What Are CPE Ethics Courses and Why Should You Care?
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Whether numbers lie or not has been a matter of debate for many years, but in the world of accounting, numbers – or we can say financial data – are only as accurate and clear as accountants interpret and report them to be.
CPAs get access to highly sensitive financial information due to the nature of their jobs. This makes it very important for them to be able to handle accounting-related ethical issues efficiently and establish a firm commitment to ethical accounting practice.
In this post, we’re going to take a detailed look at CPE ethics courses that are simply a must to stay on top of the latest ethical rules and standards that form the foundation of ethical accounting.
CPE ethics courses for CPAs are Continuing Professional Education courses on ethics that let you earn your required CPE credits on ethics to meet your state accountancy board’s CPE requirements to keep your license active.
These courses are designed to ensure that you, as a CPA, can stay away from running into conflicts with state and federal accounting ethics regulations. Not only do ethics courses for CPAs help you master the best practices of ethical accounting, but you also learn how failure to follow the guidelines can affect your career and the accounting profession as a whole.
How an accountant interprets, records, and reports a client’s financial information can reverberate through the accountant’s own firm, the client, and beyond. Of course, legal statutes can be of good help, but unfortunately, many laws appear with loopholes.
In this situation, you can do either of two things – either you can take advantage of those loopholes or follow the ethical guidelines to uphold the trustworthiness of the profession. Whether you take CPE ethics courses online or offline, they’ll help you steer clear of such dilemmas.
By taking a look at NASBA’s fields of study that qualify for CPE, you can see that there’re two types of ethics categorized separately in technical and non-technical fields. These include regulatory ethics and behavioral ethics.
Before we delve deeper into the details, it’s important to understand the differences between these two.
Regulatory ethics courses for CPAs will help you develop the knowledge required to comply with the ethical rules and regulations established by the governing bodies. You’ll learn the fundamental principles of the AICPA’s Code of Conduct and how to implement them when offering professional service.
When it comes to meeting ethics CPE requirements, many states allow their CPAs to take CPE ethics courses that follow this Code of Professional Conduct. However, some states don’t accept the AICPA-based courses and need their CPAs to take state-specific CPE ethics courses for CPAs instead.
For these states, you won’t be considered to have met your ethics requirements if you don’t follow this guideline. Therefore, you must check your state’s exact CPE requirements before enrolling in offline or online CPE ethics courses.
Behavioral CPE ethics courses for CPAs are designed to equip you with skills to manage real-world ethical dilemmas in a professional setting. Some common topics covered by these courses include duties as a whistleblower, duties in the accounting workplace, duties of tax professionals, and more.
While both regulatory and behavioral ethics courses for CPAs let your earn CPE credits, not both categories are equally accepted by all states.
For instance, in New York, you must take regulatory ethics to have your credits counted toward your ethics CPE requirements. If you take behavioral CPE ethics courses, the credits will fall under the Advisory Services subject area, which is different from professional ethics.
Whether you take CPE ethics courses online or in-person, you’ll learn the five fundamental principles of the Code of Conduct. Let’s see the significance of each of them.
Integrity requires CPAs to be candid, forthright, and honest with the clients’ financial information. They should restrict themselves from any personal advantage or gain using that confidential information. While differences in opinions and errors do happen in terms of the applicability of accounting laws, CPAs need to avoid the intentional opportunity to deceive the clients and manipulate the financial information.
Accountants must stay away from conflicts of interest, as well as other doubtful business relationships, when offering professional services. Without being objective and independent, you may damage your ability to provide honest opinions about your clients’ financial information. To remain independent and objective, you should ensure that recommendations aren’t subject to outside influence.
Also, accountants who offer multiple services to a client need to focus more on maintaining independence and objectivity. For instance, accountants, who manage general accounting functions for a client and then audit that information, essentially review their own work. The situation may let them hide the client’s negative financial information.
Accountants must not disclose their client’s confidential information to any third party. Revealing the disposition of a prospective merger or disclosure of financial information without the express consent of the owner violates the trust, which forms the foundation of professional relationships. Accountants should only do this when there’s a right or duty to disclose, or disclosure is permitted by law and in the public interest.
With rapidly evolving rules, regulations, and best practices in the field, accountants must stay abreast of the changes. By maintaining up-to-date professional knowledge and skills, you’ll be able to provide the clients or your organization with the most competent professional service.
Due care refers to the ethical value that requires accountants to observe all ethical and technical accounting standards. You should exercise a certain level of judgment, care, and diligence when dealing with clients’ financial information.
Accountants need to adhere to the laws and regulations that govern their work and relevant jurisdictions. They should also avoid any conduct that can negatively affect the reputation of the accounting profession.
Whether you’re handling the books of a small business or managing the financial activities of a large corporation, the knowledge gained from CPE ethics courses helps you in different ways. Let’s take a look.
The restrictions imposed by ethical rules and guidelines act as major sources of strength for accountants. When you follow those restrictions, not only you act ethically but also assure the public and the clients that your repute as a moral agent is well-earned. This not only helps to strengthen your position in the industry but to uphold the reputation of the accounting profession as well.
When you don’t adhere to accounting rules and regulations, you run the risk of getting yourself, your clients, or your organization into legal trouble. Even if you start with small unethical choices, they may develop into significant issues over time. However, when you fully familiarize yourself with ethical accounting and the ramifications of unethical choices by pursuing offline or online CPE ethics courses, you can make accurate and sound judgments without putting yourself at legal hazards.
Whether you work independently, run your own firm, or work for an organization, your clients consider you as their trusted financial advisor and rely on you. If you don’t practice ethical accounting, they may face serious consequences such as struggling to stay afloat, losing investors, and having legal repercussions – all of which lead them to lose trust in you/your organization. On the contrary, by following the guidelines of ethical accounting, you can bolster your/your organization’s position as a trusted advisor in society.
CPAs often need to work for clients who are used to engaging accounting professionals as advocates, not neutral advisors. However, the knowledge gained from NASBA CPE ethics courses helps CPAs preclude advocacy when making professional judgments.
They also help you understand that your activities need to benefit the true users of your work. Your clients may not essentially be the true users of your services. Instead, your work should support and cater to the interests of society at large. Ethics courses for CPAs help to ingrain that responsibility and provide the right direction for your professional activities.
Do you like to take CPE ethics courses in solitude or in a classroom setting? The emergence of online CPE ethics courses has made both options easily available to you. However, there’re notable differences between taking CPE ethics courses online and in-person programs.
Let’s take a closer look at the options.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of choosing this option is that you get to have face-to-face interactions with fellow attendees. This greatly helps in building professional networks that you may use to your advantage down the line.
There’re two potential drawbacks of taking in-person CPE ethics courses for CPAs. First, you may need to travel to and from another place to attend them. And second, these tend to be more expensive than online CPE ethics courses.
There’re two types of online ethics courses you can choose from: self-study courses and webinars. Here’re brief overviews of each of them.
These courses are ideal for CPAs who prefer to study at their own pace from anywhere. Once you’ve downloaded the course materials (if they’re available in the right format) to your desktop or laptop, you may not even need an Internet connection.
Notably, these online CPE ethics courses are the least expensive option among all the popular methods to earn CPE credits. One downside of these courses is that you won’t be able to have any live interaction with an instructor to clear any doubts immediately.
Live webinars require some kind of interaction from your end throughout the session. This may be in the form of polls, surveys, and questionnaires. By meeting these pre-defined requirements, you prove active participation that makes you eligible for the credits.
There’re two key benefits of attending live webinars. First, you must log in at a fixed time and date to participate in them, which eliminates the chances of putting off the CPE ethics courses. Second, with the presence of a live instructor, you can have your doubts cleared immediately.
One major drawback is that if you miss a scheduled webinar, not only you’ll miss the information, but you won’t get any credit as well. Another thing is that if there’re any technical glitches, you may not be able to make the most of the event, which will result in wastage of time.
Lastly, webinars are generally more expensive than self-study ethics courses for CPAs. And since ethics courses are typically costlier than courses in several other fields of study, you should weigh your options carefully.
First of all, it’s very difficult to find free CPE ethics courses, especially in the field of regulatory ethics. Even if you manage to find a few of them, you must ensure that they’re offered by quality agencies. One way to do this is to check for NASBA approval and ensure the courses are accepted by your state board.
On the other hand, there’s a large number of CPE sponsors that offer paid CPE ethics courses for CPAs covering a broad range of topics. At CPEthink.com, we offer more than 120 online CPE ethics courses, each prepared by eminent instructors and accompanied by a 100-day, 100% money-back guarantee.
While the prices of our ethics courses start from just $12.95, you can choose one of our subscription packages that are designed to help you get the courses at even lower prices. And the best thing is that using your subscription, you’ll also be able to take other CPE courses from our course library to meet your CPE requirements in other fields of study.
In the accounting world, decision-making doesn’t always remain confined within a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead, in many cases, there remains a grey area that generates several ethical dilemmas. And CPE ethics courses are the best method to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to steer clear of them and uphold your and the accounting profession’s reputation.
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