States Evaluating Professional Licenses; Is The CPA At Risk?

A number of state governments have recently begun to introduce bills aimed at addressing their involvement in the issuance of professional licenses. Proposed changes include lowering requirements that are viewed to be burdensome or unnecessary, and/or potentially eliminating the requirement for a license altogether. In West Virginia, for instance, a bill introduced last year would eliminate the requirement for state licenses provided the worker discloses to the consumer that they’re practicing without the license.

Proponents for the changes include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which believe in a consumer’s right to be able to choose with whom they do business. ALEC also argues that the cost of training and education required to obtain many state licenses prohibits individuals from establishing businesses.

In response to the potential threat to their professions, and in expectation that more states will follow, a number of national associations like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, along with several architectural and engineering associations, have formed the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL) to promote the practice of maintaining high professional licensing standards issued by the individual states.

ARPL advocates that by requiring a license, consumers can be assured of the quality of service that will be performed. The group argues that since the public generally lacks the industry knowledge required to properly perform due diligence on a vendor, professional licenses are an efficient way to vet practitioners and help avoid expensive litigation if something turns out badly.

ARPL also claims that there should be distinctions made between complex, technical professions and trade and vocational occupations when considering changes in state laws, and that a broad brush approach to reform is ill-advised.

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