Florida Declares War on Unlicensed Accountants

Article excerpt

A condition of war exists between the state of Florida and unlicensed accountants. War comes--not as a surprise or sneak attack but as a deliberate announced aggression by Florida state officials.

On April 25, 1994, the Unlicensed Activity Coordinator of the Florida Departmen of Business and Professional Regulation (hereinafter called the BPR) issued a press release to Florida newspapers and to professional organizations and societies. The purpose of the press release was to advise the news media (and through the news media, the general public as consumers) how the BPR would deal with the problem of unlicensed activity.

Attached to the release was BPR's program to combat unlicensed activity, including the practice of unlicensed accountants. First, we have BPR's statemen that individuals who practice professions (like accounting) without a license are a threat to consumers. Second, we have BPR's statement that such individual must be dealt with in an aggressive manner. Certainly the unlicensed people mus be dealt with more aggressively than they have been in the past.

FLORIDA'S MISPLACED PRIORITIES

Further, unlicensed activity, including the practice of unlicensed accountants, is "a growing crime problem." Never mind about the Florida traffic in illegal drugs or the murder of innocent tourists on Florida highways. The state has got to look out for unlicensed activity and spend its resources enforcing unlicense activity because it is "a growing crime problem." Such a statement by the Secretary of Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulations make you wonder just where the State of Florida places its priorities. Perhaps it is news to Florida non-CPA accountants that their unlicensed activity is a considerable part of Florida's growing crime problem.

The noted audit failures of the past decade and the savings and loan debacle (including some in Florida) were certainly not caused by the practice of unlicensed accountants. Accounting gimmicks and fraud in financial reporting ar activities of board-licensed CPAs. If there is a "growing crime problem" in the accounting profession, it is more likely with licensees who accommodate their clients through misapplication of accounting principles. The crime problem is not with Florida unlicensed accountants who are prohibited by law from performing audits or reviews of financial statements.

The objective of the BPR is to create an environment that will make unlicensed activity (including unlicensed accountants) unappealing, unprofitable and completely unacceptable. Within the BPR bureaucracy, the legislature establishe the Office of Unlicensed Activity Enforcement and Education. That office is the front line assault combat team, the SWAT organization. It will dedicate 100% of its efforts to "combatting" (BPR's word) unlicensed activity.

FICPA JOINS THE BATTLE

In its war against the unlicensed accountant, BPR has sought the support and participation of professional associations and societies in developing and implementing its unlicensed activity enforcement program. The one volunteer all that is most vigorous on behalf of BPR is--you've guessed it--the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants (FICPA).

Since 1991, FICPA has been assisting the Florida Board of Accountancy by "bird-dogging"--that is, by monitoring directory listings, public signs and stationery of unlicensed accountants and reporting alleged violations to the Board. In 1991, the Chairman of FICPA's Committee on Unlicensed Practice boaste that he had "ferreted out" and turned over to BPR more than 100 names of non-CPAs who allegedly pass themselves off as licensed practitioners. There is no mention of how many board licensees the FICPA Committee turned over to the Board for audit failures, impermissible (that is, illegal) accounting shenanigans (such as recordation of fictitious revenues to overstate performanc or manipulation of inventories to achieve the same result) or other unethical o illegal activities that can be engaged in only by Board licensees. …