Regulation of Accountants – Rhode Island

The purposes of the Chapter,Public Accountants, found in R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-2, are:

  • to promote the dependability of information which is used for guidance in financial transactions or for accounting for or assessing the financial status or performance of commercial, noncommercial, and governmental enterprises;
  • To protect the public interest by requiring that persons professing special competence in accountancy or offering assurance as to the reliability or fairness of presentation of that information demonstrate their qualification to do so, and that persons who have not demonstrated and maintained those qualifications, including, but not limited to, certificate holders not in public practice, not be permitted to hold themselves out as having that special competence or to offer that assurance;
  • To regulate the professional conduct of persons licensed as having special competence in accountancy, in all aspects of the practice of public accountancy;
  • To establish a public authority competent to prescribe and assess the qualifications of and to regulate the professional conduct of practitioners of public accountancy; and
  • To prohibit the use of titles relating to the practice of public accountancy which are likely to mislead the public as to the status or competence of the persons using those titles.

Pursuant to § 5-3.1-5, upon application for a certificate and payment of the required fee, the board shall issue a certificate to any person who:

  • Is of good moral character;
  • Has a principal residence in Rhode Island or a primary place of employment in Rhode Island;
  • Has received a baccalaureate degree from a college or university acceptable to the board;
  • Has passed examinations in accounting and auditing and any related subjects that the board deems appropriate and specifies by rule;
  • Has one year of experience in providing any type of service or advice involving the use of accounting, attest, management advisory, financial advisory, tax or consulting skills all of which was verified by a licensee, meeting requirements prescribed by the board by rule.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-7, the Board shall issue annual permits for public accountants and certified public accountants to engage in the practice of public accounting.  Applications for renewal of a permit under this section shall be submitted to the board by February 15 of the year in which the permit is scheduled to expire and shall be accompanied by evidence that the applicant has satisfied the continuing professional education requirements promulgated by board regulation.  An individual whose principal place of business or principal residence is not in Rhode Island having a valid certificate or license as a certified public accountant from any state whose licensure requirements are determined to be substantially equivalent with the conditions of this section shall have all the privileges of certificate holders and licensees of Rhode Island.  The individual must have one year or more of experience in providing any type of service or advice involving the use of accounting, attest, management advisory, financial advisory, tax or consulting skills all of which was verified by a licensee, meeting requirements prescribed by the board by rule.

R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-12 deals with revocation or suspension of certificate, authority or permit.  After notice and a hearing, the board may: (1) suspend, for a period not to exceed two years, or revoke any certificate, (2) revoke or suspend any permit and (3) reprimand or censure in writing, limit the scope of practice, impose an administrative fine upon, not to exceed $ 1,000, or place on probation, all with or without terms, conditions, or limitations, a licensee, for any of the following causes:

  • Fraud or deceit in obtaining a certificate or permit under the chapter, Public Accountants;
  • Dishonesty, fraud, or gross negligence in the practice of public accounting or in the filing or failing to file the licensee’s own income tax returns;
  • Violation of any of the provisions of the chapter, Public Accountants;
  • Violation of any rules and regulations, including, but not limited to, any rules of professional conduct, promulgated by the board;
  • Conviction of, or pleading guilty or nolo contendere to, a crime or an act constituting a crime of forgery, embezzlement, obtaining money under false pretenses, bribery, larceny, extortion, conspiracy to defraud, misappropriation of funds, tax evasion, or any other similar offense or offenses involving moral turpitude, in a court of competent jurisdiction;
  • Cancellation, revocation, or suspension of, or refusal to renew, the licensee’s certificate or permit from another state by the other state for any cause other than failure to pay a fee or to meet the requirements of continuing education in that other state;
  • Suspension or revocation of the right to practice public accounting before any state or federal agency;
  • As to accountants licensed by foreign countries, cancellation, revocation, suspension, or refusal to renew the person’s certificate, license, or degree evidencing his or her qualification to practice public accounting by the foreign country issuing the certificate, license, or degree, the certificate, license, or degree having qualified the accountant for issuance of an annual limited permit to practice;
  • Failure to furnish the board or any persons acting on behalf of the board any information that is legally requested by the board;
  • Any conduct reflecting adversely upon the licensee’s fitness to engage in the practice of public accountancy; and
  • Any other conduct discreditable to the public accounting profession.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-13, after notice and a hearing, the board may revoke or suspend the permit of any practice unit, if at any time the practice unit fails to meet all the qualifications prescribed under § 5-3.1-9.  The board may censure in writing, limit the scope of practice, impose an administrative fine upon, not to exceed $ 1,000, or place on probation, all with or without terms, conditions, or limitations, the holder of the permit, for any cause enumerated in § 5-3.1-12 and for any of the following additional causes:

  • With respect to any type of partnership and corporate practice units, the revocation or suspension of the certificate or authority of, or the revocation, suspension, or refusal by the board to renew the permit of, any partner, shareholder, or member of the partnership or corporate practice units; and
  • Cancellation, revocation, suspension, or refusal to renew the permit of the practice unit, or of any partner, shareholder, or member or of the sole proprietor, to practice public accounting in any other state by that state for any cause other than failure to pay a fee or to meet the requirements of continuing education in that other state.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-14, the board may initiate proceedings under this chapter against a licensee either on its own motion, on the complaint of any person, upon the finding of probable cause by a probable cause committee appointed by the board, or upon receiving notification from another state board of accountancy of its decision to:

  • Revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew the practice privileges granted in that state to the licensee, or
  • Censure in writing, limit the scope of practice, impose an administrative fine upon, or place on probation the licensee.

A written notice stating the nature of the charge or charges against the licensee and the time and place of the hearing before the board on the charges shall be served on the licensee not less than 20 days prior to the date of the hearing.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-15, upon application in writing or after hearing pursuant to notice, the board may reissue a certificate to a certified public accountant or an authority to a public accountant or modify the suspension of or reissue any permit which has been revoked or suspended, or which the board has previously refused to renew.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-16, no person shall hold himself or herself out to the public as a certified public accountant or a public accountant or assume or use the designation “certified public accountant” or “CPA” or “public accountant” or “PA” or any other title, designation, words, letters, abbreviation, sign, card, or device tending to indicate that the person is a certified public accountant or CPA, or public accountant or PA unless that person has been issued a permit to practice.  No person or entity shall prepare or attempt to prepare, or sign, affix, or associate the person’s or entity’s name or any trade name used by him, her, or it in the person’s or entity’s business or profession or practice unit to any attest or compilation reports unless the individual holds a permit to practice.  No person or entity not holding a permit to practice shall hold himself, herself, or itself out to the public as an “accountant” or “auditor”, whether or not the term is accompanied by any other description or designation, on any sign, card, or letterhead, or in any advertisement or directory.  No person or entity shall hold himself, herself, or itself out to the public as being qualified for the practice of public accounting unless the person or entity holds a permit to practice.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-19, if any person has engaged, or is about to engage, in any acts or practices which constitute, or will constitute, a violation of the chapter, the board may make application to the superior court for an order enjoining those acts or practices and upon a showing by the board that the person has engaged, or is about to engage, in any of those unlawful acts or practices, an injunction, restraining order, or any other order that may be appropriate shall be granted by the court without bond.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-20, any person who violates any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction, shall be subject to a fine of not more than one thousand dollars $ 1,000, or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, and in the case of an entity a fine of not more than $ 5,000.


Inside Regulation of Accountants – Rhode Island