CLE and CPE Legal and Accounting Ethics Courses

Jim Rigos Professional Ethics Courses and Programs

310 Sander Building
4105 East Madison
Seattle, WA 98112
206-624-0716
rigos@rigos.net

    About the Author

      The author-presenter, James J. Rigos, is an Attorney-CPA who has written and lectured widely in the area of professional accounting and legal ethics and related potential liability.  A graduate of Boston University Law School (LLM in taxation), he has been involved as an advocate or consultant in over 200 legal and ethical claims against CPAs since 1980 principally on the defense side.  A former member of the AICPA’s Accountants Legal Liability Committee, he has been admitted to practice in the U.S. Tax and Supreme Courts.  Jim is also a national Director and past officer of the American Academy of Attorney-CPAs (AAA-CPA) and presently chairs their national Ethics and Dual Practice committee.
        • Six General (Non-State Specific) Ethics Courses Currently Available

        THE AICPA “RE-CODIFICATION” RULE APPROACH
        TO CPA CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
        (One CPE Hour)

         

        The recent AICPA ethics “re-codification” structure now effectively elevates the potential ethical and legal conflict of interest rules.  These new standards introduce new requirements that should lead to professional CPAs becoming more analytical prospectively in engagements and relationships that include potential conflicts of interest with their client’s loyalty responsibilities.

        AICPA’s Professional Ethics Enforcement Committee (PEEC) now describes various types and categories of conflicts of interest engagements.  It also covers a long list of “safeguard” conditions that, with client approval, may partially or completely eliminate a conflicting ethical threat sufficient to diminish or mitigate the potential adverse significance thereof.  [1.00.010.17] 


        Conflicts of interest potentially put at-risk the professional’s duty of advocacy, loyalty, and perhaps confidentiality, all of which are required to protect the client’s best interests.  This course will teach you both how to identify an ethical conflict and generally accepted resolution procedures.  A written agreement is strongly advised and we suggest an on-point client contract.

         

        AICPA ATTEST INDEPENDENCE RULES FOR CPAs
        THREATS, SAFEGUARDS, AND CLIENT CONSENT
        (One CPE Hour)

         

        The AICPA 1.200 Series of Rules comprise the single most important section addressed by the new 2015 Rules of Ethical Conduct. Maintaining and enhancing public confidence in the accounting profession’s objectivity in attest engagements is the objective.  Independence from the client provides the heart and soul of the reliability and integrity of audited financial statements. 


        Under the new AICPA “recodification” a potential independence violation may best be considered as one type of conflict of interest. Most believe third party financial statement users (including banks and companies providing credit) are stakeholders but there is no requirement they be notified of the possible independence question.

        This CPA auditor required impartiality and neutrality in attest engagements may conflict with what the client perceives as their best interest. Historically, an auditor is not permitted to breach actual or apparent independence rules.  This course suggests the auditor and client draft and sign a written disclosure and waiver agreement if such risks are present and that this be reviewed by an independent third party.

         

        THE HIGHER CPA STANDARDS OF PROFESSIONAL
        FIDUCIARY DUTY
        (One CPE Hour)

          This CPE course develops and applies the professional fiduciary duty heightened legal standard to the practice of some CPAs. The course’s main emphasis is on CPA’s “holding out” their CPA credential while operating in certain sensitive engagements that under the circumstances may be deemed to involve a fiduciary duty.  Extensive reported CPA case decisions are presented.  These can be Googled for factual and legal details of the opinions’ holdings.


          The AICPA’s recent ethics “re-codification” imposes the requirement of an engagement’s detailed risk and safeguards analysis. This emphasis seems to heighten the chances that standard CPA engagements for long-term clients may be deemed to rise to the fiduciary duty category level.

          Fiduciary relationships today receive increased regulatory and judicial scrutiny. This course identifies the practice areas that may be classified as “fiduciary” and provides numerous suggestions and tips are made to minimize the risks.  Many on-point legal decisions are presented that a prudent CPA can review for specific guidance.

          TAX PRACTICE CPA ETHICAL AND LEGAL STANDARDS
          (Two CPE Hours)

          This two-hour tax ethics CPE course is primarily for CPAs involved in federal tax return preparation and/or in-firm quality review.  The course has three main objectives.  First, is to examine the controlling professional tax practice ethical standards of the AICPA and IRS.  Second, we spend some time exploring potentially problematic tax situations where a tax CPA has relatively high professional ethics and/or legal liability exposure.  Third, we suggest that using our protective tax preparation engagement letters may clarify some problematic tax situations through careful wording and client agreement.

           This CPE course covers most aspects of a professional’s tax practice; planning, return preparation, and IRS audit representation is covered.  Included are three major subjects: first, client advance tax transaction planning, structuring, and coordinating; second, preparation of the actual IRS tax return to be filed with the agency and possible CPA penalties; and third, representing the client during an audit by a revenue agent.  The professional’s roles here and ethical positions may change.  The degree of responsibility and related potential damages asserted against the CPA by both the client and taxing authorities are explored.

           Many reported accounting-related legal cases are referred to in this material to provide substantive examples of the application of a given legal principle to accountant’s tax factual situations.  Seminar attendees should Google the cited tax case citations containing specific suggestions for details of the particular tax problem and/or opportunities.  This CPE course analysis will educate the tax professional on the facts and detailed holding of the appellant court review of the AICPA, IRS, and/or state Board of Accountancy ruling issued below.

           

          ADVANCED CPA ETHICAL AND LIABILITY SUBJECTS OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, INDEPENDENCE, FIDUCIARY DUTY, AND TAX PRACTICE ETHICS

          (Four CPE Hours)

           

          This four-hour course covers the AICPA, SEC, Sarbanes-Oxley, and Dodd-Frank conflict of interest and fiduciary duty rules current through at least September 30, 2020.  It contains all announced AICPA code of ethics conflicts “re-codification” and independence changes.  This new framework creates a new approach of “identifying conflict threats” and creating “mitigating safeguards” which the clients approve as “adequate.”  Also covered is an expanded chapter covering IRS tax practice and Publication 230 including a suggested client engagement letter.

           Reported case studies covering conflicts of interest, independence, confidentiality, and the general fiduciary duty liability status are presented.  Seminar attendees should Google the case citations for factual details.  There is substantive overlap between these topics.  A sensitivity covering all of our core values is helpful in meeting the public trust and expectations of our profession.  All CPA firm professional staff should receive training in these areas.

          The text also explores the sensitive standards that may lead to civil litigation and potential professional discipline, and contains sample questions and answers applying the theory.  The objective is to examine these high-sensitive areas and provide ideas for inclusion of the firm’s quality control ethics officer in day-to-day operating procedures.

           

          LEGAL LIABILITY, DEFENSIVE PRACTICE QUALITY CONTROL, AND ENGAGEMENT LETTER SUGGESTION LANGUAGE AND
          FORMS FOR CPAs IN PUBLIC ACCOUNTING
          (Four CPE Hours)

           

          For CPAs in the public practice, this four-hour course will reduce the chances of a client claim and/or dollar amount of damages asserted.

           Defensive engagement letters are covered in significant depth and a suggested form and wording is included.  Many reported accounting-related legal cases are referred to in this CPA Defensive Practice CPE course.  These provide authoritative examples of the application of a given legal principle to accountant’s liability factual situations and should be Googled for factual and legal details.

           Reading the details of the cases provides an analysis of the factual and legal accounting issues at play.  There is no absolute certainty that the tribunal of any individual state or federal circuit court of appeals would follow the cited precedent herein, but specific safe harbors are suggested.  State Supreme court decisions control their state courts and State Boards of Accountancy.  Federal Court of Appeals decisions control their district trial courts.

          Standard tax client engagement letters and related checklists are suggested and included in the course workbook.  Important defensive provisions and specific advised wording are included.  These client engagement letter forms may be used in a CPA firm’s day-to-day practice and focus on common risks CPA’s encounter.

           

           

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