Your association recognizes that the continued push for Occupational Reform is a significant risk to the profession. The topic of reform is trending for proponents who question how much licensing should be required for different occupations. It’s not so easy to lump all professions into the same basket.

SCACPA CEO Chris Jenkins wants South Carolina CPAs to be aware of the concern that calls to limit licensing and the reforms proposed in many states (including South Carolina with S.0330) fail to acknowledge there is a distinction between licenses for occupations, such as tour guides, and advanced professions, such as CPAs.

The risk is that CPAs and other advanced professions could be inadvertently harmed by legislation that would undo proven and effective licensing practices.

“Without proper regulation, the CPA profession doesn’t exist” Jenkins said. “This is a battle worth having, and one we can’t lose. CPA mobility relies on the fact that states have regulation, and that regulations remain substantially equivalent. Any change regardless of the state it occurs in has the potential to threaten mobility and impact South Carolina CPAs.

S.492, the Occupational Licensing Consumer Choice Act introduced in West Virginia, would allow a non-CPA to provide CPA services as long as the provider informed the consumer they were not licensed. As the gold standard of financial professionals, entire industries trust the work product of a CPA. Non-licensees completing this work is simply too much of a risk. Without regulation, what are the recourses? There are none, and that’s problematic.

The South Carolina Association of CPAs requests that any licensure reforms recognize the distinct needs of advanced professions relative to occupations and protect CPA licensing standards that are promoting mobility and opportunity in the accounting profession.

S.0030 (Occupational Licensure Reform Act)

In South Carolina’s current legislative session, the Occupational Licensure Reform Act (S.0330) was introduced in January and referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

It asks that the codes of the Department and Director Of Labor, Licensing And Regulation be subject to “undergo legislative review to identify whether present, significant, or substantiated harms would exist in the absence of the regulation that would warrant government intervention and, if so, to provide that the Senate Committee on Legislative Oversight and the House of Representatives Committee On Legislative Oversight shall consider alternative provisions that would be the least restrictive and impose the lowest burdens and costs while protecting consumers from harm.”

“Continued monitoring and public feedback are essential to ensuring proper regulation. The Profession needs to have a voice in the conversation,” Jenkins said. “The SCACPA Advocacy Team is in the State House every day watching for new threats. Monitoring seemingly benign bills might seem tedious; however, you never know what changes a late-breaking amendment might cause.

“Regulation must protect the public, remain flexible for an evolving profession, and allow for future licensees’ success. CPAs are the gold standard. The Profession is built on education, experience, ethics and an exam, regulations are required to ensure CPAs are held to the same high standards regardless of location. SCACPA’s charge is to ensure those regulations are reasonable and enforceable.”

National Occupational Licensure Reform Efforts Attract Bipartisan Support

“It’s important to understand these bills are designed to appeal to both political parties,” Jenkins said. “Bills are being introduced such as the Right to Earn a Living Act. It’s hard to vote against someone’s right to earn a living. Such bills allow for access to markets, reduce government oversight and seem obvious on the surface. It’s an opportunity for legislators to show collaboration in an environment that appears divided.

“The issue comes with the unexpected impacts. Legislators can create a scenario where public risk is increased or professionals in one state are cut off from being able to do business in other states. Not all professions are equal, and considerations need to be made based with all the facts.

The Positive Elements of Licensure

CPAs have created a strong licensing system that allows mobility, creates opportunity and does not require redundant licensing in every state.

  • A CPA can practice across 53 U.S. jurisdictions without needing to obtain a reciprocal license or to notify the state board of accountancy

In many cases, proposed reforms do not consider professional licensing standards that are already working and, if enacted, would undermine mobility, hurt the Profession, and inflate costs for consumers.

  • Reforms would create a patchwork of licensing standards across the country, dismantling the mobile system now in place for CPAs
  • Because CPAs have clients and offices in many different states, CPAs would be forced to obtain multiple licenses to comply with varying licensing standards
  • The compliance cost of obtaining these licenses in multiple states would be passed onto the consumer

“The value to our members is that the SCACPA Advocacy Team remains current on issues regarding occupational licensure reform efforts, and continues to fight on behalf of the Profession,” Jenkins said.

Follow the SCACPA blog and social media for further updates on occupational licensing reform in South Carolina.