Use of the Title
An individual cannot use a title reserved for credential by the Board of Accountancy unless they are qualified to do so by the Board. As the requirements and rules may vary between jurisdictions, this page applies only to Washington State. The general criteria for qualification are:
- Education: Meet the education requirements.
- Examination: Pass the CPA exam.
- Experience: Obtain qualified and verified experience. This requirement does not apply to the CPA-Inactive certificate.
A “Certified Public Accountant” (CPA) is an individual that has been granted a license by a Board of Accountancy in the United States. With an active license status, the CPA license permits an individual to offer or perform attest or compilation services to the public AND use the restricted title “Certified Public Accountant” or “CPA.” To perform attest or compilation services, a CPA must be part of a licensed CPA firm. License status can be verified on the Board’s licensee search or at CPAverify.org.
CPA-Inactive is a certificate from the Washington State Board of Accountancy issued prior to July 1, 2001. Individuals that hold a current CPA-Inactive certificate cannot practice public accounting, and cannot use the title “Certified Public Accountant” or “CPA.” An individual holding this certificate may refer to themselves as a “CPA-Inactive,” such as on a business card or letterhead, if they are not practicing public accounting. The word “Inactive” must be the same font and size as “CPA.”
CPA licenses and CPA-Inactive certificates must be renewed every three years, otherwise the credential will expire (or “lapse”). If the credential has lapsed, the individual cannot use the title “CPA” or “CPA-Inactive.” A CPA with a lapsed license also cannot offer or perform attest or compilation services. Eligible individuals may apply to reinstate their lapsed credential.
An individual may retire their credential. The individual cannot use the title “CPA” or “CPA-Inactive,” and cannot offer or perform attest or compilation services. The Board permits using the title “CPA-Retired” for individuals who held a CPA license, and met the requirements of WAC 4-30-058 at the time they elected to retire their license.
CPA (for firms)
A firm may use the CPA title in its name if it meets all the requirements of WAC 4-30-110. If the firm offers or performs attest or compilation services, then the firm must also obtain a CPA firm license.
Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA Canada)
A “Chartered Professional Accountant” is an individual that has been granted a credential through CPA Canada. A Chartered Professional Accountant with an active credential may be eligible to perform public accounting services in Canada. Chartered Professional Accountants must qualify for and obtain a Washington State CPA license before the individual offers or performs public accounting services for individuals or enterprises located in Washington State, except for those not prohibited under RCW 18.04.350(15). These individuals cannot use the title CPA, CPA Canada, or any other title likely to be confused with Certified Public Accountant, unless they hold a Certified Public Accountant license.
General overview of title usage
|CPA||The individual must hold an active CPA license.|
|CPA-Inactive||The individual must hold an active CPA-Inactive certificate. An individual holding a CPA-Inactive certificate is prohibited from practicing public accounting and may only use the CPA-Inactive title if they are not offering practicing public accounting.|
|CPA-Retired||The individual must have held a CPA license, and met the requirements of WAC 4-30-058 when their license was retired.|
|Chartered Professional Accountant, or CPA Canada||The Board does not permit the usage of these titles in this state. Individuals using one of these titles in Washington State may be found in violation of RCW 18.04.345 and subject to discipline. Some services may not be prohibited under RCW 18.04.350(15).|
|Certified accountant, chartered accountant, licensed accountant, licensed public accountant, public accountant, or any other title likely to be confused with “certified public accountant”.||The Board does not permit the usage of these titles. Individuals using one of these titles in Washington State may be found in violation of RCW 18.04.345 and subject to discipline.|
|CPA (in firm name)||The firm must meet the requirements of WAC 4-30-110. If the firm offers to perform compilation or attest services such as audits or reviews in Washington State, then the firm must also hold an active CPA firm license.|
The question of title use can be confusing. Please do not hesitate to contact the Board office at (360) 753-2586 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. If you have questions regarding another jurisdiction, you can find their contact information on NASBA’s website.
Report a potential violation
If you observe someone wrongly using a title, you may file a complaint. Evidence such as business cards, letterhead, signature lines, and/or advertisements can greatly assist the Board’s review of the matter.