About 160 partners and professionals at Denver-based CPA and business advisory firm Hein & Associates receive a quarterly report on the status of their continuing professional education requirements.
If any are delinquent in complying with Colorado's Board of Accountancy mandate of 80 hours over a two-year period, they receive a "gentle" prod, according to Jim Brendel, the firm's national director of audit quality. "[The monitoring] gets more intense after the third quarter," he explained. "If it gets too close to the end of the year, we try to follow the grace periods to make it up, which can be anywhere from 30 to 60 days."
Hein's tracking process is emblematic of a widening number of firms that have dedicated staff assigned to oversee CPE requirements for licensing, whether the training courses are held in-house, at a venue away from the office, or via online delivery.
In fact, according to a recent poll conducted by Accounting Today's online portal, WebCPA, 70 percent of the firms surveyed indicated that they now actively monitor the CPE requirements of their staff, whether for tax, audit, ethics, Yellow Book or the recent wave of "soft skills" courses now available.
Most firms revealed that they have graduated beyond using basic Excel spreadsheets to track staff CPE totals, with the majority indicating that they have implemented Thomson Reuters' Reqwired, a learning management and compliance system for both the accounting and legal professions. (Reqwired and Thomson Reuters' CPE providers MicroMash and PASS Online are all being migrated onto a new platform titled Checkpoint Learning.)
At Berry Dunn McNeil & Parker, a multi-state firm based in Maine, Lisa Lutterman is one of the managers charged with tracking CPE for roughly 150 staff members, including 19 partners, a process that becomes somewhat more complex when the practice has offices in other states or its CPAs are licensed in several states. In that case, the CPE mandates of those various state boards have to be met as well, and not just the dictates of the home office location.
"[The partners and professionals] all have access to CPE," she said. "They enter their training and then submit their documentation. And we have set up system reminders that can be set for 90, 60 or 30 days."
Kelly Sheridan, a principal at Westborough, Mass.-based CCR, said that the 95 partners and professionals responsible for fulfilling CPE requirements submit their hours via a time and billing system, which are then forwarded to the firm administrator, who generates a firmwide report.
"We provide all firm members access to CPE," said Sheridan. "Sometimes a partner will be right in the middle of tax season, so it may be hard to get CPE at that time. So it has to be available at times convenient to them."
Jennifer Matsuura, director of recruiting and training at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt, monitors the CPE requirements for roughly 200 professionals, including the practice's 29 partners. "We have a firm-wide requirement of 40 CPE hours, whether you have your CPA license or not," she explained. "We rely on them to monitor their CPE, but if someone in the firm is deficient in the number of hours, we will sit them down or have a talk with their firm mentors. We also help them look for classes. We tell them, 'Your license is coming up for renewal and here's where you are.'"
Tom Berical, a director at Freed Maxick & Battaglia CPAs, has overseen CPE at the Buffalo, N.Y.-based practice for 15 years and assists the roughly 180 professionals who are required to get CPE matriculate on their chosen courses of study. "We help them get trained on what they want to get trained on," he said. "I approve all CPE requests, but if I see something I'm not comfortable or familiar with as a CPE course, I'll discuss it with that person's supervisor."
Berical said that he sends out memos to each staff member, as well as their CPE transcripts. "I usually follow that up with a memo which shows them what they need in terms of hours for a particular field," he said.
Maria Calabrese, human resources manager at Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, in Cranford, N.J., said that the firm has staff members licensed not only in New Jersey, but in neighboring states such as Pennsylvania and Delaware. "Toward the end of last year, we had some folks who were getting close to the end-of-the-year deadline and we had to send them e-mails that explained their credit shortages for New Jersey and the other states" - a task that she said was made simpler after the firm transitioned to a more sophisticated tracking system in mid-2009.
She noted that the firm is also able to track the legal education requirements for the attorneys on staff, but said that more often than not there will be scattered stragglers: "We even had some taking webinars on New Year's Eve."
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