Regulation of Accountants – California


Cal Bus & Prof Code § 5033 provides that “Certified public accountant” means any person who has received from the board a certificate of certified public accountant and who holds a valid permit to practice under the provisions of the chapter.  “Public accountant” means any person who has registered with the board as a public accountant and who holds a valid permit for the practice of public accountancy.

Except as expressly permitted by this section, a person engaged in the practice of public accountancy shall not pay a fee or commission to obtain a client or accept a fee or commission for referring a client to the products or services of a third party.

A person engaged in the practice of public accountancy who is not performing any of the services set forth in subdivision and who complies with the disclosure requirements of subdivision may accept a fee or commission for providing a client with the products or services of a third party where the products or services of a third party are provided in conjunction with professional services provided to the client by the person engaged in the practice of public accountancy.  Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to permit the solicitation or acceptance of any fee or commission solely for the referral of a client to a third party.  A person engaged in the practice of public accountancy is prohibited from performing services for a client, or an officer or director of a client, or a client-sponsored retirement plan, for a commission or from receiving a commission from a third party for providing the products or services of that third party to a client, or an officer or director of a client, or a client-sponsored retirement plan, during the period in which the person also performs for that client, or officer or director of that client, or client-sponsored retirement plan, any of the services listed below and during the period covered by any historical financial statements involved in those listed services:

A person engaged in the practice of public accountancy who is not prohibited from performing services for a commission, or from receiving a commission, and who is paid or expects to be paid a commission, shall disclose that fact to any client or entity to whom the person engaged in the practice of public accountancy recommends or refers a product or service to which the commission relates.

The board shall adopt regulations to implement, interpret, and make specific the provisions of this section including, but not limited to, regulations specifying the terms of any disclosure required by subdivision (d), the manner in which the disclosure shall be made, and other matters regarding the disclosure that the board deems appropriate. These regulations shall require, at a minimum, that a disclosure shall comply with all of the following:

  • Be in writing and be clear and conspicuous.
  • Be signed by the recipient of the product or service.
  • State the amount of the commission or the basis on which it will be computed.
  • Identify the source of the payment and the relationship between the source of the payment and the person receiving the payment.
  • Be presented to the client at or prior to the time the recommendation of the product or service is made.

Pursuant to Cal Bus & Prof Code § 5061, after notice and hearing the board may revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew any permit or certificate granted under Article 4 (commencing with Section 5070) and Article 5 (commencing with Section 5080), or may censure the holder of that permit or certificate for unprofessional conduct that includes, but is not limited to, one or any combination of the following causes:

  • Conviction of any crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of a certified public accountant or a public accountant.
  • A violation of Section 478, 498, or 499 dealing with false statements or omissions in the application for a license, in obtaining a certificate as a certified public accountant, in obtaining registration under this chapter, or in obtaining a permit to practice public accountancy under this chapter.
  • Dishonesty, fraud, gross negligence, or repeated negligent acts committed in the same or different engagements, for the same or different clients, or any combination of engagements or clients, each resulting in a violation of applicable professional standards that indicate a lack of competency in the practice of public accountancy or in the performance of the bookkeeping operations described in Section 5052.
  • Cancellation, revocation, or suspension of a certificate or other authority to practice as a certified public accountant or a public accountant, refusal to renew the certificate or other authority to practice as a certified public accountant or a public accountant, or any other discipline by any other state or foreign country.
  • Suspension or revocation of the right to practice before any governmental body or agency.
  • Fiscal dishonesty or breach of fiduciary responsibility of any kind.

Cal Bus & Prof Code § 5115 provides that any certified public accountant or public accountant whose certificate, registration, or permit has been revoked or suspended shall upon request of the board relinquish his/her certificate or permit.  However, upon the expiration of the period of suspension, the board shall immediately return any suspended certificate or permit which has been relinquished.

A person whose license has been revoked or surrendered may petition the board for reinstatement or reduction of penalty after a period of not less than one year has elapsed from the effective date of the decision or from the date of the denial of a similar petition, unless a longer period, not to exceed three years, is specified by the board in any decision revoking the license, accepting the surrender of the license, or denying reinstatement of the license.

A person whose license has not been revoked or surrendered but who has been disciplined by imposition of a suspension or otherwise disciplined may petition the board for reinstatement or reduction of penalty after a period of not less than one year has elapsed from the effective date of the decision.

Cal Bus & Prof Code § 5104 provides that the board shall give notice to the Attorney General of the filing of the petition and the Attorney General and the petitioner shall be afforded an opportunity to present either oral or written argument before the board itself.  The board itself shall rule on the petition, and the decision shall include the reasons therefor and any terms and conditions that the board reasonably deems appropriate to impose as a condition of reinstatement or reduction of penalty, including, but not limited to, restrictions on the petitioner’s scope of professional practice.