A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a person who has met the requirements of Chapter 4701 of the Ohio Revised Code (the accountancy law) and who holds a valid license to practice public accounting by the Accountancy Board of Ohio.
A Public Accountant (PA) is a person who has received a public accountant registration from the Accountancy Board of Ohio and who holds a valid license to practice. Public accountant registrations are no longer issued by the Board.
All references hereafter to "Certified Public Accountants" or "CPAs" refer also to "Public Accountants" or "PAs."
Only persons who are licensed can legally call themselves a Certified Public Accountant. In addition, those Certified Public Accountants who do not comply with the Board's continuing education requirements must use the term "inactive" after each use of the CPA designation.
As practitioners, CPAs provide accounting, auditing, tax, financial planning, and management consulting services. Word-of-mouth referrals from individuals who have used the services of a particular CPA are probably the best selection criteria for a CPA.
When you choose a CPA:
Check the license status with the Accountancy Board on our Web site (in the License Lookup section of the home page. Specifically, make sure the license is current, and check whether there have been any disciplinary actions against the licensee.
Ask if the licensee currently complies with the Board's continuing education requirements, and how long he or she has been licensed. Also, you may ask what type of continuing education the licensee has taken recently.
Interview the prospective CPA either by telephone or in person. A common inquiry is "what type of accounting work do you typically perform?" Compare the CPA's experience to your service needs.
Ask about the office hours of the CPA, determine whether the office is open year-round, and ask if the CPA is available to take telephone inquiries.
Does the CPA firm participate in a peer review or quality review program? If yes, ask the year and month – and the result – of the most recent review.
It is important to make certain before any work is done by the CPA that you receive an engagement letter detailing the work to be performed for you, who will specifically be performing the work, and the cost of the services. An engagement letter will clarify the duties and responsibilities of the CPA, and it will be a written agreement that can help all parties concerned should any problems arise.
The Board receives many complaints from consumers against CPAs that allege the CPA performed services either of poor quality or incorrectly, and in the majority of these cases there was no engagement letter that clearly described the agreement between the consumer and the CPA. As a result, both the consumer and the CPA can offer only verbal recollections of the engagement's scope to the Board, and the Board is limited in its statutory ability to discipline CPAs for substandard work.
The Ohio Society of CPAs has a referral service. You may wish to consult this source of information as part of your search.
Special Message For Ohio Consumers who are thinking about selecting a
Certified Public Accountant or Public Accountant on the Internet
It is now possible to purchase public accounting services on the Internet. While this appears to be a convenient way to access a broad range of services, it is important to "do your homework" before selecting a practitioner. Keep in mind that because Internet practice involves no face-to-face client contact, it may be easier for unqualified persons to masquerade as licensees. Also, remember a practitioner offering services on the Internet may be physically located anywhere in the world. To provide CPA services to consumers in Ohio, a practitioner should be licensed as a Certified Public Accountant or Public Accountant by the Accountancy Board of Ohio, or must be practicing in Ohio incident to the licensee's home-state practice under Section 4701.15 of the accountancy law. A licensee practicing in Ohio under a home-state license must be a currently licensed CPA in the other state. Check our list of Accountancy Boards for further information about other accountancy boards.
The following information from the Accountancy Board of Ohio should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation to purchase public accounting services on the Internet. Rather, these tips are offered simply as consumer protection suggestions in advance of contemplating the selection of such an Internet practitioner.
Keep in mind that if you encounter a problem with an accountant who is not licensed by the Accountancy Board of Ohio, the Board probably will not be able to assist you.
Check the status of the license by using our License Lookup, or call the Accountancy Board of Ohio at (614) 466-4135. If the CPA lives in another state, check our list of Accountancy Boards. Most state accountancy boards have a list of licensees on their websites. Check to see if the licensee has a current license to practice in the licensee's home state. Also inquire whether there have been any disciplinary actions against the practitioner.
Interview the practitioner either by e-mail or by telephone to ensure that he or she can provide the services you need. Inquire about procedures for providing and receiving information. Is the practitioner concerned about timeliness, accuracy, and confidentiality? If you are interested in income tax preparation services, ask if the practitioner can be reached later in the year if you need help with an audit.
Verify that the information about the firm on its Web site is accurate. Does the firm provide the same information when you make contact by telephone? Does the address on the Web site match the address you received from either the Accountancy Board of Ohio or other appropriate accountancy board?
It is of primary importance to make certain that before any work is done by the CPA or PA, you receive an engagement letter or other written documentation detailing the work to be performed for you, who specifically will be performing the work, and the cost of services.
If you are using the Internet to obtain a directory of Certified Public Accountants or Public Accountants, keep in mind that a directory listing does not ensure that the practitioner is well qualified or licensed. You still need to ask the appropriate questions and check the status of the practitioner’s license.