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ABO meeting sees flood of fine waiver requests

Written on Feb 10, 2023

By Barb Benton, vice president of government relations

The Accountancy Board of Ohio (ABO), the state government entity charged with licensing, regulating, and when necessary, disciplining CPAs, can significantly affect the practice of all CPAs. That is why OSCPA represents the profession at every ABO meeting and advocates for best-practice rulemaking. Their February 3 meeting included lengthy discussions about several key points impacting Ohio CPAs.   

  Significant actions during this meeting included: 

  • Three formal disciplinary hearings took place, during which testimony was shared by ABO investigative staff and legal counsel, and in one case by the CPA before the ABO:  

  1. A CPA whose license expired in 2021 and who entered suspended status on Jan. 1, 2023, was found to be still holding out (meaning he was advertising to the public in one or more ways that he was still a licensed CPA after receiving a Cease and Desist Order) despite the lack of current registration or completion of required CPE.  He did not take advantage of the opportunity to appear before the ABO to explain his side of the story. The ABO voted to revoke his CPA certificate.  

  1. A CPA had been found guilty of a felony count of aggravated theft by an Ohio County Court of Common Pleas. In Ohio, licensees who are charged with felonies automatically are referred to the ABO for possible action on their CPA license. The individual did not appear before the Board, which ultimately revoked his license to practice. 

  1. A CPA in New York who also has an Ohio license appeared before the ABO due to a referral by the NY Board. He had entered into a consent agreement with NY for unprofessional conduct related to the failure to comply with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards, and his license had been partially suspended for three months. He was directed by the NY Board to take four hours of auditor independence CPE, placed on two years of probation and fined $10,000. The individual appeared before the ABO virtually to explain his case. The ABO voted to revoke his license, but stayed the revocation as long as he completes the CPE required by NY. 

  • 16 individual CPAs and one CPA firm requested waivers of late fees/fines they had to pay for missing renewal deadlines or not meeting CPE requirements. Of the 16 individuals, all but two were denied a return of their payment. The remaining two had significant health issues that the ABO agreed warranted fine waivers. The CPA firm in question had a peer review completion issue that was somewhat out of their control, and the ABO reduced their fine by half:  from $900 down to $450. 

  • The ABO discussed at length what to do with two Ohio licensees allegedly involved in a large firm’s cheating scandal. The Board agreed to further investigate the matter on its own. 

  • A February 13 hearing is scheduled for public comment on a pending rule that will allow for an increase in firm registration fees from the current $10 for three years for all firms – the lowest by far in the nation. The new triennial fees will be on a sliding scale depending on the size of firm, starting at $30 for firms with up to 4 permit holders, up to $360 for firms with 10 or more permit holders. Even with the increase, they will still be among the lowest in the country. It has been almost 30 years since the fees were last increased. 

  • ABO investigators reported that 1,185 CPAs who renewed their license in late 2022 were selected for a CPE audit. Of those, just over 500 audits have been completed; 207 are still being reviewed and/or owe fine payments; and four to date are pending disciplinary action due either to a lack of response to the ABO’s directive to prove they took 120 hours of CPE, or because they were unable to provide proof of the necessary hours.  Altogether, last year ABO CPE non-compliance fines were over $71,000; for the year prior, that amount of over $88,000. For any CPAs reading this summary, be sure to respond to any ABO requests for information in a timely manner! 

  • The ABO discussed the nationwide workforce shortage of CPAs, and the shrinking CPA pipeline now in college. ABO Executive Director John Patterson noted the AICPA and NASBA have proposed an eight-point plan to address the matter. OSCPA CEO & President Scott Wiley shared significant employer concerns, and noted that action needs to occur sooner rather than later as there are many interested parties with potential concerns – including state legislators. Wiley noted that, in addition to other approaches, the current 18-month Exam-passage window is something OSCPA is seriously looking to expand to help address the shrinking pool of future CPAs. A joint ABO/OSCPA Board meeting was proposed to engage in further discussion on this important topic.   

The next ABO meeting will take place on May 12, 2023 in Columbus. While the meetings are held in person, watching it via Teams is an option too. To receive a link, contact the ABO at 614-466-4130.  If you have questions about these or other licensing issues, feel free to reach out to OSCPA.   

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