This material has been prepared for anyone with a complaint about a Certified Public Accountant or a Public Accountant. This information is designed to explain rules, regulations and procedures which the Oregon Board of Accountancy follow regarding complaint and disciplinary matters.
The Board of Accountancy's mission is to protect the public by regulating the practice and performance of services provided by licensed accountants. The effective investigation and resolution of complaints is an essential element of the Board's desire to fulfill its mission. Accordingly, the Board both seeks and welcomes the active participation, by affected licensees, in negotiating the appropriate final outcomes of disciplinary action. The Oregon Board of Accountancy responds to all written complaints submitted to the Board. Complaints can originate from the public, another accountant, a client, a previous client, or anyone at all. The Board may also initiate an investigation based on information received, such as a notice in the newspaper.
For information about disciplinary history of a licensed accountant or public accounting firm, contact the Board's Compliance Specialist.
If you would like to file a complaint with the Oregon Board of Accountancy you must complete and submit the following form:
Disciplinary actions are a matter of public record and copies of the Stipulation and Order are available by submitting a written request to the Board.
The Board has authority to investigate complaints filed against licensees (CPAs and PAs licensed in Oregon), and against non-licensed individuals; for example an individual who is practicing public accounting without a license or holding themselves out to be a licensee.
Licensees of the Board are guided by the Code of Professional Conduct (Oregon Administrative Rule 801 Division 030). Those who violate this code are subject to disciplinary action which, in the worst case, could result in revocation of their license to practice public accounting. Discipline is considered carefully since it may have a profound effect on the licensee´s career, reputation, and ability to make a living. It takes more than a claim of wrongdoing; it requires evidence to substantiate the claim(s). Neither an honest disagreement about how a matter should have been handled, nor an honest mistake constitute illegal or unethical conduct. Disagreement about fees does not constitute illegal or unethical conduct; except in unusual circumstances. The Board has no jurisdiction over fee disputes and will be unable to help you unless there are other reasons for your complaint.
If you believe your licensed accountant was unethical or made a serious error, you may wish to file a complaint with the Board.
Not All Accountants Are Licensed
The Oregon Board of Accountancy does not usually have jurisdiction over unlicensed accountants. However, in order to use the title Certified Public Accountant or Public Accountant, a person must be licensed by the Oregon Board of Accountancy. The Board investigates complaints filed against its licensees or individuals who are holding themselves out as a CPA or PA without a valid license. If you are having problems with a Licensed Tax Consultant or Tax Preparer, you should contact the Board of Tax Practitioners at (503) 378-4034.
CPA and PA Standards are High
Most CPAs and PAs sincerely try to do all they can on behalf of their clients. They value their good reputation and want to do what they can to resolve any difficulties which may have arisen. When there has been no illegal or unethical conduct, but only a misunderstanding, the Board wants to help clear up that misunderstanding. The procedures for dealing with your complaint are designed to provide a thorough review of the matter and to resolve the questions according to the provisions of ORS Chapter 673 and OAR Chapter 801.
Ethics and Discipline
All CPAs and PAs are guided by rules adopted by the Board. Among these rules is the Code of Professional Conduct. An individual who violates this code is subject to discipline which, in very serious matters, could mean suspension or revocation of the permit to practice.
Discipline of a CPA or PA must be considered carefully since it may have a profound effect on the licensee´s career, reputation and ability to make a living. You can understand, therefore, that it takes more than a claim of illegal or unethical conduct to justify a disciplinary action. It takes evidence - proof of illegal or unethical conduct - to justify discipline of a licensee, just as it takes proof before you or any member of society may be penalized for wrongdoing. An honest disagreement about how a matter should be handled, or should have been handled, does not constitute illegal or unethical conduct. A mistake or an error in judgment is not illegal or unethical conduct.
Disagreement about fees does not constitute illegal or unethical conduct alone. There can be legitimate differences about fees, of course. If your complaint is found to be a fee dispute only, you will be advised and receive information about other resources available, if any. The Board has no jurisdiction over fees and will be unable to help you unless there are other reasons for your complaint.
Finally, there are situations which a client may find annoying, but which do not constitute illegal or unethical conduct. An example would be the licensee´s failure to respond to the client´s telephone calls inquiring about progress. Although such situations do not constitute unethical conduct, except in extreme cases, the Board will advise the licensee of the complaint.
Illegal or unethical conduct means wrongdoing - a violation of the law or of the Professional Code of Conduct - which must be proven by evidence.
Disagreement between licensees and clients about fees does not constitute illegal or unethical conduct except in unusual circumstances. The Board has no jurisdiction over fee disputes and is unable to help unless there is another basis for the complaint.
CPAs and PAs normally charge according to the amount of time required to perform the services requested. There are no "fee schedules" common to the profession. Fees vary depending on the type of service required, the prevailing costs in the community, the licensee´s level of expertise, and the complexity of the work.
Your complaint will be referred to the Board investigators, Anthony Truong or Jeremiah Leppert. The investigator will prepare a report that will be presented to the Complaints Committee for consideration. The Complaints Committee is composed of Certified Public Accountants and Public Accountants who are appointed by the Board. The Committee, which meets once each quarter, will make a recommendation on each case to the Board.
A copy of your complaint will be sent to the licensee so that his or her side of the story may be presented. If the answer raises additional questions, you may be asked to submit your comments on the licensee´s explanation.
How Long Does an Investigation Take?
You should receive acknowledgment of your complaint within one week after it is received. The length of time required to investigate a complaint varies depending on the nature of the complaint, whether or not the facts of the case are in dispute, and the cooperativeness of the individuals involved in the case. A complaint involving a complex financial matter, for example, will take more time to investigate than a complaint that a licensee failed to return client´s records.
Your complaint will be handled as quickly as possible and you will be notified of the outcome.
Both parties to the complaint will be notified of the following events:
- Written notice that the complaint is opened
- During the investigation the investigator may contact either party for additional information
- Written notice of the Board´s decision
Some Things You Should Not Expect
You should not expect that your complaint will be decided solely on the basis of your statement. The licensee about whom you complained cannot expect that the matter will be decided solely on the basis of his or her statement. The final decision will be based on the weight of all evidence and testimony.
You should not expect, as a result of your complaint, that you will receive any money or reimbursement of loss. Any monetary loss you may claim must be recovered through a legal proceeding. Board disciplinary proceedings are restricted to the question of an accountant´s fitness to practice public accounting.
What You Can Expect
You can expect that your complaint will receive serious consideration. You can expect that every attempt will be made to deal with your complaint in a manner which is fair to you and to the CPA or PA about whom you complained. You can expect to receive written notice of the Board´s final decision concerning your complaint.
The Board´s disciplinary system is designed to provide an orderly and just way to deal with complaints of misconduct against its licensees. We sincerely hope that the problems which gave rise to your complaint will be resolved in a manner that is effective and fair. The complaint is not officially closed until the Board takes action and all parties are notified of the final action. If disciplinary action is taken, the licensee, firm or non-licensee has the right to a contested case hearing if they dispute the facts of the case. The Board can only discipline those who violate the rules and laws of the Board. The Board has no authority to award damages to any individuals.
If you have questions about filing a complaint, please contact Board Invesitigator Jeremiah Leppert, CPA, by phone at 503-378-5041 or by email at Jeremiah.Leppert@boa.oregon.gov.