Authority over CPAs
We regulate Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and certain credential holders in Washington State. We have authority over:
- CPA and CPA firms: People and firms licensed to use the title “CPA” and perform attest services.
- CPA-Inactive certificateholders: People that can use the title “CPA-Inactive.”
- CPA applicants: People qualifying for, or applying for, a CPA license.
- Non-CPA owners of CPA firms: A non-CPA who holds ownership in a CPA firm.
Authority over non-CPAs
A CPA license is not needed to provide accounting, bookkeeping, or tax services. If someone is not holding out as a CPA and does not offer attest services, then we cannot investigate. For these complaints, contact the Attorney General's Office, the IRS, or an attorney.
Some common complaints that we investigate are:
- Negligence in professional services: A CPA that was negligent in performing public accounting.
- Failure to return client records: Within 45 days of a written request, CPAs must provide original records that belong to the client, and client records prepared by the CPA (WAC 4-30-051). A CPA does not have to provide incomplete work, working papers, or records already provided. CPAs cannot refuse to return client records because of outstanding fees.
If you are having difficulty getting your records from a CPA, we recommend sending your request to the CPA by certified mail. Your request should list the specific records you are asking for. If the CPA does not return your records within 45 days, you may file a complaint. Please include a copy of your detailed request that was sent to the CPA.
CPAs may charge a fee to gather records, and require payment before providing the records.
- Integrity and objectivity: CPAs must remain honest, objective, and not misrepresent facts during professional services.
- CPA title use by non-CPA accountants, bookkeepers, or firms: Someone using the title “CPA” without an active CPA license is prohibited.
If you are aware of someone using the title “CPA” and they are not listed in the country-wide Licensee Search, please file a complaint.
Complaints Not Investigated
We cannot resolve fee disputes, damages, disputes over tax code interpretation, or other claims.
- Fee disputes: We do not have authority over fee disputes. Fee disputes include differences over fees, billing amounts, timings for billings, requiring for payment before further work, and requests for itemized billing.
- Complaints currently under litigation: If the complaint is currently in litigation or review by another agency, then we may wait until the review is complete.
- Complaints against non-CPAs: We do not have authority over non-CPAs, unless they are using the title “CPA” or performing attest services. For complaints against non-CPAs, contact the Attorney General's Office.
- Frustrating matters that to do not violate professional standards: Some situations may create frustration for a client but do not violate professional standards. This includes but is not limited to slow or non-existent communications for status updates, billing practices, failure to provide itemized billing, and rude behavior.
What to Expect
All investigations follow WAC 4-30-140. You will receive a letter when we close the complaint.
We must have sufficient evidence of a violation to act. A disagreement or an honest mistake may not constitute a violation.
If there is a violation, then we may issue a statement of charges and hold an administrative hearing.
We can impose the following sanctions for violations of the Public Accountancy Act:
- Revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew or issue a license.
- Require continuing professional education (CPE).
- Impose a fine paid to the state of Washington.
What Not to Expect
As a result of a complaint, you will not receive money, have records provided to you, or have the CPA ordered to perform services. You may separately seek recourse through legal action.
We cannot give updates or estimate how long an investigation may take. Once we close the complaint, we will let you know the results.
Filing a Complaint
To file a complaint, you must complete our online complaint form. We cannot take complaints by mail, email, or phone.
In the online complaint form, please explain the exact nature of your complaint and allegation. To take disciplinary action, we must have both sufficient documentation and a violation of professional standards. For us to best review your complaint, please cite your alleged violation from professional standards:
If we do not have authority over the complaint, or your allegation is not a violation of professional standards, then we cannot investigate.
We may ask for more information during the investigation. Once we close the complaint, we will let you know the results. If there was discipline, then we will include a copy of the order.
If you have questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 664-9266.