If you like heads-down, precise work and are good with numbers, becoming a certified public accountant or CPA can be the start of a lucrative career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual earnings of all Idaho accountants and auditors averaged more than $70,000 in 2016. Accountants with professional certification give themselves an edge in securing the best positions. This article will help you jump-start your career by spelling out the steps you must take to become a fully licensed CPA in Idaho.
Before you can apply for a CPA license, you must complete a minimum of 150 semester hours or 225 quarter-hours of college studies and earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.
Of these hours, at least 24 semester hours or 36 quarter-hours must be in accounting. Within the accounting courses, the following topics must be covered:
- Financial accounting
- Management accounting
Another 24 semester hours or 36 quarter-hours must be earned by completing business courses. Listed below are several examples:
- Business administration
- Business ethics
- Business law
- Business management
- Computer science
- Human resource management
- Information systems
- Professional communications
If you complete your college education without having earned the required credits, you can take graduate-level courses from any institution that is approved by the Idaho State Board of Accountancy.
The Board recognizes the following institutions and programs as accredited:
Colleges and universities that are accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, formerly known as the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
Colleges and universities that have accreditation from other regional organizations, if the accreditation standards are equivalent to those of the above-mentioned commission. Four of these are:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges: Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Private colleges in Idaho that issue bachelor's degrees and are certified by the Idaho State Department of Education to train teachers
Business and accounting programs that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, also known as "AACSB"
Business and accounting programs that are accredited by similar agencies with equivalent standards
The American Council on Education, also known as "ACE," has a contract with the Department of Defense to evaluate military courses, training and experience and provide recommendations for college credit. What credit actually transfers is left to the discretion of each individual college or university.
If you have military experience, it is well worth the effort to find out what credits you can transfer. This could save both money and time as you pursue your goal of becoming a licensed CPA. A copy of your military transcript is needed to get the process started.
You can take the Uniform CPA Examination at a Prometric Testing center, located on Idaho State University campuses in Meridian and Pocatello, Idaho. The computer-based test is made up of four sections, and each section may be taken separately. You must pass all four sections within 18 months of passing the first one.
In order to take the exam in Idaho, you must comply with the following requirements:
Be at least 18 years old.
Be either a current or former resident of Idaho or intend to become a resident immediately after passing the exam.
Hold a baccalaureate degree, or its equivalent, in studies that included at least 30 semester hours or 45 quarter-hours in business administration subjects. Of these hours, 20 semester hours or 30 quarter-hours must relate directly to accounting.
Have all transcripts sent directly from the college, university or other approved program to the Idaho State Board of Accountancy. Transcripts must be signed by an official representative of the institution where you studied. This usually is the registrar. A transcript without an official seal will be rejected, as will transcripts marked "issued to student" and ones sent with the application, even if the transcript envelope is sealed.
Obtain, complete and return the CPA Examination application packet, which includes an "Idaho Department of Law Enforcement Criminal History Records Check" form that must be signed. Attach to the application a 2-inch by 2-inch photograph of yourself.
Pay the initial application fee to the Idaho State Board of Accountancy.
Wait for the Board's decision regarding your application to test. When the Board rules that you meet the requirements to be a candidate for testing, it will submit the Authorization to Test, or "ATT," to the National Board of Accountancy.
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, or "NASBA," then will bill you for all sections of the test that you applied to take. Pay this non-refundable fee within three months of the date your ATT was issued.
After all fees are paid, NASBA will send you the Notice to Schedule, or "NTS." You then must contact Prometric to schedule the exam. You will not be able to sit for the entire exam in one day because each section takes four hours. Section titles are as follows:
- Auditing and Attestation
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
- Business Environment and Concepts
In order to become a licensed CPA in Idaho, you first must complete the equivalent of one year of full-time work providing services that are related to the accounting field. Acceptable services include tax advice, accounting, auditing, and advisory services in management or finance. If the work is part-time, 2,000 hours are required. All qualifying work experience must be completed in a period that spans 36 months or less. None of the work to be included can be more than ten years prior to the date of your application for licensure, and your work experience must be certified by someone who held a current, active license as a CPA during the time you gained your experience.
How to Get Your License to Practice as a CPA in Idaho
CPA licensing in Idaho is the responsibility of the Idaho State Board of Accountancy. This board requires the successful completion of the AICPA ethics course. You can order the course and its exam directly from the online store maintained by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, or "AICPA." Notify AICPA to submit your test score to the Board.
If you did not have 150 semester hours of college-level education when you took the CPA exam, you must take enough upper-level or graduate-level courses to reach that total. Credits earned for taking the ethics course mentioned above do not count as part of the total hours. In completing the 150 hours of education, you must earn one of the following:
- Graduate degree with strong focus on accounting, awarded by an institution or program that holds accreditation from a Board-approved agency.
- Graduate degree from a similarly accredited business program, with completion of accounting courses that equal a minimum of 24 undergraduate semester hours or 15 graduate semester hours and cover the topics of financial and management accounting as well as auditing and taxation.
- Baccalaureate degree from an institution or program that meets the Board's accreditation and approval requirements. Studies must have included a minimum of 24 semester hours in business courses that are not in the accounting field as well as 24 semester hours in upper-division or graduate-level accounting courses.
You must complete the work experience as listed above.
After all education and work experience requirements have been met, complete the forms and submit all information requested to the Idaho State Board of Accountancy. Pay the license fee.
Continuing Education Requirements for Idaho
Once you are licensed in Idaho as a CPA, pay close attention to the requirements for keeping your license current. Every year, all licenses that are not renewed expire on June 30, no matter when the license was issued. The deadline for annual renewal is July 1.
To be eligible to renew, you must earn 80 hours of continuing professional education, also known as "CPE," in the accounting field every two years. Of those 80 hours, at least four hours must be in Idaho ethics. One semester hour of college credit equals 15 CPE hours.
CPE must be reported by January 31 each year. It is your responsibility to file the report, and no reminder will be given. A minimum of 30 hours and a maximum of 50 can be reported for each calendar year.
Fees for late filing begin in February. These fees start at $100 and increase another $50 for every month the report is late, through the month of June. Late filings are audited, which means that you will be required to submit documentation for every course included in the report. Also, if you fail to file your annual CPE report by the end of June, you will be unable to renew your license until you meet all requirements for reinstatement.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or "AICPA," which was founded in 1887, established baseline CPE requirements that are recognized by the accountancy boards in every state. Many states have set additional requirements, some of them quite stringent.