CPAs now required to report suspected elder abuse

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2018 by Gary Hunt

While Ohio residents have always been encouraged to contact authorities with concerns about abuse of people of all ages, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has added CPAs to a lengthy list of “mandatory reporters,” professionals who are legally required to report suspected elder abuse.

The requirement became effective Saturday, Sept. 29. Other professions added Saturday to an already long list include real estate agents, bank employees, financial planners and notary publics.

The law requires specific individuals who, having reasonable cause to think an older adult is being abused, neglected or exploited – or is in a condition resulting from such treatment – to immediately report the belief to the county department of job and family services. In addition to physical and behavioral signs, CPAs should be on the lookout for financial indicators such as sudden and unexplained changes in banking practices, the inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card and abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents.

Anyone in Ohio can report possible elder abuse 24/7 by calling 1-855-OHIO-APS or by contacting the nearest county department of job and family services. Physical proof or other evidence is not required. Reports are not subject to public records laws, and Ohio law protects any person who makes such a report from civil or criminal liability unless the person commits perjury during testimony or for situations where bad faith or malicious intent are involved.

CPAs should file a report if they have reasonable cause to suspect an elderly person is being abused. If mandatory reporters fail to report possible abuse, they could face fines of up to $500. There are no exceptions for professional relationships.

Employers should note that the act also requires each entity that employs or is responsible for licensing or regulating mandatory reporters of abuse, neglect or exploitation of older adults ensure those individuals have access to ODJFS educational materials.

On Oct. 1 the ODJFS provided OSCPA with a report with details for financial service professionals that employers can share with impacted employees to meet that responsibility. They are also working on a profession-specific guide, and developing training for any employers who might want that. The change in the law was included in Ohio’s budget bill. You can read it in its entirety in the Ohio Revised Code.

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