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Changing your firm's name? Get it right

BOA Business

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What's in a name?

It's something parents often hem and haw over. New business owners may even lose sleep making this decision. Can you name a professional sports team that hasn't had its name debated?  

This is where CPA firms have it easier. The Minnesota Board of Accountancy (BOA) has laid out straight-forward rules regarding how a firm can be named. For the full story, reference Minnesota Rules 1105.6300 and 6400.

Names 101

All CPA firm names must be registered and approved by the BOA. A firm name cannot contain the name of a CPA whose certificate has been suspended or revoked.

Firm names must be consistent between the BOA and the Minnesota Secretary of State's records. As an example, if you're listed as an LLC with the Secretary of State, the same must be true at the BOA.

The BOA does not allow misleading firm names, so be careful with names that you cannot prove to be true. As an example, no firm can prove being the best of the best and, therefore, cannot name their firm The Best CPA Firm, LLC.

Naming guidelines are different for CPA firms and sole proprietors.

CPA firms

  • The firm name must include the surname or initials of one or more present or former partners, members or shareholders.
  • Non-CPA owners can be listed in a firm's name provided the CPA designation is not also used within the name.
  • Words such as company, associates or group imply that more than one CPA works within the firm. To use such words within a firm's name, at least two CPAs must work full time within the firm. Enrolled agents do not count.

Sole proprietors

The firm name must include the owner's surname. Initials are not allowed.

Time for a name change?

Legal entity changes require a CPA firm to apply for a new firm permit. Do so by using the BOA's CPA Firm Permit application.

Name changes that don't involve changing a CPA firm's legal entity must submit the proper paperwork specific to their firm type.  

CPA firms

All CPA firm name changes must be updated by the Minnesota Secretary of State before they can be updated by the BOA.

  1. Verify the new firm name's availability through the Secretary of State.
  2. Update your firm's Articles of Incorporation or Certificate of Authority through the Minnesota Secretary of State.
  3. Complete and submit to the BOA the BOA's CPA Firm Name Change Request form as well as updated documentation from the Minnesota Secretary of State.  

Sole proprietors

Complete the BOA's CPA Sole Proprietor Firm Name Change Request form to the BOA. Sole proprietors are not registered with the Secretary of State and needn't contact the office to complete a name change.

Common naming mistakes

Learn from the mistakes of others and avoid these common naming errors.

Partner retirement

Has a CPA listed in your firm's name recently retired? They must continue to properly renew their individual CPA certificate to remain in the firm's name. Advise retiring partners to properly renew their active CPA certificate, renew as inactive or go exempt to avoid naming issues.

Cutting it close

A CPA firm's name must be approved by the BOA before it can be used. Firm name changes cannot be approved administratively -- they must go in front of the BOA. The BOA does not meet every month, however. If you know that your firm's name will be changing, don't procrastinate.

Waiting until it's time to renew the firm's permit

A firm's name cannot be changed within the BOA's firm permit renewal form. It is a separate process that must be completed prior to renewal.

Questions?

The Minnesota BOA regulates firm permits and CPA certification. They can be reached at 651-296-7938 or www.boa.state.mn.us.

Contact the MNCPA anytime with questions about licensure. Call 952-831-2707 or email customerservice@mncpa.org.