The purpose of the Chapter on Accountants, S.C. Code Ann. § 40-2-5, is to promote the reliability of information used for guidance in financial transactions or for accounting or for assessing the financial status or performance of commercial, noncommercial, and governmental enterprises.
According to S.C. Code Ann. § 40-2-30, it is unlawful for a person to engage in the practice of accountancy as regulated by the board without holding a valid license or registration or without qualifying for a practice privilege. Only licensed certified public accountants or public accountants or individuals qualifying for a practice privilege may issue a report on financial statements of a person, firm, organization, or governmental unit or offer to render or render any attest or compilation service. However, persons, other than certified public accountants or public accountants, may prepare financial statements and issue nonattest transmittals or information thereon which do not purport to be in compliance with the Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services (SSARS). Only a person holding a valid license as a certified public accountant or qualifying for a practice privilege shall use or assume the title “Certified Public Accountant” or the abbreviation “CPA” or any other title, designation, words, letters, abbreviation, sign, card, or device indicating that the person is a certified public accountant. Likewise, a person must not assume or use the title “Public Accountant” or the abbreviation “PA” or any other title, designation, words, letters, abbreviation, sign, card, or device indicating that the person is a public accountant unless that person holds a valid registration.
Pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 40-2-35, the board shall grant a license to practice as a certified public accountant to persons who make application and demonstrate:
- at least 150 semester hours of college education, including a baccalaureate or higher degree conferred by a college or university acceptable to the board, with the total educational program including an accounting concentration or equivalent; and
- a passing score on a standardized test of accounting knowledge, skills, and abilities approved by the board and comparable to the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; and
- a passing score on an examination in professional ethics as approved by the board and an affidavit by the candidate acknowledging that he or she has read the statute and regulations governing the practice of accountancy in South Carolina and subscribes both to the spirit and letter of the statute and regulations and agrees to observe them faithfully in the performance of his or her professional work; and
- appropriate experience, which may include at least one year of accounting experience satisfactory to the board; or at least five years’ experience teaching accounting in a college or university recognized by the board; or any combination of experience determined by the board to be substantially equivalent to the foregoing; and
- evidence of good moral character, which means lack of a history of dishonest or felonious acts.
Pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 40-2-90, if the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation or the board has reason to believe that a licensee or registrant has violated a provision of this chapter or a regulation or that a licensee has become unfit to practice as a certified public accountant, a public accountant, or an accounting practitioner the department shall present its evidence to the board and the board may, in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act, take action as authorized by law. The board may designate a hearing officer or panel to conduct hearings or take other action as may be necessary. The board shall notify the accused licensee or registrant in writing not less than 30 days before the hearing with a copy of the formal charges attached to the notice.
S.C. Code Ann. § 40-2-110 deals with revocation, suspension or probation of licensees. After notice and hearing pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, the board may revoke, suspend, refuse to renew, reprimand, censure, or limit the scope of practice of a licensee and impose an administrative fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars per violation. The board also may place a licensee on probation, require a peer review as the board may specify, or require satisfactory completion of a continuing professional education program as the board may specify, for any one or more of the following reasons:
- conviction of a felony, or of any crime with an element of dishonesty or fraud;
- conduct reflecting adversely upon the licensee’s fitness to perform services as a licensee;
- use of a false, fraudulent, or forged statement or document or committal of a fraudulent, deceitful, or dishonest act or omission of a material fact in obtaining licensure pursuant to this chapter;
- intentional use of a false or fraudulent statement in a document connected with the practice of the individual’s profession or occupation;
- obtaining fees or assistance in obtaining fees under fraudulent circumstances;
- failure to comply with established professional standards, including standards set by federal or state law or regulation;
- violation of the code of professional ethics adopted by the board or of the AICPA Professional Standards: Code of Professional Conduct;
- failure to respond to requests for information or to cooperate in investigations on behalf of the board;
- engagement or aid of another, intentionally or knowingly, directly or indirectly, in unlicensed practice of accounting;
- failure to disclose or disclaim the appropriate license status of a person or entity not holding a license but associated with financial statements;
- engagement in advertising or other forms of solicitation or use of a firm name in a manner that is false, misleading, deceptive, or tending to promote unsupported claims;
- revocation, suspension, reprimand, or other discipline of the right to practice by the licensee in any other state or by a federal agency for a cause other than the failure to pay an annual registration fee.
Upon a determination by the board that discipline is not appropriate, the board may issue a non disciplinary letter of caution. The board may establish a procedure to allow a licensee who has been issued a public reprimand to petition the board for expungement of the reprimand from the licensee’s record.
Pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 40-2-200, a person or firm who knowingly violates a provision of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
Pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 40-2-250, a licensee shall file an application for renewal on or before January first of each calendar year. The application for renewal of a license must include current information concerning practice status, a verified continuing education report and renewal fee. A license not renewed on or before January first is considered revoked. Continued practice after January fifteenth must be sanctioned as unlicensed practice of accounting. A certified public accountant or public accountant whose license has lapsed or has been inactive for:
- fewer than three years, the license may be reinstated by applying to the board, submitting proof of completing forty continuing education units for each year the license has lapsed or has been inactive, and paying the reinstatement fee;
- three or more years, the license may be reinstated upon completion of six months of additional experience, and one hundred and twenty hours of continuing education;
- an indefinite period and has active status outside of this State may reinstate the license by submitting an application under Section 40-2-240.
Pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 40-2-270, a licensee who is retired and does not perform or offer to perform for compensation one or more kinds of services involving the use of accounting or auditing skills, including issuance of reports on financial statements or of one or more kinds of management advisory, financial advisory, or consulting services or the preparation of tax returns or the furnishing of advice on tax matters, may apply to the board for permission to place the word “Emeritus” adjacent to the licensee’s ” Certified Public Accountant” title or “Public Accountant” title on any document or device on which the “Certified Public Accountant” or “Public Accountant” title appears. A license in “emeritus” status may not be reinstated as an active license.