Rules and Regulations of the Rhode Island Board of Accountancy
|Title||400||Board of Accountancy|
|Part||1||Rules and Regulations of the Rhode Island Board of Accountancy|
|Type of Filing||Amendment|
|Effective||05/21/2020 to 09/18/2020|
Regulation Authority :
R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-4(f).
Purpose and Reason :
The Rhode Island Board of Accountancy (“Board”) has promulgated these emergency amendments to the Continuing Professional Education (“CPE”) provisions of its regulation in §§ 1.2 and of 400-RICR-00-00-1. Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-4(e)(2), this Emergency Regulation shall take effect upon the signature of the Board Chairperson and the Governor, or the Governor’s designee. In accordance with § 42-35-2.10, this Emergency Regulation shall remain in effect for a period equal to one hundred twenty (120) days from such effective date and any renewal thereof for a period not exceeding sixty (60) days, or, if sooner, until repeal of this Emergency Regulation.
These emergency amendments modify the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements by: streamlining the requirements to make compliance easier for CPA licensees; incorporating the updated national CPE standards which allow for virtual learning; and providing a mechanism for CPAs due to renew their license by June 30, 2020, to renew even if they have not completed the required CPE given the current Covid-19 State of Emergency. The specific changes resulting from these emergency regulatory amendments are as follows:
1. Reduce confusion by coinciding the license renewal date with the CPE deadline. The impact of this change would extend time to CPAs renewing June 30, 2020 to complete their CPEs by that date (rather than the earlier December 2019 date) and resolve some pending extension requests. For CPAs renewing June 30, 2021, this change would also mean that they have an additional six months to complete their CPEs by that date (rather than the earlier December 2020 date). In response to an increase in phone inquiries about CPE requirements, the Board also clarified that CPA’s in their first renewal cycle have a reduced number of CPE hours required for renewal. See § 1.8.1(A), (B)(1) and (B)(9)(b).
2. Calculating CPE Credits by time units only and allowing “nanolearning.” Prompted by a request by the R.I. Society of CPAs, the Board voted to allow “nanolearning,” meaning 10-minute CPE segments. As “nanolearning” is becoming more popular, this gives CPAs an addition way to accrue CPEs to build their competence virtually, while social distancing. Credits can be accrued in three units: 50 minutes equaling 1 credit; 25 minutes equaling 0.5 credit; and 10 minutes equaling 0.2 credit (no partial credit or grouping of smaller segments). As a result of these changes, the Board chose to simplify CPE credit calculations by deleting unnecessary, confusing and out-of-date CPE hour to day equivalents. See § 1.8.1(B)(1) & (B)(6)(b)(2).
3. Clarify and remove limitations on “remotely-delivered CPE.” This change deletes confusing requirements for obtaining credits for CPE earned other than through an in-person program. It removes the cap on how much credit could be obtained remotely and clarifies and modernizes the standards applicable to remotely-delivered programs to assure that there are proper attendance verification mechanisms in place and to reduce the paperwork and administrative burden of obtaining such credits. See § 1.8.1(B)(7). In addition, a coordinating update to § 1.2(A)(2) was made in order to Incorporate by Reference the latest NASBA/AICPA standards that include that nationwide standard changes relating to expanded virtual delivery of CPE content.
4. Clarify procedure for requesting special relief for CPE compliance and create a State of Emergency Automatic Relief. The State of Emergency Automatic Relief addresses the COVID-19 situation and any similarly extended future states of emergency declared by the Governor. It allows a CPA by a simple notice to the Board to receive automatic relief to roll over uncompleted hours to the next renewal cycle if a state of emergency has lasted 30 days or more of the last 12 months of their renewal deadline. These changes also provide clarity by consolidating sections referring to CPE exemptions granted by the Board, making minor edits to be consistent with long standing current practices of the Board. See § 1.8.1(C). To avoid confusion, the existing provision for CPE exceptions in § 1.8.1(B)(5) was deleted.
Note - A Board meeting was held by a Zoom video conference on May 7, 2020, pursuant to an Open Meetings Act notice that outlined the subtopics on which the Board would be considering emergency revisions to the CPE rules. At the Open Meeting, two representatives of the Rhode Island Society of CPAs (the industry group that advocates for its member CPA interests), appeared and spoke at the meeting, provided input during the drafting process, and expressed support for these emergency regulations. The Board plans on initiating the regular (non-emergency) rulemaking process to make these emergency regulations permanent.
Brief statement of Reason for Finding Imminent Peril :
Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-2.10, the Board finds “that an imminent peril to the public health, safety, or welfare … requires the immediate promulgation of an emergency rule.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-2 requires the Board, in administering Chapter 5-3.1 regulating CPAs, “to protect the public interest by requiring that persons professing special competence in accountancy or offering assurance as to the reliability or fairness of presentation of that information demonstrate their qualification to do so.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-3.1-4(f)(4) in turn vests the Board will complete authority to promulgate and administer “rules and regulations establishing requirements for continuing education to promote the professional competence of holders of permits, which the board may require those holders to meet as a condition of their continuing in the practice of public accounting.” Without these emergency regulations, some Certified Public Accountants (“CPAs”) will not be able to comply with the existing Continuing Professional Education (“CPE”) rules and, as a result, would not be able to renew their licenses by the June 30, 2020 deadline. Non-compliance with CPEs in the absence of these emergency regulations could harm the public interest by reducing the number of qualified CPAs available to retain for critical services. These emergency regulations modernize the rules and ease compliance burdens for CPAs to prevent a reduction in number of active licensees. These emergency regulations also provide a regulatory environment that supports efforts to build CPA competence through expanded virtual learning to maintain public trust in the profession. Retaining licensed CPAs in the profession and furthering their competence through virtual CPE are critical goals in furtherance of public welfare. CPAs provide critical services that address business and personal financial interests of Rhode Islanders. Such services are especially important during a health pandemic that has been hard-hitting to financial interests of some Rhode Islanders.