By Peter N. Calcara, PICPA vice president, government relations
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 354 into law on Feb. 15, 2018. Tucked away in SB 354 was a provision long sought by the PICPA. The bill, now Act 6 of 2018, gives the state commissioner of the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) the authority to expunge the disciplinary records of licensees under BPOA’s jurisdiction. BPOA oversees the Pennsylvania Board of Accountancy and 28 other boards and commissions, regulating 255 licensure types and just over 1 million licensees. Passage of the law culminated a nearly decade-long, multisession effort by the PICPA to allow members with minor violations to be able to wipe their professional slate clean.
In September 2019, the BPOA published final expungement guidelines. Pennsylvania CPAs and other licensees can now apply for expungement through the Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS). The fee to have a record expunged is $155.
Before PICPA’s government relations team embarked on this legislative exercise, I had no idea what expungement meant or why the PICPA would need to support such a provision. Perhaps you are in the same boat. Let me first start with what expungement is.
According to the American Bar Association, “[t]o ‘expunge’ is to ‘erase or remove completely.’ In law, ‘expungement’ is the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record.” While expungement seals a record from public access and allows the licensee to represent that no disciplinary record exists, the BPOA and the licensing boards, however, continue to maintain the record, and may release it upon request from law enforcement or another governmental body as permitted by law.
The “why” of the law comes down to the burden imposed by relatively minor infractions. Act 6 allows only two types of violations to be expunged: violations involving failure to complete continuing education requirements and violations related to practicing on a lapsed license for six months or less. No other disciplinary actions are eligible for expungement. This was an important detail for PICPA’s support of expungement. It had to be very limited, and the violations had to be minor in nature—akin to a traffic ticket. Some argue that there should be no latitude granted to CPAs under any circumstance, but is such a standard realistic?
Before considering a record expungement, understand that Act 6 imposes the following conditions that must be met:
- An application for expungement must be filed no earlier than four years from the final disposition of the disciplinary record.
- The disciplinary record must be the only discipline that the applicant has with the applicable board/commission.
- The applicant must not be the subject of an active investigation related to professional or occupational conduct.
- The applicant must not be in a current disciplinary status (i.e., revoked, suspended, on probation, etc.) and any fees or fines assessed must be paid in full.
- The applicant must not have had a disciplinary record previously expunged by the BPOA.
If you plan on taking advantage of expungement, you will log into the PALS, as mentioned above. On your dashboard/home page, at the bottom, is a section titled Disciplinary Action. It will outline the file number and so on. To the right of the listing, a small gavel will be shown. (If you don't have anything on your record to expunge, you won't see a gavel.) By hovering over the gavel, you will see “Expunge.” Click on the gavel to begin the expungement process.
Enactment and implementation of the expungement law is another example of PICPA’s advocacy efforts in Harrisburg. Working with our 20,000 members and state lawmakers, the PICPA is having an impact on public policy in Pennsylvania. We encourage all members to take an active roll in the legislative process and join the PICPA as the voice of the profession.
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