How many and what types of complaints does the Board investigate?
We investigate about 90 to 150 complaints a year. Some common complaints that we investigate are:
- Negligence and gross negligence in the performance of professional services
- Tax errors or failure to complete services:
We do not investigate complaints regarding a CPA's minor or immaterial tax return errors or findings. Taxpayers are required by law to ensure that the information on their return is accurate and complete.
Before hiring a CPA for this purpose, clarify what the CPA will and will not do if you are audited or if an error is found on your return, as well as what will be charged if you are audited.
- Failure to return client records:
CPAs, upon request and within a reasonable period of time must furnish a client or former client with (RCW 18.04.390):
Any original papers the client provided to the CPA, or any record the CPA obtained on behalf of the client.
A copy of the CPA's working papers or electronic documents, provided the working papers or electronic documents include records that would ordinarily constitute part of the client's records and are not otherwise available to the client.
CPAs cannot refuse to return client records pending client payment of outstanding fees.
If you are having difficulties with getting your records from a CPA, we recommend that you:
If the CPA does not return your records file a complaint with a copy of your records request.
- Submit your records request to the CPA in writing.
- Detail the specific records that you want returned.
- Send your request by certified mail to the CPA.
- CPA title use by non-CPA accountants, bookkeepers, or firms:
The use of the title certified public accountant (CPA), public accountant, or similar title that implies they are a CPA by an individual or firm that is not licensed to do so is prohibited. (RCW 18.04.345)
If you are aware of an individual or a firm using the CPA title in their advertisements, letterhead, business cards, etc., and they are not listed in the Licensee Search, please notify us.
If you are aware of an individual or a firm offering compilation, review, or audit services and they are not listed in the Licensee Search, please notify us.
- Disclosure of confidential information:
CPAs cannot disclose any of your information without your prior consent (WAC 4-30-050) except for:
- Inquiries from us.
- Court orders.
If you believe your CPA has disclosed your information without your consent, provide us with details regarding the alleged disclosure in writing. (complete a complaint form)
- Failure to maintain competency
- Violations of Board regulatory requirements
Board staff does not investigate the performance of non-CPA accountants or bookkeepers.
How do I file a complaint?
Complete the complaint form and send it to our office via email, fax (360-664-9190), or mail. Please state the exact nature of your complaint, e.g. unable to get your records, failure to complete an engagement, et cetera. We require the completed complaint form before we are able to follow up on your complaint.
How long does an investigation take?
It depends on the difficulty of the complaint, the level of help and cooperation that is received from both sides, and our workload. For information on our practices and processes, please see the Board’s Investigation Process page, Board rule WAC 4-30-140, WAC 4-30-142, and Board Policy 2004-1.
We cannot provide an estimate on how long an investigation may take, or when the matter will be resolved. We will timely work every complaint, to the best we are able, and procedures permit.
How often is a status update of the investigation given?
We will notify you whether or not an investigation is opened. Details of an open investigation are not provided during the investigation. Once the complaint is resolved, whether it has been dismissed or closed through Board action, we will notify you with the results.
We may request additional information during the investigation process. We ask for your timely cooperation during this time.
Can my name be confidential?
No. We are required to comply with the Public Records Act (RCW 42.56).