Certified Public Accountant
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the statutory title of qualified accountants in the United States who have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and have met additional state education and experience requirements for certification as a CPA. Individuals who have passed the Exam but have not either accomplished the required on-the-job experience or have previously met it but in the meantime have lapsed their continuing professional education are, in many states, permitted the designation “CPA Inactive” or an equivalent phrase. In most U.S. states, only CPAs who are licensed are able to provide to the public attestation (including auditing) opinions on financial statements. The exceptions to this rule are Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan and Ohio where the “CPA” designation and the practice of auditing are not restricted.
Many states have (or have had) a lower tier of accountant qualification below that of CPA, usually entitled “Public Accountant” or “Licensed Public Accountant” (with designatory letters “PA” or “LPA”), although other titles have included “Registered Public Accountant” (RPA), “Accounting Practitioner” (AP), and “Registered Accounting Practitioner” (RAP). This designation was intended as a designation for non-certified accountants who were practicing public accounting before a state accountancy law was enacted to regulate the accounting profession. The majority of states have closed the designation “Public Accountant” (PA) to new entrants, with only about six states continuing to offer the designation. Many PAs belong to the National Society of Accountants.
Many states prohibit the use of the designations “Certified Public Accountant” or “Public Accountant”/”Licensed Public Accountant” (or the abbreviations “CPA” or “PA”/”LPA”) by a person who is not certified as a CPA or PA in that state. As a result, in many circumstances, an out-of-state CPA is restricted from using the CPA designation or designators letters until a license or certificate from that state is obtained.
Texas additionally prohibits the use of the designations “accountant” and “auditor” by a person not certified as a Texas CPA, unless that person is a CPA in another state, a non-resident of Texas, and otherwise meets the requirements for practice in Texas by out-of-state CPA firms and practitioners.
Many other countries also use the title CPA to designate local public accountants.