties that can be applied as compounding or standalone and a separate section for penalties that would only be applied as compounding penalties.
Third, we are concerned about the deficiency related to false certifications on renewal applications. Specifically, while we understand that the VBOA rarely denies education submitted for CPE as long as appropriate documentation is provided, the possibility that this could happen still exists. Because the VBOA does not approve CPE providers or classes prior to an audit of a licensee, this could put a licensee in the position of believing they are fully in compliance when they may not be. Additionally, this penalty could discourage self-reporting if a licensee discovers that they are short CPE after renewing. We recommend revisiting the inclusion of this penalty in self-reporting situations and situations where the licensee made a good faith effort to be in compliance with CPE requirements.
Fourth, there are penalties for both failing to respond within 30 days and failing to update contact information within 30 days. It seems unlikely that it would come the VBOA’s attention that a licensee failed to update his contact information timely unless there was also a failure to respond within 30 days. Staff has indicated that these two penalties would not be applied together, but that is not articulated in the current draft of the penalties. Additionally, it seems excessive to penalize someone for failing to update their contact information when that would most likely only come to light in situations where an additional punishable offense was committed. We recommend removing this penalty for failure to update contact information within 30 days entirely.
We recognize that these guidelines are intended to be used for consent orders and that licensees still have the right to reject the consent order and request additional consideration and review. However, we are concerned that a licensee may not fully understand the process and may sign the consent order without being aware that there are other options. Therefore, we feel the aforementioned clarifications and modifications are important to ensuring that reasonable and appropriate penalties are applied for most situations from the outset.
We sincerely thank you for the opportunity to comment on this issue of importance to Virginia CPAs, and we appreciate your consideration of our concerns. If you have questions or would like to discuss any of these comments further, please feel free to contact me or VSCPA Vice President of Advocacy Emily Walker at (804) 612-9428 or [email protected].
Stephanie Peters, CAE
President & CEO
Virginia Society of CPAs