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When it comes to independent study CPE, you don’t get to make the rules

BOA Business

Anne Janotta Erickson, MNCPA senior business & industry marketing coordinator | February/March 2019 Footnote

“I can do it,” insists the toddler.

“You can’t tell me what to do,” implores the teenager.

“I’m doing it my way,” declares the CPA.

We all have an independent streak — CPAs included. Sometimes, it just feels good to call the shots and be in control. But, sometimes, we need to be reminded that rules are in place for a reason.

Cue the Minnesota Board of Accountancy (BOA).

The BOA recently noticed an uptick in CPAs reporting independent study credits. This increase was significant enough to cause suspicion. Are people confusing independent study with self-study? If not, are those independent study CPE credits reported by CPAs compliant with BOA rules?

Here’s how to make sure they are.

What is independent study CPE?

Independent study is allowed by the BOA, but it’s not as simple as researching a topic and declaring it worthy of CPE. That doesn’t cut it. 

The BOA defines independent study as “an educational process designed to teach a participant a given subject using a learning contract with a continuing professional education program sponsor.”

The Statement on Standards for CPE Programs jointly approved by NASBA and the AICPA takes this definition a step further, requiring the learning contract to specify the nature, timeframe and maximum CPE credits of the independent study program. The program sponsor must have an expertise in the topic being studied and both parties must agree to the contract at hand.

At the conclusion of the independent study CPE course, the CPA must provide either a written report or certification to be reviewed by the CPE program sponsor. This could include a live demonstration, oral examination or presentation.

Is record-keeping necessary?

Of course! CPAs must retain all CPE records for a minimum of five years.
In addition to the specific record-keeping rules for Board- and non-Board-approved CPE, the Statement on Standards also states that documentation must note content, inputs and outcomes of the independent study program.


Rules and regulations are set by the Minnesota BOA. They can be reached at 651-296-7938 or www.boa.state.mn.us.

The MNCPA is here to help! Contact us with your CPE questions at 952-831-2707 or customerservice@mncpa.org.

CPA firms: Is your firm permit in compliance?

On March 1, any CPA firm whose partners, shareholders, members, managers (if an LLC), directors and officers have not renewed or reported to the Minnesota Board of Accountancy will have their firm permit automatically revoked. Why? Because firm permits are directly linked to individual CPA certificate renewal. 

This is a big deal because a CPA firm cannot operate without a firm permit. Avoid compliance nightmares by confirming that the noted CPAs have renewed. This can be done on the BOA’s website.