CPA Ethics Course Hacks

Mike C. writes:
I found an interesting article in the Star-Ledger
New Jersey began investigating whether CPA’s have been honest about their education requirements, including ethics classes and other CPE (Continuing Professional Education) credits. They found that about 4% of accountants lied about such courses and the offenders range from small-time personal accountants to large firm members and even a State official. Offenders were fined for amounts ranging between $500 to $8000. 
I find it quite interesting that such a large number of people were found to be in violation and even more surprising that this was the first year that New Jersey began to seriously investigate such violations. 
So my question is what took the state so long to make sure that all CPA’s are actually fulfilling their obligations as far as remaining educated in the profession?

About Mark P. Holtzman

Chair of Accounting Department at Seton Hall University. PhD from The University of Texas at Austin. Worked at Deloitte's New York Office. BSBA from Hofstra University.


  1. The state should definitely crack down on people who fail to meet the CPE requirements. At a time when public confidence in CPA's, who were voted the most honest and trustworthy professionals in the state, is at a low due to recent accounting scandals, the state needs to step in and make sure they do all they can to keep and restore public confidence in CPA's. Making sure CPA's keep up to date with CPE's is just one way to help restore confidence by ensuring that CPA's know all of the tax law and accounting standards changes. As far as why the state took so long to look into CPE requirements, I feel has to do in part with the state budget concerns and the economy. CPA's in violation have to pay fines, the fines equal revenue in the pocket of the state. This year New Jersey has issued more fines than all of the state boards put together in the past year. I feel that it isn't a coincidence that it comes at a time when the state is looking for more revenues.

  2. I agree with Erik. It is important that states verify that professionals have completed all requirements. It reflects poorly on accountants when people cheat the system being that this profession comes with such responsibility. Being an accountant is so heavily based on honesty, it makes one wonder what else those that lied about fulfilling their requirements lied about.

  3. The idea of CPE requirements are great. We should always be keeping up in our profession. We should always seek to do the best job we can for our clients, and our clients should expect it of us. The application of CPE requirements is much different. From the people who I have talked to, the CPE courses that they generally attend are the ones that are required through the firm, or the ones that they can pretty much sleep through. People lie about what they have done because they probably look at the requirements as worthless and they are not too far off. Being able to sit in a room and walking away with nothing gained shouldn't be able to count for more than not walking in that room but it does.Obviously I don't want to have more testing, but maybe CPE's should require online interaction where people are quizzed on the information provided. They can not be hurt in their careers, but they can only get the credits after getting a 75% score? I think something like that would be effective.

  4. I am surprised as well that it took New Jersey so long to check the accuracy of accounting professionals meeting their continuing education requirements. One of the accountants interviewed in the article that was fined for her shortfall of CPE credits claimed that she was confused on which courses counted toward the required 120 CPE credits. It seems that there needs to be stricter and clearer guidelines to lessen any confusion there may be amongst accounting professionals looking to fulfill their CPE requirements. In addition, if these professionals know that there will be rigorous auditing procedures taking place, they may be more concerned and careful when planning which CPE credits to take.

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