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New law broadens horizons for CPAs

Certified public accountants in New York State will face fewer hurdles in practicing outside the state's borders, under legislation signed last week by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The so-called CPA mobility law gives accountants more flexibility in serving and attracting clients, while presenting both individual and business taxpayers with more options on whom to use.

The new law allows out-of-state CPAs to practice in New York as long as New York determines that their home state has equivalent licensing requirements and standards and as long as they have a license in good standing from that state.

The law similarly enables New York CPAs to practice in other states, without having to obtain and maintain a license in each one.

Under the newly adopted standard mobility requirements of the Uniform Accountancy Act, CPAs can practice in any state that allows mobility as long as their home state requires 150 hours of education, a passing grade on the CPA exam and at least one year of experience to obtain a CPA license.

Currently, 47 other states have adopted such legislation. Three states -- Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Georgia -- adopted provisions barring out-of-state CPAs from practicing within their borders if their home states had not approved mobility laws.

"I'm proud to say that New York is now a mobility state," said Richard E. Piluso, president of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants.

"More and more companies are doing business across state lines, physically and in many cases, electronically. New York is the financial capital of the world, and CPA service can't stop at state borders. Our CPAs in New York as well as CPAs throughout the country need to meet the needs of their clients across state lines, and mobility enables them to do that."

In the past, each state had "its own rules, regulations and requirements that would allow out-of-state CPAs to provide services in a visiting state," said Joanne S. Barry, executive director of the state CPA organization.

But that led to "an unworkable patchwork system that was costly, inefficient and increasingly untenable," she said.

Even an email or telephone call to another state could be considered practicing across borders, creating an administrative burden, especially for small independent CPAs.

With the new law, out-of-state CPAs working in New York under the mobility privileges -- even if they're just sending an email -- would come under New York's rules and jurisdiction.

That means they must notify the state Education Department in writing and cannot practice in New York until the state gives written permission; otherwise, they are committing a crime.

"It only makes sense to remove borders, but only if consumer protections are maintained. Mobility ensures that they are," Piluso said. "When a CPA from out-of-state practices here, they do so under New York's strict laws and ethical standards."

The law will take effect Nov. 15. The legislation was sponsored by State Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, and Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick, D-Manhattan.