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Buyer beware: Not all CPE is equal

September 20, 2018  |  Lynn Kletscher

Buyer beware: Not all CPE is equal

My phone rings; I answer. The caller wants to know how to qualify his company’s programs for CPE. I recite my spiel about the NASBA Registry requirement in Minnesota. He balks at the work and cost involved.

I mention CPAs can claim up to 48 hours of non-Board of Accountancy (BOA)-approved CPE. An audible sigh of relief floats across the phone line. But before we hang up, I give the inquirer a strong warning: Don’t advertise CPE credits if you’re not a BOA-approved sponsor; it is very misleading for even the most well-informed CPA.

Here’s what’s scary: I take multiple calls like this every week. Here’s what’s scarier: Not everyone calls. And even if they do, not everyone heeds my warning before advertising their programs for CPE.

Ultimately, it’s up to you, the CPA, to be CPE savvy. I know, it’s already a full-time job keeping up with the important stuff like tax changes, FASB developments and audit guidance. To help, I’ll break it down for you with a few helpful tips.

How to be a CPE-savvy CPA in Minnesota

1) Recognize the good guys. 
In most cases, NASBA Registry sponsors are your safest bet. And sometimes, they are the only option. See the grid below to determine who can and can’t sponsor CPE based on delivery format.

CPE sponsor 
  • Group live (in-person events such as seminars and conferences)
  • Group internet-based (live webinars/webcasts)
  • Self-study
  • Nano learning
  • Blended learning
NASBA Registry sponsor  YES  YES - REQUIRED 
BOA-approved non-Registry sponsor such as AICPA, college or CPA firm (refer to BOA rules for complete list with details)  YES  NO 
Non-BOA-approved sponsor  YES - LIMITED  NO 

2) Look for the NASBA Registry statement and logo on CPE advertisements. 
Don’t see them? Call and ask the program sponsor. If you hear crickets, they most likely aren’t on the NASBA Registry.

3) Verify the program sponsor is approved for the delivery format. 
Self-study, nano-learning and blended-learning program sponsors must be on the NASBA Registry. But it isn’t enough to be listed on the NASBA Registry -- the sponsor must also be approved for the delivery format for which it’s advertising.

4) Know where to go for help. 
The who’s who and what’s what in CPE can be confusing. If you want to keep tabs on CPE rules, requirements and program sponsors, I recommend you bookmark the MNCPABOA and NASBA Registry websites. And of course, you can always email your questions to me.

Now I have one more warning, and it’s for you, my CPA reader: Be a smart CPE shopper and beware of false (or ignorant) advertising -- your professional livelihood is on the line.

Topics: Regulation, Professional Certification

Lynn Kletscher

Lynn Kletscher is the MNCPA director of education, working to secure innovative and informative continuing education programs for CPAs. When she’s not researching the latest NASBA CPE rules, she is at her hobby farm tending to her horses and chickens. She is a fair-weather motorcyclist and a year-round fan of The Walking Dead. Next time you attend an MNCPA event or seminar, ask her about her zombie escape plan. Lynn can be reached at 952-885-5513 or lkletscher@mncpa.org.

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