In many things, the road to success is anything but a straight path. There exist a multitude of trails, all leading toward the same goal at the end. And just because one individual succeeds in taking a specific path doesn’t mean another person won’t accomplish the same results by taking another. After all, success isn’t binary that way. So, when it comes to payroll recertification for licenses like the Fundamental Payroll Certificate (FPC) or Certified Payroll Professional (CPP), there should be no expectation that any single path will work equally well for different individuals.
Overall, myriad factors determine whether a specific road will help an individual succeed. Factors like time and money. So, it is important for each licensee to recognize and understand the various options available for recertification. Especially since the choice can immensely simplify or complicate the license renewal process.
5 Steps to Payroll Recertification
Step 1. Choose Your Route: RCH or Exam
Momentarily, we can continue comparing the FPC and/or CPP license recertification process to a long, winding road with various offshoots. And in that sense, you should note that there are two main thoroughfares. That is, two primary methods for completing the renewal process. Payroll professionals can opt to maintain their certification by means of:
- Continuing professional education
- By taking and passing the FPC or CPP exam
Licensees who choose continuing education must meet a minimum number of hours in order to qualify for license recertification. The following sections further discuss these details.
Maintaining FPC Certification
The Fundamental Payroll Certification is a designation awarded and regulated through the American Payroll Association (APA). It is primarily for those who have at least a baseline competency of issues related to payroll. Ultimately, this professional designation and the correlated exam should be amiable to entry-level payroll professionals. However, sales professionals, consultants and systems analysts, or engineers supporting payroll systems or serving the industry can benefit from licensure.
Option 1: Recertification by Continuing Education
FPC-licensed APA members pursuing license renewal through continuing education have three years to complete their recertification requirements. Furthermore, during this time, they must accrue at least 60 recertification credit hours (RCHs). Licensees can gain these hours from a variety of sources, including self-study courses, online webinars and professional conferences. In most instances, licensees are responsible for funding their own continuing education endeavors. This also includes the license renewal fee, submitted to the APA alongside their completed RCH reporting form. The Recertification Program Log is available for download online. This document is necessary for verifying participation in qualifying continuing education opportunities. Licensees should also keep it in case of random audit, which occurs on regular basis for various members.
Option 2: Recertification by Exam
APA members can bypass the continuing education requirement for payroll recertification by taking and passing the Fundamental Payroll Certification Examination. However, they must accomplish this by the certification expiration date during the year the license lapses. Full examination information is available in the Fundamental Payroll Certification Candidate Handbook. This document is available from the American Payroll Association website.
Maintaining CPP Certification
It is important for APA members to recognize that FPC licensees who subsequently obtain the CPP designation must use and recertify only the CPP license each recertification cycle. And once the licensee obtains certification, a new period begins and under CPP regulations. Understanding the requirement differences between the two designations is paramount to successfully completing the license renewal process.
Option 1: Recertification by Continuing Education
Unlike APA members who hold the FPC designation, licensed CPPs must obtain 120 RCHs. However, they have five years to accomplish this task. Like FPC designees, though, Certified Payroll Professionals must pay the appropriate fees for license renewal. And they must submit these fees alongside the necessary documentation by the end of their renewal cycle. Hours of continuing education must be accounted for in the Recertification Program Log. This document is available online, and licensees should retain it in the event of selection for random audit.
Option 2: Recertification by Exam
CPPs can alternatively choose to complete recertification objectives by taking and completing the Certified Payroll Professional Examination. This must occur before their license expiration date. Licensees may also refer to the Certified Payroll Professional Candidate Handbook for further certification information. However, unlike CPPs, FPCs must complete one of the criteria listed here to pre-qualify for the examination.
Step 2. Check Your Payroll Recertification Deadlines
Almost as important as knowing what license renewal requires is understanding when to renew a license. Because void of the appropriate information, licensees could unknowingly allow their status to lapse. And this can result in further penalties and consequences.
Continuing Education Deadlines
Licensees who recertify through continuing education must earn all RCHs by December 31 of the year their license expires. However, there is an extended period within which licensees may submit their Recertification Log and fees. Generally, this period ends February 14 of the year following the recertification period.
- For example, an FPC whose license expires December 31, 2021 has until February 14, 2022 to submit their payroll Recertification Log. This log must include completed RCH hours and all appropriate fees. After this date, they will incur late penalties.
- Alternatively, a CPP whose license expires December 21, 2022 has until February 14, 2023 to submit the required RCH hours on their payroll Recertification Log. This must also include necessary fees for license renewal. Submitting the materials past the specified date will result in late penalties.
Any APA member recertifying through reexamination must do so within the year their certification is due for renewal.
- For example, if an FPC’s certification lapses December 31, 2021, they must take and pass the FPC examination before then.
- Alternatively, if a CPP’s license expires December 31, 2022, they must take and pass the CPP examination before that date.
Step 3. Select a Qualifying Program
Not all content, whether online or in-person, is qualified for RCH credit. And it is up to individual licensees to ensure the material they choose to consume for credit will actually deliver. All programs which qualify for RCH credit must cover material within the FPC or CPP exam’s outline. Or within areas appropriately defined as the “payroll industry”. Additionally, the content of these programs must be adequate to increase an applicant’s knowledge or skills in payroll practices. Herein, the payroll industry is: production, reporting, accounting, systems, taxation, administration and/or education and consulting.
The types of qualifying programs are as follows:
- Vendors or third-party programs from APA-approved providers, such as VTR Learning
- National American Payroll Association events
- APA local chapter meetings, which the organization must approve for RCH credit
- Regional or statewide APA conferences
- College or university courses which meet the requirement threshold
Step 4. Log Your Payroll Recertification Credit Hours
In order to access the Recertification Log, APA members can log in online and begin recording their RCH programs. Again, licensees must submit this by February 14th of the year following license expiration to keep from incurring late penalties. Here, the necessary information includes:
- Which qualifying continuing education program was attended or taken through self-study methods
- The appropriate payroll content area
- Date of completion
- Type of documentation provided as proof of completion
Courses, seminars and conferences sponsored and approved by the APA automatically populate on the Recertification Log.
It should be noted that members who remain in good standing will be awarded three RCHs per year. This occurs at the end of the licensee’s membership year based on anniversary date. Furthermore, it applies in full to the year during which they were awarded. Any length of membership falling below one calendar year will not be awarded partial credit. Also, RCHs will not be awarded to any members who currently hold neither the FPC or CPP designation.
Members who have accrued more than 60 credits for the FPC designation during their payroll recertification period or who have obtained above 120 RCHs in pursuit of CPP recertification cannot carry excess hours over to the next reporting period.
Step 5. Claim Your Badge
Once a licensee’s Recertification Log has been approved by the APA and their renewal fees have been submitted, they will receive a confirmation email. This message will tell the subsequent date of license renewal. Typically, either three or five years from the last date, depending on the type of certification. 48 hours after this confirmation email has been received, members can claim their digital badge through Acclaim Platform. And they should receive a follow-up email with instructions on how to do so. Hard copies of certificates are also available to order online.
Start with Online Courses for Payroll Recertification
If you’re a member of the American Payroll Association searching for quality, self-study RCHs, look no further. VTR Learning has you covered! Check out these 5 APA Professional Development Courses You Can Take Anywhere!
Article written by Braden Norwood
Last updated March 14, 2023