Certified Public Accountant Complaint Information
The Public Accountancy Act ("Act"), Chapter 901 of the Occupations Code, authorizes the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy ("Board") to investigate and prosecute allegations of professional misconduct against Certified Public Accountants ("CPAs") from any source, including the public and other CPAs.
Here are the answers to some questions that are commonly asked by potential complainants and CPAs.
Q. How do I file a complaint?A. A complaint form follows for your reference. You are not required to use the form. You may choose to simply write a letter containing a factual narrative describing the substance of the allegations. The narrative should include the full name, business address and telephone number of the CPA or the CPA firm involved. In addition, include your complete contact information and copies of all documents relevant to your complaint.
Q. Can I file a complaint anonymously?A. It is possible but oftentimes a complaint may not be successfully pursued unless the complainant is identified. For example, if a complainant states that the licensee did not file their tax return, the Board needs to know the name on the tax return to investigate if the return was filed or not. Keep in mind that the Board will mail a copy of the complaint letter to the CPA to inform them of the exact nature of the complaint and if your complaint letter identifies you then your anonymity will not be protected.
Q. Do I need an attorney to file a complaint?A. No. The Board's legal staff will investigate the complaint and, if necessary, prosecute the complaint.
Q. What is the authority of the Board when a complaint is filed?A. The Board has the authority to discipline Texas CPAs only for violations of the Act or the Board's Rules ("Rules"), found in Chapters 501-527 of the Texas Administrative Code.
Q. What rules of professional conduct are CPAs required to follow?A. CPAs are required to follow the Board's Rules which are cited as Title 22, Part 22 Texas Administrative Code.
Q. How can I get a copy of or read the Act or the Rules?A. The Rules and the Act can be found on the Board's website at www.tsbpa.texas.gov. Click on the appropriate link located under the "Board" menu at the top of the homepage. Both the Rules and the Act are available in most law libraries and electronic sources.
Q. How do I know if a complaint has been filed against me?A. The Board's Enforcement Division will send written notification when an investigative file has been opened against you and ask you to respond to the allegations.
Q. What happens after I file a complaint?A. Your complaint is reviewed by Enforcement Division staff, which determines whether the conduct described involves professional misconduct as defined in the Texas Public Accountancy Act, Chapter 901 of the Occupations Code. Not every dispute or disagreement is within the jurisdiction of the Board. Fee disputes, for example, are not within the Board's jurisdiction. Therefore, some complaints will be dismissed at this stage of the process.
Q. If the conduct I complained about alleges professional misconduct, what happens next?A. An investigative file is opened. The CPA is notified of the investigation and is provided with copies of materials (excluding attorney-client communications and attorney work-product) and documents received as part of the complaint. The CPA has 30 days to respond to the Board in writing. After the CPA has responded to the allegations, the investigation is referred to one of the Board's Enforcement committees. These committees meet regularly to consider complaints. The meetings are not open to the public because investigative information is confidential by statute. The committee reviewing the complaint will make a recommendation on how to proceed with the investigation.
Q. If a committee feels that professional misconduct occurred, or if the committee cannot decide how to resolve the matter, what happens next?A. Sometimes a committee will try to reach an agreement with the CPA regarding appropriate disciplinary or corrective action. Sometimes a committee will invite the complainant and the CPA to meet with the committee at an informal conference. An informal conference allows both parties to present information to the committee and respond to the committee's questions. If an agreement between the CPA and the Committee is reached, an agreed consent order ("ACO") resolving the investigation will be offered to the Board for its ratification or refusal. If an agreement cannot be reached and the committee determines that a violation has occurred, or if the committee is unable to resolve the dispute, the complaint is prosecuted before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") at the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
Evidence at the hearing may include testimony from the complainant, the CPA and expert witnesses. At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ issues a Proposal for Decision ("PFD") and recommends a suggested resolution of the matter. The PFD and recommendation are presented to and voted on by the full Board. A Board member with an interest in the proceeding will not participate in the discussion or the vote.
Q. What if I disagree with the Committee's recommendations, to whom do I appeal?A. CPAs can reject the recommendation and request a hearing before an ALJ. A complainant may not appeal a Board decision to dismiss the complaint.
Q. How will I know the resolution of my complaint?A. During the investigation process, CPAs and complainants are notified that the investigation is active and pending. Upon final resolution, the complainant is notified of the outcome.
Q. What happens to a CPA who is found to have engaged in professional misconduct?A. The nature of the sanction varies with the seriousness of the misconduct and any mitigating or aggravating factors. Sanctions may include education, corrective action, reprimand, probation, suspension, revocation or limitation on the scope of practice.
Q. I'm a CPA. Do I need an attorney to represent me if a complaint has been filed against me?A. The decision to retain or consult legal counsel is entirely yours. The Board does not require that you hire an attorney and most CPAs do not.
Q. I think my CPA overcharged me for some work she did. Does the Board regulate CPA's fees? If not, then who does?A. Neither the Board nor any other state or federal agency has the authority to regulate fees. Fee disputes are considered to be a function of the marketplace.
Q. What if I have other questions about the disciplinary process?A. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Enforcement Division at:
Texas State Board of Public Accountancy
333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900
Austin, Texas 78701-3900