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Complaints

Authority

Our authority is limited to regulating the practice of public accounting in Washington State. 

This includes:

  • Individuals licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • CPA firms
  • CPA-Inactive certificateholders
  • CPA exam applications
  • Non-licensee CPA firm owners

Complaints Not Investigated

The Board does not have the authority to resolve fee disputes, award damages, settle disputes over tax code interpretation, or otherwise settle claims. 

  • Complaints against a respondent that is under litigation: If the subject matter of the complaint is currently in litigation or under review by another agency, the Board may defer the investigation until the proceedings are completed.
  • Complaints against non-CPAs: We do not have authority over non-CPAs, unless they are using the CPA title, offering or performing audits, reviews, and/or compilations, or are non-CPA owners of a CPA firm.

For complaints against accountants or bookkeepers, contact the Attorney General's Office - Safeguarding Consumers.

Complaints Investigated

If a complaint has sufficient evidence to support a violation of the Public Accountancy Act Chapter 18.04 RCW, then the Board may impose discipline.  Some common complaints that we investigate are:

  • Negligence and gross negligence in the performance of professional services
  • Failure to return client records:
    Within 45 days of a request, CPAs must provide a client or former client with any original papers that are the property of the client, and/or files that would constitute part of the client’s records.  A CPA is not required to provide working papers.  CPAs cannot refuse to return client records pending client payment of outstanding fees.

    If you are having difficulties with getting your records from a CPA, we recommend that you submit your records request to the CPA in writing, detail the specific records that you want returned, and send your request by certified mail to the CPA.  If the CPA does not return your records within 45 days, please file a complaint with a copy of your written records request.

    CPAs may charge a reasonable fee to compile and transfer records, and require that fee be paid prior to providing the records.
  • CPA title use by non-CPA accountants, bookkeepers, or firms:
    The use of the title certified public accountant (CPA) by an individual or firm that is not licensed to do so is prohibited.

    If you are aware of an individual or a firm using the CPA title and they are not listed in the Licensee Search, please notify us.  (Exception: Mobility)

    If you are aware of an individual or a firm offering audit, review, or compilation services and they are not listed in the Licensee Search, please notify us.  (Exception: Mobility)
  • Conflict of interest in the performance of professional services: CPAs must remain honest, objective, and not misrepresent facts in the performance of professional services.

After an investigation is complete, the Executive Director and a Consulting Board Member review the evidence and decide if disciplinary action is appropriate.  The Board has the power to impose the following disciplinary actions:

  • Revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew a license
  • Administratively penalize, reprimand, restrict, or place on probation the holder of a certificate or license
  • Refuse to issue a license to an applicant
  • Impose a fine and/or recover investigative costs

Filing a Complaint

Review and complete a complaint form and send it to our office. Please state the exact nature of your complaint.  We require a completed and signed complaint form before we can pursue your complaint.

We cannot provide an estimate on how long an investigation may take.  Updates are not provided for an open investigation.  We may request additional information during the investigation process, and we ask for your timely cooperation.  Once the complaint is closed, we will notify you of the results.

Contact Us

If you are uncertain whether we are the appropriate agency to handle your complaint, need assistance in filing a complaint, or have other questions, please contact us.  You may reach us at (360) 664-9266 or investigations@cpaboard.wa.gov.