How do I . . .
The VBOA’s statutory authority is in Chapter 44 of Title 54.1 of the Code of Virginia (§ 54.1-4400 et seq).
Pursuant to § 54.1-4402.G., Code of Virginia, “The Board shall take such actions as may be authorized by this chapter to ensure that persons using the CPA title in Virginia and firms providing attest services or compilation services to persons or entities located in Virginia adhere to the standards of conduct and practice in § 54.1-4413.3 and regulations promulgated by the Board.” Specific powers and duties of the VBOA related to the initiation and receipt of complaints can be found in § 54.1-4403, Code of Virginia.
The VBOA investigates complaints against Virginia licensees, expired licensees or non-licensees using the CPA title or performing services in Virginia restricted to CPAs.
The VBOA does not have any authority over non-CPA accountants or bookkeepers (unless they are using the CPA title or are performing services in Virginia restricted to CPAs). For complaints against accountants or bookkeepers, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The VBOA’s Enforcement Division:
- Investigate complaints against licensees and unlicensed individuals that are within the jurisdiction of the VBOA
- Coordinate investigations of matters with other agencies that involve significant loss or harm to Virginia citizens
- Increase adherence to licensing requirements and professional standards by CPAs and public accounting firms
- Resolve VBOA enforcement matters and adjudicating complaint cases in a timely manner
- Maintain the confidentiality of information obtained during investigations
- Monitor licensees disciplined by the VBOA
- Publicize disciplinary actions necessary to protect the public
In carrying out its mission, the VBOA is responsible for investigating complaints against licensed Virginia CPAs and CPA firms, and expired licensees or non-licensees using the CPA title or performing services in Virginia restricted to CPAs.
Once a complaint is received by VBOA staff it is reviewed by the Enforcement Division. If probable cause exists to initiate an investigation, the investigation process begins. Depending upon the type of complaint and/or violation of statute or regulation, the case may be administered by VBOA staff or referred to the Board’s Enforcement Committee for resolution.
If sanctions are deemed appropriate, a potential resolution of the complaint is proposed in writing to the CPA, CPA firm or unlicensed individual in a consent order. If the individual signs the order, agreeing fully to the terms and conditions, the order is then brought before the full Board for approval. The Board may accept or reject the order in whole or in part.
If the individual chooses not to sign the order, he/she may elect to be heard in an administrative Informal Fact-Finding (IFF) conference before the Enforcement Committee (Administrative Process Act, § 2.2-4019). The Enforcement Committee will review the case and present the presiding officers recommendations to the full Board for consideration. The Board may accept or reject the recommendations in whole or in part. The CPA, CPA firm or unlicensed individual has 30 days to appeal the Board’s final case decision to the courts.
All open cases are deemed confidential and are not made available to the public. However, the public may request information on a closed case in accordance with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
For more information on the Enforcement Process, visit the VBOA Adjudication Manual found on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website.
Pursuant to § 54.1-4409.1, Code of Virginia, a person must be licensed in order to use the CPA title in Virginia or must meet the substantial equivalency provisions if licensed in another state in accordance with § 54.1-4411, Code of Virginia. Additionally, there are licensing requirements for firms that provide attest services or compilation services to persons or entities located in Virginia in accordance with § 54.1-4412.1, Code of Virginia.
Unlicensed activity occurs when an individual is using the CPA title in Virginia without a valid license, or when a non-CPA (individual or firm) is performing services in Virginia restricted to CPAs.
Examples of unlicensed activity may include:
- A Virginia CPA who has allowed their license to expire for more than one-year and continues to practice
- A non-CPA who is performing services in Virginia restricted to CPAs
- A CPA who is licensed in another state, moves to Virginia, the principal place of business is in Virginia and continues to practice in Virginia
- An individual who has passed all four sections of the CPA exam, uses the CPA title in Virginia, but has never applied for licensure in Virginia
Pursuant to § 54.1-4414, Code of Virginia, neither (i) a person who does not hold a Virginia license or who does not meet the requirements to use the CPA title in Virginia under the substantial equivalency provisions of § 54.1-4411 nor (ii) an entity that does not meet the criteria prescribed by subdivision D 1 of § 54.1-4412.1 shall:
- Practice public accounting
- Claim to hold a license to use the CPA title
- Make any other claim of licensure, registration, or approval related to the preparation of financial statements that is false or misleading
- Use the CPA title
- Refer to any of the standard-setting authorities listed in the standards of conduct and practice in subdivisions 5 and 6 of § 54.1-4413.3 or refer to or use any of the terminology prescribed by those authorities for reporting on financial statements, in any form or manner of communication about services provided to persons or entities located in Virginia.
Individuals in violation of prohibited acts will be subject to investigation and potential disciplinary action.
The Board may impose penalties in accordance with § 54.1-4413.4, Code of Virginia. Penalties may range from a permanent reprimand, written essays, accelerated peer reviews, satisfactory completion of additional or specific continuing professional education, suspension or revocation of a Virginia license, loss of privilege to perform services in Virginia, and/or a monetary penalty up to $100,000 for each violation.
How long does an investigation take?
Each case is investigated based on the specific facts and circumstances. The type and difficulty of the complaint, cooperation of the respondent, work load and required assistance all factor in to the length of the investigation and resolution time. The Board’s goal is to close a case within 180 days from the date it is opened.
Does the VBOA communicate the status of an open investigation with the complainant/public?
The complainant is notified whether probable cause was found to open a case. Updates are not provided during the investigation, unless additional information is needed or if the complainant is offered the opportunity to appear as a witness before the Enforcement Committee or the full Board. The complainant is notified of the final resolution upon case closure. All closed complaints are available to the public in accordance with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (excluding Confidential Consent Agreements).
Does the individual or firm under investigation have the opportunity to respond to a complaint?
When the VBOA receives an official complaint, the Enforcement Division determines if there is probable cause to open an investigation. If an investigation is opened, the VBOA notifies the complainant and respondent in writing. The respondent has 30 days to reply in writing to the complaint.
Is a complainant entitled to damages if the accused is sanctioned?
While the Board can discipline those who violate the respective Code of Virginia statutes and/or Board Regulations, the Board has no authority to award damages to any individuals.
What types of penalties can the Board impose?
Penalties the Board may impose can be found in § 54.1-4413.4, Code of Virginia.
How long does an investigation against a CPA or CPA firm remain on record with the VBOA?
All investigations of a CPA or CPA firm remain permanently on record with the VBOA.