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CPA Now
Nov 30, 2015

CPA License Renewal: Answers to Your Top Questions

By Steven G. Kerr, PICPA Vice President, Strategy and Business Development 


Renew License GuideUpdated Oct. 9, 2017

We are midway through PICPA’s busy season: Pennsylvania license renewal. Hopefully you know by now that all Pennsylvania CPAs and licensed CPA firms need to renew their license with the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy before Dec. 31. And hopefully you’ve also downloaded our quick guide to renewing your license.

Even then you may still have questions. You’re certainly not alone. PICPA’s resource center team has fielded many calls and chats over the last month about both the requirements and the process for renewing a CPA license.

Here are a few of the most common questions we heard:

Are PICPA webinars considered “group study” or “individual study”?

Questions about the distinction between group study vs. individual study are the most popular questions this year. Here’s a quick summary for PICPA courses:

  • Any webinar or webcast you purchase through the PICPA that is held on a specific date and time is considered “group study.” There is no limit on how many group study credits you can report to the State Board.
  • PICPA’s On-Demand courses are considered “interactive individual study.” You will receive one credit for every 50 minutes of learning, but you’ll need to pass a short exam to receive the CPE credit. There is a limit of 40 credits on individual study for Pennsylvania license renewal.

If you take online or self-study courses through other vendors, be sure to check the certificate of completion you received to determine which category the course falls in. Each certificate of completion should specify whether the course is designated as group study, interactive individual study, or noninteractive individual study.

Can I renew now if I’m taking my last CPE course next week?

No. You must complete all 80 credits before you renew. The license renewal form uses specific language to ask if you have “completed” 80 credits of approved continuing education, and if you answer that question “Yes” prior to actually completing 80 credits that can lead to disciplinary action.

Do I need to take a Pennsylvania-specific ethics course?

No. Pennsylvania requires CPAs to complete four credits of ethics as part of the 80 total credits, but it does not matter whether it is a state-specific ethics course or a more general course.

Are there any more ethics courses being held in my area?

Yes. The PICPA is holding in-person ethics courses across the state in December. Many of them are sold out or near capacity, so if you want to attend an ethics course in-person you need to register as soon as possible.

PICPA also has a number of convenient online options. There are ethics webinars being held throughout December, or you can get your ethics credits any time with On-Demand versions of our popular four-credit courses as well as shorter sessions on various ethics topics.

How long does it take to receive my new license?

The State Board has not published a timetable, but in past renewal cycles most licensees received their new license in the mail about 10 to 15 business days after they submitted their application. They also stress that you should not consider your license to be renewed until you receive the new license in the mail. A couple tips that may help speed up the process:

  • Submit your renewal application as soon as you complete the required CPE. Volume continues to increase as the renewal deadline approaches, which slows down the turnaround time.
  • Use the online renewal application instead of mailing a renewal form. Login or register through the Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS).
  • Make sure you have a current address on file with the State Board. Licenses will not be forwarded.
  • Monitor PALS, the public license verification site, to see if the renewal has been processed. Once the renewal is processed, the site should immediately indicate that your license now expires Dec. 31, 2017.

Are there steps I should take if I’m not planning to renew my CPA license?

I hope you’ll reconsider. Your CPA license is the ticket to a wealth of career opportunity, both in public accounting and throughout the business world. CPAs are the most trusted business adviser, and second only to doctors as the most trusted professionals.

But if you are not renewing your license, you should notify the State Board of Accountancy that you want to place your CPA license on “inactive” status. This not only makes it easier to reinstate your license in the future, but also allows you to continue using the CPA designation as a mark of achievement in certain circumstances.

You can place your license on inactive status using the online renewal application or paper form. Or you can complete and return the mailer you received from the State Board about the upcoming renewal deadline. There is no fee or CPE required to place your license on inactive status.

If you have other questions, give us a call at (215) 496-9272, use the live chat tool on our website, e-mail us, or tweet @PaCPAs. We’re here to help, and we look forward to talking with many more of you during the busy month ahead.

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