How to Manage Your CPE Credits

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Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) must maintain their professional competence by taking Continuing Professional Education (CPE) and delivering quality services to their clients. In order to maintain their licenses in a state or jurisdiction, CPAs must undergo training and acquire a set amount of credit hours over a specified duration.

CPE

CPE stands for "continuing professional education," and it's a prerequisite for CPA license renewal. Because the number of needed credits and reporting periods are defined by each state's board of accountancy, the number of total credits required and reporting periods may vary.

Each state board can add information on the types of CPE credits required to keep a CPA license current, as well as links to recognized providers. Credits from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) are generally recognized, however certain states may have supplementary criteria or limits. The Board of Accountancy in each state can furnish state-specific data.

CE credits

Continuing education (CE) credits are obtained by enrolled agents (EA). To keep their license, these professionals must obtain 72 hours of continuing education credits every three years. Each year, at least 16 CE credits must be attained, two of which must be in ethics courses.

To be eligible for credits, the classes and providers must be authorized by the IRS. The provider reports to the IRS on behalf of an enrolled agent who completes an IRS-approved CE course.

In-person and online CPE courses

In-person

In-person CPE classes are suitable for topics about which you have a lot of questions. It also allows for networking, and some individuals simply prefer the way a live class is organized. On the other hand, in-person classes may require commuting or travel, and location accessibility may vary, as a preferred class may be far away. You're also locked into the CPE provider's schedule, with no dates or hours to choose from.

Online CPE

You have complete choice over when and for how long you attend an online CPE course. They may also be accessible at any time from anywhere as long as you have access to the internet. You may also advance at your own speed with online classes, taking as much time as you need on each topic. If you wish to go through a subject again, you may do so without interfering with the instructor or hassling your classmates. You have the freedom to choose the courses that will best suit you because there are no restrictions on the particular topics you may access with online classes. You'll also have quick access to classes offered by well-known industry experts.

Live Webinars

E-learning courses that qualify as live events are known as CPE webinars. This implies that no examinations or tests are required to get CPE credit. Formal engagement, such as through questionnaires, surveys, polls, or quizzes, is usually required to ensure that you are there and listening. This sort of training is well-structured and does not need much personal planning.

Managing CPE Credits

Earning and managing CPE credits is a necessary skill for any accountant. You must choose which courses to take, ensure that they match the prerequisites, fit them into your calendar, report them, and ensure that you are constantly up-to-date. This might be perplexing, especially if it is a new obligation.

While it used to be that you could simply maintain your credentials by completing a predetermined number of hours, you may see modifications to the curricula in the coming years if you want to keep your license.

As a financial professional, you're likely to be compelled to take new courses by your state board or another regulatory body as a result of this change. CPE requirements can be fulfilled in a number of ways. A variety of CPE providers who are members of the NASB (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) or the applicable state board of accountancy provide CPE classes in the form of online self-study training, online webinars, and in-person training, among other options.

Challenges in Managing CPE Credits

Employers and employees frequently aim to use the learning mechanisms in place inside their business, given the duty to know and comply with the numerous CPE criteria set by the accountancy boards in each jurisdiction, as well as any company requirements. This sounds like a reasonable place to start, but monitoring CPA CPE compliance in existing learning management systems (LMS) is difficult for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Many systems lack sufficient fields to store all of the necessary data and documentation to process and grant credit.

  • Complex credit calculations, such as rolling credit when there is "extra" duration, are not supported by most systems.

  • Before being made available to learners, courses that are designated as suitable for CPE credit must go through an approval process.

  • Board standards are sometimes ambiguous and susceptible to interpretation by a company.

  • Individuals must meet different standards depending on the sort of employment they do in each state/jurisdiction.

  • Annual, biannual, and triennial cycles all have their own compliance periods.

The Risk

It's crucial to have correct credit records. Failure to satisfy compliance criteria might result in a person's CPA license being revoked. If an accountant is unable to complete an assignment without a current license, this can result in lost income for the company. Over-reporting (giving more credit than permitted) on the part of the employer might result in fines and the loss of their Sponsor Organization Number, leaving them unable to award CPE credit or create CPE content.

Simply not completing enough hours by the annual deadline is the most typical way to mishandle CE and CPE credits. You'll ultimately hear from the IRS if you don't obtain the correct quantity of credits in the correct time frame.

Taking courses from providers that are not allowed by the IRS or your state, or taking a course in an unapproved format, are other errors that might cause difficulties with your federal or state compliance. Sometimes a finished course isn't correctly recorded, or you choose a course that didn't correspond to a permitted topic. These issues can be avoided with early and accurate management.

The Solution

Firms are shifting away from entirely managing jurisdiction compliance internally as a consequence of these potential hurdles and hazards. They keep track of fundamental course information and compute prospective credit, but they don't apply all of the credit regulations they used to. 

Rather, many organizations submit the basic data to the accounting boards, which run it through their rules engine. In this manner, rather than the business deciding how the credits apply to compliance requirements, the boards decide. Shifting the duty for tracking CPE compliance from the business to the regulatory bodies decreases the possibility of errors that may occur if the firm calculates CPE incorrectly. It also limits the quantity of data a firm must keep to only what is necessary. As a result, the amount of time, money, and personnel required to run a CPE calculating system is reduced.

There are numerous techniques to verify that a CE or CPE course is appropriately recorded after completion. Many prominent professional accounting and financial services organizations have entreated their providers to discover a better approach to track the needed core compliance data. The IRS requires approved providers to transmit confirmation of CE courses. It is your responsibility to notify your state that you have finished a CPE course and the number of credits you have earned. You can also verify what the IRS has received by contacting them directly using your PTIN number. Several state licensing bodies provide the same service. If problems are discovered, you still have time to remedy them and address the problem.

Illumeo provides CPAs and other professionals with a complete CPE compliance tracking system. Our CPE Tracker feature keeps track of all CPE credits obtained on the platform as well as CPE credits earned through self-study and live seminars. As a result, you may use Illumeo to keep track of your progress and report on it all in one place.