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CPA Licenses and the Duty to Report Convictions

February 14, 2012

What Must You Disclose When Applying for Initial CPA License in California or When Reapplying After License Lapsed?

When applying for your initial CPA license in California, you must disclose any and all convictions—felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions—only minor traffic infractions may be excluded. Disclose your convictions on the required “Criminal Conviction Disclosure Form” that you submit with your application to the California Board of Accountancy (CBA).

  • You are required to disclose any pleas, verdicts, or findings by a trial court, even if the conviction may not be final or the sentence actually imposed, until appeals are exhausted.
  • DUIs are not considered minor traffic infractions (they are misdemeanors, or in some cases felonies), and must be disclosed.
  • You are required to disclose convictions that arose from military service, convictions in which the imposition or execution of sentence was suspended, convictions which arose as a result of a failure to appear, and any for which an order of rehabilitation was entered.
  • You are also required to report convictions that have been expunged or dismissed or for which a pardon was granted. Even though you are required to report expunged or dismissed convictions to the California Board of Accountancy, it is still advisable to get any and all convictions eligible for reduction or dismissal for reduction, reduced and dismissed. For more information about getting convictions expunged in San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties, see

For any convictions other than minor traffic infractions, you will need to provide details including: the date of arrest, city and state where arrested, name and location of court where case was heard, details of the violation, details of the sentence imposed, conditions of probation, and fines ordered.

In addition to submitting the Criminal Conviction Disclosure Form, you will also have to furnish your fingerprints to the CBA. The CBA will conduct a criminal history record check with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In addition to authorizing a background check, submitting your fingerprints also authorizes the CBA to receive subsequent criminal conviction information on you as an applicant or licensee.

Do CPAs Have An Ongoing Duty to Report Arrests, Charges, or Convictions to the California Board of Accountancy?

When you furnish your fingerprints to the California Board of Accountancy (CBA), you not only authorize the board to conduct a criminal history record check, you also authorize the Board to receive subsequent criminal conviction information on you as an applicant or licensee. Criminal conviction information the board receives includes notice of any plea or verdict of guilty, and any conviction following a plea of nolo contendere (no contest).
Criminal convictions can trigger the CBA to take disciplinary action against you, including revocation or suspension of your license, conditions of probation such as ethics courses or fines, refusal to renew your license, or censure.

You must report to the board in writing, within30 days of the knowledge of a conviction for:

(A) Any felony.
(B) Any crime related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a public accountant or certified public accountant, or to acts or activities in the course and scope of the practice of public accountancy.
(C) Any crime involving theft, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds or property, breach of a fiduciary responsibility, or the preparation, publication, or dissemination of false, fraudulent, or materially misleading financial statements, reports, or information.
Be aware that California courts are required to report to the board convictions and judgments listed above under (a) and (c), within ten days of entry.

The board is permitted to take action when the time for appeal has elapsed, the conviction is affirmed on appeal, or when an order granting probation is made—however, it is often in your interest to report initial pleas and sentence pronouncements.

The law says that the board can only take away your license based on a conviction that is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of an accountant. The board specifies that this includes crimes involving dishonesty, fraud, or breach of fiduciary duty, as well as violations of the California Accountancy Act. In addition, the CBA has tried to discipline CPAs for DUI and domestic violence convictions. You will want to argue to the board that the conviction in your case is not related to the job and does not implicate your fitness to perform your profession.

The Law Offices of Thomas Greenberg can help you get the best possible outcome in your criminal case. As our office handles criminal matters exclusively, we will consult with an experienced employment attorney regarding proceeding before any administrative board.

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