How do I . . .
Investigation and enforcement
The Virginia Board of Accountancy’s (VBOA) statutory authority is in Chapter 44 of Title 54.1 of the Code of Virginia (§ 54.1-4400 et seq). The VBOA’s mission is to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth through a regulatory program of licensure and compliance of Certified Public Accountants (CPA) and CPA firms.
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 strategies include:
- Investigating complaints against licensees and unlicensed individuals that are within the jurisdiction of the VBOA;
- Coordinating investigations of matters with other agencies that involve significant loss or harm to Virginia citizens;
- Increasing adherence to licensing requirements and professional standards by CPAs and public accounting firms;
- Resolving VBOA enforcement matters and adjudicating complaint cases in a timely manner;
- Maintaining the confidentiality of information obtained during investigations;
- Monitoring licensees disciplined by the VBOA; and
- Publicizing disciplinary actions necessary to protect the public.
In carrying out its mission “to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth through a regulatory program of licensure and compliance of Certified Public Accountants (CPA) and CPA firms”, 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 Manager. If probable cause exists to initiate an investigation, the complaint is assigned a case number and 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 the form of a consent order (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,
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, please see 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 some other state, moves to Virginia, principal place of business is in Virginia, and continues to practice in Virginia; and
- 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; or
- 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 it’s 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 Manager 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?
- 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.