Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the state of Arkansas is a highly regulated process. What this means for you, future accountant, is that the Arkansas CPA requirements are no mystery, and are laid out for you. There is no guess as to what comes after what, but like anything with the word of finance and taxes, it can be pretty complicated. People who have a bachelor’s degree in any field have already completed much of the pre-required work to get there. The basic steps to getting a CPA license in Arkansas are these: get a bachelor’s degree, get 30 more credit hours of business courses after that, pass four sections of the uniform CPA exam, work under a licensed CPA for a year, have a social security card, and correctly fill out all of the licensing paperwork.
A LITTLE ABOUT THE ECONOMY OF ARKANSAS
The economy of Arkansas would compare economically to similar states of comparable size except for the influence of its largest corporation; a little shop called Walmart. Perhaps you have heard of it. Their $485.14 billion revenue in 2017 has earned Walmart the top spot in the Fortune 500, and the second-top spot in online retailing. The economic superpower that is Walmart is not even the only game in town, as there are six other companies in the Fortune 500 who call Arkansas home. The largest area of growth and economic revenue in Arkansas is the financial sector, including financial services, insurance, real estate, and home rentals. These accounted for 15.4 percent of Arkansas’ gross state product in 2017. In that same year, Arkansas reported an average per capita personal income of $40,791.
*Content Source: BLS Data
BECOMING A CPA IN ARKANSAS
Just like any highly skilled, licensed professional field, CPAs in Arkansas must complete state-specific education before they are allowed to practice. Even though most of the job they do is the same across the country, CPAs are state-licensed because there are many state-specific tax and financial laws that CPAs must be very familiar with if they are going to accurately handle reporting on others’ finances. Almost every state, however, makes it an option for CPAs to practice outside of their licensing state. Sometimes they are not allowed to work more than a certain number of hours, or there is a limit on the amount of money a CPA can earn beyond their state borders. As a highly regulated field, these issues are detailed and well laid out on state board websites.
The national requirements to become a CPA include a minimum standard of 150-semester units of post-secondary education, one year of accounting related work experience, and passing the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Once you are licensed as a CPA in any state, interstate CPA licensing requirements begin to apply, regardless of the type of client services you perform, and regardless of how well you know about the laws in the next state over. Educational programs in accounting include sections on inter-state laws regarding accounting practice.
ACCOUNTING DEGREES IN ARKANSAS
To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Arkansas, specific eligibility requirements must be met beyond those of the national minimums. The Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy updates their website to inform people in the world of accounting about these requirements, with links to accounting laws that pertain to Arkansas specifically, contact information to relevant people and programs, and downloadable and electronic submittable forms for CPA applicants.
Unique to Arkansas, CPA Exam applicants must have a Bachelor’s Degree, thirty hours of upper-level Accounting, and thirty hours in Business coursework, in courses beyond those Accounting courses (some of which they may obtain in undergrad). Accounting and Business classes must be completed with a grade of “C” or above and must cover the following 6 topics:
- Financial Accounting (Intermediate Accounting)
- Management Accounting (Cost Accounting)
- Governmental or Not-for-Profit Accounting (Institutional Accounting)
- Federal Taxation (Advanced Income Tax or Fundamentals of Taxation)
- Auditing and Attestation
- Accounting Information Systems
To obtain 150 semester hours of education, CPA license applicants do not necessarily have to get a master’s degree. Getting a bachelor’s degree and taking some courses at the graduate level, at a four-year university or a community college is the path many people choose to make it up to 150 hours of study.
Content Source: college and university websites
CPA LICENSURE IN STATE, STEPS TOWARD ELIGIBILITY
To be eligible for CPA licensure in State, candidates must meet these following qualifications:
Content Source: National Association of State Boards of Accountancy
An alternative pathway to licensure for those who already work in the field and may be licensed in another state is to verify four years of experience in public accounting, industry, government or academia. This experience must be verified by an actively licensed CPA within the ten years immediately preceding the application. The experience should include providing any type of service or advice involving the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax or consulting skills. The Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy does not allow self-verification of experience, although some other states do.
CONTINUED PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS
To maintain licensure after it is obtained, accountants must complete Continued Professional Education (CPE) each year. The CPE Reporting Period is different in each state. In Arkansas, the period is from 1/1 to 12/31 annually (so, anytime). General requirements for CPE include 40 hours of coursework. If the accountant is lacking 40 hours in the current renewal period, they may “look back” to include the past 3 years. If their combined CPE totals 120 hours in 3 years, the state board may accept that.
There is an annual CPE in ethics requirement for most states including Arkansas. The requirement, in this case, is four hours in the area of accounting professional conduct and ethics during the 36-months immediately preceding the expiration date of their current license. One hour of ethics must be on Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy specific laws and rules. The state board in AR provides a free, web-based ethics course that will count towards the 4-hour ethics requirement. Licensees are exempt from the ethics requirement until their first full calendar year of licensure.
BEST CITIES IN ARKANSAS TO WORK AS AN ACCOUNTANT (SALARY)
*Content Source: BLS Data
Federal regulations in 2007 were designed to make it easier for a CPA to maintain clients who move away or live in another state. Historically the accountant and the client had to live and work in the same state, and if that client moved to the next state over or took a job just over the border, or (a newer scenario) the client is telecommuting to a state neither of them lives in, that CPA could continue working with that client, even though the clients finances are now the concern of a state the CPA is not licensed in. The regulating bodies who govern accounting, and who passed this new regulation are the AICPA and NASBA.
The regulation itself is referred to as Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) and the section dealing with mobility across state lines is section 23, or “no notice, no fee, no escape”. Section 23 is often compared to the driver’s license model. Any driver who is licensed in a U.S. state can, without penalty, drive across the country without applying for new driver’s licenses in each state she visits. If she were to disobey the traffic laws of the state she is visiting outside her licensing state, she can be disciplined by the state where the infraction occurred. The same applies to the UAA, and specifically section 23. The UUA in its entirety was developed and is maintained, reviewed and updated by the AICPA and NASBA. It provides a uniform approach to regulation of the accounting profession.
*Content Source: BLS Data
Each State has a board of State Society or professional organization for accountants. The Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants website has all sorts of helpful information for future and current CPAs, as well as CPE requirements and information for conferences and CPE events that are specific to Arkansas. Membership in a state professional organization will also ensure that CPAs are up to date on any tax law changes, which happen constantly, and give working professionals a great way to network and meet colleagues.
Contrary to popular belief, the Uniform CPA Exam is not created nor scored by National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). They only administer it in each state. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the body that creates and regulates the exam. The Uniform CPA Exam is the same, or uniform, in every state, however, the requirements before being eligible to sit for the exam, vary state to state.