Getting a CPA license requires a large time and financial commitment – to the point where many complain that they hardly have a life while they are trying to cover the curriculum for the exam parts. This makes it all the more important to CPA license holders to know the extent of their investment; namely whether they can easily transfer the license to other states or countries.
Can a CPA practice in any state?
The short answer is that a CPA license is only valid for full practice within the issuing state, and only for as long as the license is valid. Maintaining a valid license entails renewing the license as stipulated by paying the renewal fee and completing the state-specific CPE requirements.
The question as to whether it is possible for a CPA to practice in other states depends on several factors, such as which state or country they were licensed in and whether they want to apply for a reciprocal license or practice privilege. This is because each state has its own set of requirements that must be met, including specific course requirements, age requirements and citizenship requirements. Furthermore, some are fairly lenient, whereas others are far stricter. Below we will be providing a brief overview of which states are more or less restrictive, as well as states that have other exceptions or restrictions.
CPA License Reciprocity
CPA license reciprocity refers to the recognition of a CPA state board recognition of CPA or equivalent license from another state or jurisdiction. Generally, a state board will recognize an interstate or international public accounting license on the basis of ‘substantial equivalence,’ meaning that the issuing board’s requirements are considered to be similar to those of the state that the license holder is applying to. Most states recognize interstate license reciprocity on the basis of NASBA’s Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA), which can be found here. But there are some states that are more or less flexible on which states they will recognize as being substantially equivalent. Additionally, some states, especially those that are most often snubbed as being ‘not substantially equivalent’ to other states, will stipulate that they will only recognize the CPA licenses of holders from states and countries that recognize their own CPA licenses.
However, there are some exceptions. Some state are more lenient, or will accept a transcript and other credentials such as work experience on the basis of an evaluation of a board-recognized transcript or credentials evaluator such as the NIES, NACES or FACS. Regardless, it is best to confirm which, if any, services are accepted by a particular state before paying for the service. These details can be found on our individual state requirement pages, NASBA’s state requirement pages or on the state board’s website or within their regulations.
International public license reciprocity is more complex. Although most states recognize NASBA’s Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA), as listed below, there are some that require even holders of licenses issued by those or some of those bodies, to take the entire CPA exam. It is advisable to confirm with the state board though, as some on are in the process of reevaluating their current stance and will perhaps recognize more foreign public accounting licenses in the future.
The states that to not recognize interstate license reciprocity are:
- Massachusetts (Partial)
- New Hampshire
The states that do recognize international license reciprocity are:
All states allow for practice privilege, but the extent of this license and the need for a permit will differ from state to state. Some will even only issue a permit on a job-to-job or short-term basis. Generally though, a licensed CPA can work in another state without applying for licensure there by meeting the following requirements:
- The CPA license or international public accountancy license is substantially equivalent to that of the state board’s
- The CPA license is valid and in good standing with the issuing state board
- Their primary place of business or the firm that they work for is based in the issuing state’s