You are here

Home » Guidelines for CPE Sponsors

Guidelines for CPE Sponsors

Quick Summary of Minimum Sponsor Requirements:

  • Attendee sign-in and, if the program is 4 hours or more in length, sign-out sheet noting time of departure. This document should contain the individual's printed name and their signature.
  • Certificate of completion provided to each attendee at the end of the program. Certificate must include the sponsor’s name, the attendee’s name, program title, date of program, and number of CPE hours earned.
  • Maintain the following records for 5 years:
    • Sign-In and Sign-Out Sheets
    • Date of Program
    • Number of CPE Hours
    • Name of Instructor
    • Outline of Presentation
    • Program Materials
    • Copy of CPE Course Completion Certificate provided to each attendee at the end of the program. Certificate must include the sponsor’s name, attendee’s name, program title, date of program, and number of CPE hours earned.

This guideline is provided as a resource for sponsors of continuing professional education (CPE) programs development, presentation, measurement and reporting of continuing professional education programs (CPE) for Certified Public Accountants (CPA) in the state of Washington.

The Board suggests you keep current on revisions to this guideline and changes in the CPE rules impacting Washington State CPAs.

General Information

Washington's CPAs are required to participate in formal CPE that maintains or increases their professional competence. A CPA's field of employment does not limit the need for CPE. A person performing services of a professional nature needs to have a broad range of knowledge, skills and abilities. Accordingly, programs contributing to the development and maintenance of non-technical professional skills should also be recognized as acceptable CPE. Other subjects may also be acceptable if they maintain and/or increase the CPA's competence. However, Washington's licensed CPAs are limited in the number of non-technical CPE credit hours they may claim each reporting period. (See WAC 4-30-134.)

While CPAs participate in a wide variety of learning activities, CPE credit is allowed only for formal programs of learning. Even though no CPE credit is allowed for informal learning activities (such as: attending meetings, on-the-job training, reading professional publications, serving on committees and attending committee meetings, participating in informal roundtables) these learning activities are very important in attaining and maintaining professional competence, and they are a regular part of a CPA's continuing development.

In Washington State each CPA is responsible for meeting the CPE credit hour and supporting documentation requirements of the Washington State Board of Accountancy. In addition, the CPA may also need to meet continuing education requirements of the federal government, a membership association, or a firm. The CPA must meet the highest applicable requirements.

Quality CPE program sponsors recognize sound administration, adequate resources, competent supervision and an effective and supportive organizational structure are key elements in the design, development, implementation, and monitoring of CPE programs. Such CPE program sponsors have an administrator charged with ensuring their program meets professional standards for continuing education such as those recommended in this guideline.

Qualifying Programs

The overriding consideration in determining whether a specific program qualifies as acceptable CPE is that it be a formal program of learning contributing directly to the individual's professional competence. Continuing education programs will qualify if:

  1. An agenda or outline of the program is prepared in advance and retained. The agenda or outline should indicate the name(s) of the instructor(s), the subject matter covered and the date(s) and length of the program.
  2. The educational portion of the program is at least one CPE credit hour in length (defined by Board rule as a 50-minute period).
  3. Attendance is required and will be verified. Sponsors are required to have participants sign in for each program and, if the program is longer than four hours in length, participants must also sign out during the last hour.
  4. A qualified instructor or discussion leader conducts the program. A qualified instructor or discussion leader is anyone whose background, training, education, or experience is appropriate for leading a discussion on the subject matter at the particular program.
  5. Attendees are provided a certificate of completion.

Attendance at the following formal group programs will qualify if they contribute directly to the individual's professional competence:

  1. Professional education and development programs of national, state, and local accounting organizations.
  2. Technical sessions at meetings of national, state, and local accounting organizations and their chapters.
  3. University or college courses and continuing education courses.
  4. Formal in-firm education programs.
  5. Programs of other organizations (government, industrial, professional).
  6. Firm meetings structured as formal educational programs. Portions of such meetings devoted to administrative and firm matters cannot be included. For example, portions devoted to the communication and application of a professional policy or procedure may qualify. However, portions devoted to member firm financial and operating matters would not qualify.
  7. Dinner, luncheon, and breakfast meetings which are structured as formal educational programs.

Formal correspondence or other individual study programs which require registration will qualify in the year in which the program is completed as established by the evidence of completion provided by the program sponsor.

Writing published books and articles will qualify in the year in which they are published, provided they contribute directly to the professional competence of the author. Serving as an instructor or discussion leader at continuing education programs will also qualify to the extent it contributes to the individual's professional competence. However, the total allowable credit from those types of activities is limited. See WAC 4-30-133(6).

Qualifying Subjects

The Board identifies subjects qualifying for technical CPE credit and non-technical CPE credit in WAC 4-30-132(5). Please refer to the Board rule which is comprehensive in its description.

Subjects other than those listed in WAC 4-30-132(5) may be acceptable if the applicant can demonstrate they contribute to professional competence. It is important for CPE sponsors to note, responsibility for demonstrating whether a particular program is acceptable rests solely on the CPA.

Ethics and Regulations Course Requirement

The Board is committed to ensuring all Washington state CPAs, CPA-Inactive, and registered non-licensee firm owners maintain a clear understanding of the Public Accountancy Act and the Board's rules and policies, the profession's Code of Conduct (Code), and the differences between Washington State law and the Code. During each three-year CPE reporting period, all CPAs, CPA-Inactive, and registered non-licensee firm owners must complete a Washington State Board approved ethics course (WA ethics). These courses are specific to Washington State rules and regulations. See WAC 4-30-134().

The Board expects that as a result of attending a WA ethics course, participants will have an understanding of the laws and regulations in Washington State governing accountancy, where to access those laws and regulations, and an understanding of the scope and nature of those laws and requirements. The Board anticipates this requirement will strengthen compliance.

To qualify as meeting the ethics CPE requirements of WAC 4-30-134 the course must be approved by the Board, it must cover all of the following topics, and the ethics CPE must substantially address only these topics:

  1. RCW 18.04 and WAC 4-30. The CPE must include general level information on the Public Accountancy Act, the board's rules, policies, and the rule making process.
  2. WAC 4-30-026 How can I contact the board?
  3. WAC 4-30-032 Change of address.
  4. WAC 4-30-034 Responding to board inquiries
  5. WAC 4-30-040 through 4-30-058 Ethics and Prohibited Practices. The CPE must include detailed information on each rule and all related board policies.
  6. WAC 4-30-134 through 4-30-138 - Continuing Competency: The CPE must include detailed information on each rule and all related board policies.
  7. WAC 4-30-142 Disciplinary actions.
  8. AICPA Code of Conduct: The CPE must include general level information on the AICPA Code of Conduct.
  9. Variances or key differences between Washington State law (RCW 18.04 and 4-30) and the AICPA Code of Conduct.
  10. Other topics or information as defined by Board policy.

For CPE courses designed to meet the requirements of WAC 4-30-132(7) the Executive Director, upon written request from the sponsor, reviews course materials and determines if the program or course meets the minimum requirements To be considered for Board approval, course sponsors must submit the following:

  • Course outlines including the anticipated time that will be devoted to each topic.
  • All course materials including presenter handouts and guides, course objectives, participant handouts, and overheads or slideshows.
  • Anticipated answers to all questions presented as part of the course materials.
  • For self-study courses (both interactive and noninteractive), the process undertaken by the course provider to identify the CPE credit hours assigned to the course and "field test" documents supporting the hours assigned.

For live presentations, course sponsors must agree to allow Board representatives to attend the course at no charge to audit the course and materials. For online self-study courses, course sponsors must agree to provide Board representatives free access to audit the course and materials.

If the Executive Director determines a course does not meet the Board's requirements, notice as to the deficiencies will be provided in writing and the sponsor will have the opportunity to re-submit the course. The sponsor is responsible for researching, preparing, and submitting corrections.

If the Executive Director deems the course as meeting the requirements of WAC 4-30-132(7), a written notice of approval will be sent to the sponsor and the approved ethics CPE course will be posted to the agency's website along with the date the approval became effective. Upon receipt of the written notice of approval from the Executive Director, the program sponsor may display the following statement on literature advertising the pre-approved program:

Approved by the Washington State Board of Accountancy as meeting the minimum requirements of WAC 4-30-134 which requires the completion of a four credit hour Washington State Board approved ethics course.

To qualify to use this language, sponsors are required to monitor changes in RCW 18.04, Board rules, Board Policies, and the AICPA Code of Conduct and update course materials on a timely basis.

When there are substantial changes in Board rules, the Executive Director will notify sponsors that the changes are of a level requiring re-approval of the ethics course and sponsors will be provided a three-month period to revise and resubmit the ethics CPE course for approval. The sponsor is responsible for researching, preparing, and submitting corrections.

The Board will withdraw approval of an ethics course if a sponsor does not meet the resubmission requirements or if the sponsor's course resubmission does not meet the Board's requirements. Sponsors may at any time apply for re-approval.

Unless the program sponsor specifically requests otherwise, the agency posts approved courses and links to sponsors on the Board's website.

Recommended Standards for Formal Program Development

The Board offers the following recommended standards to support CPE sponsors in the development of CPE programs:

  1. The program should contribute to the professional competence of participants. The fundamental purpose of CPE is to increase the CPA's professional competence. A professional person is one characterized as conforming to the technical and ethical standards of the profession. This characterization reflects the expectation that a person holding out to perform services of a professional quality needs to be knowledgeable within a broad range of related skills. Thus, the concept of professional competence is to be broadly interpreted.
  2. The stated program objectives should specify the level of knowledge the participant should have attained, or the level of competence should be demonstrated upon completing the program. Program developers should clearly disclose what level of knowledge and/or skill is expected to be mastered by completing a particular program. Such levels may be expressed in a variety of ways, all of which should be informative to potential participants. As an illustration, a program may be described as having the objective of imparting technical knowledge at such levels as basic, intermediate, advanced, or overview, which might be defined as follows:
    • A basic level program teaches fundamental principles or skills to participants having no prior exposure to the subject area.
    • An intermediate level program builds on a basic level program to relate fundamental principles or skills to practical situations and extend them to a broader range of applications.
    • An advanced level program teaches participants to deal with complex situations.
    • An overview program enables participants to develop perspective as to how a subject area relates to the broader aspects of accounting or updates participants on new developments in the subject area.
  3. All programs should clearly identify what education and/or experience prerequisites are necessary for enrollment. If no prerequisite is necessary, a statement to this effect should be made. Prerequisites should be specified in precise language so potential participants can readily ascertain whether they qualify for the program or whether the program is above or below their level of knowledge or skill.
  4. Programs should be developed by an individual(s) qualified in the subject matter and in instructional design. Although both competencies are necessary in developing a program, this standard is not intended to suggest any individual developer be both technically competent and competent in instructional design. "Instructional design" is a plan that specifies the learning objectives of the program, the content of the program, the methods of presentation (such as case studies, lecture, work groups, programmed instruction, use of audio or visual aids, or group participation) and the manner of evaluating whether the learning objectives were achieved. Adequacy of technical knowledge or skill in instructional design may be demonstrated by appropriate experience or education. The level of technical competence and instructional design skills the developer(s) should possess will vary depending on certain characteristics of the program, such as the number of times it will be presented, the length of the program, the complexity of the subject matter, and the number of participants.
  5. Program content should be current. A program developer must judiciously review the course content and materials to assure they are accurate and consistent with currently accepted standards relating to the program's subject matter. Between these reviews, errata sheets should be issued where appropriate and obsolete materials should be deleted. However, between the time a new pronouncement, requirement, or regulation is issued and the issuance of errata sheets or removal of obsolete materials, the instructor is responsible for informing participants of changes. If, for example, a new accounting standard is issued, a program will not be considered current unless the ramifications of the new standard have been incorporated into the materials or the instructor appropriately informs the participants of the new standard.
  6. Programs should be reviewed by a qualified person(s) other than the preparer(s) to ensure compliance with the above standards. It may be impracticable to review certain programs, such as a short lecture given only once or in-house programs. In those cases, more reliance must be placed on the competence of the presenter.

Recommended Standards for Formal Program Presentation

  1. Participants should be informed in advance of objectives, prerequisites, experience level, content, advance preparation, teaching method(s), and recommended CPE credit. For potential participants to plan their CPE most effectively, the salient features of any program should be disclosed. Accordingly, brochures or other announcements should be available well in advance of each program and should contain clear statements concerning objectives, prerequisites (if any), experience level, program content, the nature and extent of advance preparation, the teaching method(s) to be used, and the amount of credit to be given.
  2. Instructors should be qualified both with respect to program content and teaching methods used. The instructor is a key ingredient in the learning process in any group program. Therefore, it is imperative sponsors exercise great care in selecting qualified instructors for all group programs. A qualified instructor is one who is capable, through background, training, education, and/or experience, of providing an environment conducive to learning. The instructor should be competent in the subject matter and skilled in the use of the appropriate teaching method(s). Although instructors are selected with great care, sponsors should evaluate their performance at the conclusion of each program to determine their suitability for continuing to serve as instructors in the future.
  3. Program sponsors should encourage participation only by individuals with appropriate education and/or experience. The term "education and/or experience" in the standard also implies participants will be expected to complete any advance preparation. An essential step in encouraging advance preparation is timely distribution of program materials. Although implementing this standard may be difficult, sponsors should make a significant effort to comply with the spirit of the standard by encouraging (1) enrollment only by eligible participants, (2) timely distribution of materials, and (3) completion of any advance preparation.
  4. The number of participants and physical facilities should be consistent with the teaching method(s) specified. The learning environment is affected by the number of participants and by the quality of the physical facilities. Sponsors have an obligation to pay serious attention to these two factors The maximum number of participants for a case-oriented discussion program, for example, should be considerably less than for a lecture program. The seating arrangement is also very important. For a discussion presentation, learning is enhanced if seating is arranged so participants can easily see and converse with each other. If small group sessions are an integral part of the program format, appropriate facilities should be available to encourage communication within a small group. In effect, class size, quality of facilities, and seating arrangements are integral and important aspects of the educational environment and should be carefully controlled.
  5. All programs should include some means for evaluating quality. Evaluations should be solicited from both participants and instructors. The objective of evaluations is to encourage sponsors to strive for increased program effectiveness. Programs should be evaluated to determine if:
    • Objectives have been met
    • Prerequisites were necessary or desirable
    • Facilities were satisfactory
    • The instructor was effective
    • Advance preparation materials were satisfactory
    • The program content was timely and effective

    Evaluations might take the form of pre-tests for advance preparation, post-tests for effectiveness of the program, questionnaires completed at the end of the program or later, oral feedback to the instructor or sponsor, and so forth. Instructors should be informed of their performance and sponsors should systematically review the evaluation process to ensure its effectiveness.

Board Rules on CPE Program Measurement

The following highlights the rules Washington CPAs must comply with when measuring eligibility for CPE credits:

  1. Credit for participating in formal group programs of learning shall be determined as follows:
    • Only class hours or the equivalent (and not student hours devoted to preparation) will be counted.
    • For qualifying university or college courses (both graduate and undergraduate) which the professional successfully completes for credit, each semester hour credit shall equal 15 hours of continuing professional education and each quarter hour credit shall equal ten hours of continuing professional education.
    • Continuing education credit will be given in tenths of an hour increments  after the first full CPE credit hour has been earned except for nano learning. A minimum of fifty minutes of continuous instruction constitutes one CPE credit hour and after the first fifty-minute segment has been earned, five minutes constitutes one-tenth of an hour.

      A nano learning course, as defined in WAC 4-30-010, shall be considered a qualifying activity once a minimum of ten minutes (0.2 credit hours) but less than fifty minutes (1.0 credit hour) has been completed.

      For example:
      • Twenty-five minutes of continuous instruction counts as 0.5 CPE credit hours.
      • Fifty minutes of continuous instruction counts as one CPE credit hour
      • Ninety minutes of continuous instruction counts as 1.8 CPE credit hours.
    • Professionals who arrive late, leave before a program is completed, or otherwise miss part of a program are expected to claim credit only for the actual time they attend the program.
    • Sponsors are encouraged to monitor group programs to accurately record the appropriate number of hours for participants who arrive late or leave before a program is completed.
    • The credit hours for formal correspondence or other individual study programs recommended by the program sponsor will be granted provided the sponsor has:
      • Pretested the program to determine average completion time.
      • Recommended the credit be equal to one-half the average completion time.
  2. Applicants claiming credit for completing formal correspondence or formal individual study courses are required to obtain evidence of satisfactory completion of the course from the program sponsor. Credit is allowed in the year in which the program is completed as established by the evidence of completion provided by the program sponsor.
  3. Instructors or discussion leaders may receive CPE credit for their preparation and presentation time if the programs increase their professional competence and qualify for CPE credit for participants. The first time they present a program, they may receive credit for actual preparation hours up to two times the number of presentation hours. For example, if a program is presented for eight hours, the instructors could receive up to twenty-four hours of credit (sixteen hours for preparation and eight hours for presentation). For repeat presentations, instructors should receive no credit unless they can demonstrate the program content involved was substantially changed and such change required significant additional study or research. In addition, the maximum credit for preparation and presentation cannot exceed 60 CPE credit hours in a three year reporting period.

Board Rules on CPE Reporting

Participants in formal programs of learning who use the title CPA or CPA-Inactive should document their CPE. Acceptable evidence of completion should be retained for three years after the end of the CPE reporting period in which the credit was claimed. Acceptable evidence of completion must include the following:

Group Programs

  1. The original certificate of completion provided by the program sponsor (see example below) for each CPE program claimed. The certificate must state the sponsor's name, title of the program, date(s) attended, number of CPE credit hours earned, and the attendee's name or
  2. An original sponsor signed statement or summary of the CPE classes claimed. The statement or summary must state the sponsor's name, title of the program, date(s) attended, number of CPE credit hours earned, and attendee's name.

Self-Study Programs

An original certificate of completion must be provided by the program sponsor for each self-study program claimed. The certificate must state the sponsor name, title of the program, date(s) attended, number of CPE credit hours earned, and the attendee's name. The date of completion as documented by the sponsor is the date the CPA must use for reporting purposes.

Accredited University or College Courses

  1. Credit Courses – a transcript which details the grade earned for each class claimed, as well as the university or college name, title of the course, course date(s), semester or quarter credit hours, and the attendee's name. 
  2. Non-Credit Courses – the original statement signed by the instructor verifying the CPA's attendance as well as the university or college name, title of the course, course date(s), and semester or quarter credit hours. 

Instruction Credit

  1. Presentation Time – The original sponsor signed statement verifying the CPA as the instructor or discussion leader, the title of the program, the date(s) the program was conducted, and the length of the presentation.
  2. Preparation Time – CPE credit is allowed for actual preparation time up to two times the presentation hours. Acceptable evidence of preparation time is a summary compiled and signed by the CPA. The summary should include the dates and hours of preparation time.

Sponsors shall ascertain course completion certificates are issued at the completion of the program to qualifying participants only.

To support the reports that may be required of participants, the sponsors shall maintain records as detailed below for a period of five years following the date each program is presented:

  1. The date of the program
  2. The names of the instructor or discussion leader
  3. A listing of attendees
  4. Outline of the program presentation, including a copy of the program materials
  5. The attendee sign-in sheet and, if the program was four hours or longer in length, the attendee sign-out sheet showing the time the attendee signed out. This sheet should contain both the attendee's printed name and the attendee's signature.

Recommended Course Completion Certificate