Profession FAQ


The following are answers to some frequently asked questions received by the Department of Safety and Professional Services. These questions and answers are general in nature and are provided as a public service. Licensees and applicants with specific questions should refer to the Wisconsin statutes and administrative code provisions which govern their profession. In any instance in which an answer may differ from the provisions of the statutes and administrative code provisions, the latter will govern.

When is a CPA certificate required to practice accounting?

Generally, if a person practices in Wisconsin as a certified public accountant, holds himself or herself out to be a CPA or provides attest services, the person and the person's firm must be licensed as certified public accountants. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in 1965 in Tom Welch Accounting Services v. Walby that non-CPA's may keep books, make trial balances or statements, and generally practice accountancy, but the use of their audits or reports under the guise that they were made by a CPA or public accountant is prohibited.

Wis. Stat. § 442.03 states that "no person may lawfully practice in this state as a certified public accountant either in the person's own name, or under an assumed name, or as a member of a firm, unless the person has been granted by the examining board a certificate as a certified public accountant, and unless the person and firm have complied with all of the provisions of this chapter, including licensure."

Wis. Stat. § 442.029(1)(m ) states that a person shall be considered to be in practice as a certified public accountant, if any of the following conditions are met:

§  "(a) The person holds himself or herself out to the public in any manner as one skilled in the knowledge, science, and practice of accounting, and as qualified and ready to render professional service therein as a certified public accountant for compensation.

§  "(b) The person maintains an office for the transaction of business as a certified public accountant or, except as an employee of a certified public accountant, practices accounting, as distinguished from bookkeeping, for more than one employer.

§  "(c) The person offers to prospective clients to perform for compensation, or performs on behalf of clients for compensation, professional services that involve or require an audit of financial transactions and accounting records.

§  "(d) The person prepares for clients reports of audits, balance sheets, and other financial, accounting and related schedules, exhibits, statements or reports that are to be used for publication or for credit purposes, or are to be filed with a court of law or with any other governmental agency, or for any other purpose.

§  "(dm) The person provides or offers to provide an attest service.

§  "(e) The person, in general or as an incident to such work, renders professional assistance to clients for compensation in any or all matters relating to accounting procedure and the recording and presentation of financial facts.

§  "(f) The person signs or affixes his or her name or any trade or assumed name used by the person in his or her business or profession to an opinion or certificate attesting to the reliability of any representation or estimate in regard to any person or organization embracing financial information, financial transactions or accounting records."