Alaska accountants must maintain certain standards to keep their licenses. When accusations of wrongdoing place an accountant’s license in jeopardy, a strong professional defense is critical.
When an accountant receives a licensing complaint, their first instinct is to speak with the licensing investigator to “fix” the problem. This often makes matters worse. A licensing investigator’s job is to uncover misconduct and they are not looking out for an accountant’s best interests. In addition, the documents involved in a licensing action can be confusing. Even an experienced accountant might not understand what certain terms mean as part of their disciplinary case. Mistakes made at the beginning of a licensing investigation can have lasting negative effects. Knowing when and how to respond to a licensing investigation is critical to crafting an effective defense and maintaining a professional license.
Why an accountant might be threatened with discipline
Accountants can encounter licensing problems for many reasons. Conduct subject to discipline includes “acts discreditable to the accounting profession” such as a breach of client confidence, bribery, or illegal financial activities, “dishonesty in the practice of public accounting,” and “gross negligence.” Conviction of a crime involving dishonesty or fraud can lead to discipline, and conviction of a felony can result in license revocation. An accountant’s license may also be revoked if the license is obtained by fraud or deceit or if the accountant is the subject of a licensing action in another jurisdiction.
An accountant can even place a license in jeopardy before it is issued. The licensing examination is a fundamental aspect of becoming an accountant and violations during the exam itself may result in discipline. Violations can include removing materials or the exam from the testing room without permission, paying another person to take the test, reproducing parts of the test, getting information about the test before taking it, or selling, purchasing, providing or doing anything else with the test without being authorized to do so. Cheating on the exam by having items that were not allowed to be used during the test, copying the work of another person, violating the instructions given during the test, communicating with another person during test or impersonating a person to take the test can also lead to discipline.
Losing a license can mean losing a livelihood
Accountants need a license just like other professionals and the threat of losing the right to ply their trade can have terrible consequences professionally, financially and personally. There are many reasons why an accountant might become the subject of a licensing investigation. The important thing to remember is that the initiation of a licensing action does not mean that an accountant acted wrongfully. Licensing actions can be the result of a mistake, a misunderstanding, a financial dispute, or even just an angry client. In some instances, the claims against an accountant are entirely false. In others, they are the result of a miscommunication. In still others, an accountant may have made a mistake, but not one that justifies a suspension or loss of license. A strong license defense can make a major difference in the outcome of a licensing action regardless of the circumstances.