California CPE Requirements for CPAs

  • Feb 3
California CPE Requirements for CPAs

California CPE Requirements License Renewal

Many certifying organizations rely on CPE to ensure their members keep up with industry trends and maintain their skills. However, it’s common for CPE requirements to vary with each state or territory, even within the same organization. For example, in the AICPA, each location is governed and regulated by a state Board of Accountancy. So, the California CPE requirements will be different from other states. Consequently, it is important for members to understand their local state requirements. Otherwise, the recertification process can become more confusing and frustrating.

Generally, CPAs based in California must required to renew their license every two years. And further, they must complete 20 hours of CPE per year. Overall, they need a total of 80 hours each recertification period. Accordingly, the table below highlights the primary recertification limitations and deadlines imposed by the Board.

License Renewal DateCPE Reporting PeriodTotal CPE HoursSelf-Study Credit Limitations
Last day of birth month (odd or even year depending on the year of birth)Biennial on the last day of birth month (odd or even year depending on the year of birth)80 hoursMust pass with a score of 90 or higher

Subject Area Requirements

Notably, there are several subject area requirements for CPAs in California. One main stipulation is that 40 hours must be in technical subjects each two-year renewal period. Also, there is a yearly minimum of 12 CPE hours in a range of subjects. Generally, these include accounting, auditing, taxation, consulting, financial planning, Board-approved professional conduct and ethics courses, computer and information technology (except for word processing) and specialized industry or government practices related to public accounting skills. Furthermore, CPAs must take 4 hours of ethics every recertification period, and every six years, a two-hour, Board-approved Regulatory Review course. Ethics courses must be at least one hour in length. Or if part of a course covering multiple subjects, have an Ethics component that is at least one hour long.

Some licensees also must take 24 hours of government CPE each renewal period. Primarily, these include those engaged in planning or directing. But also anyone conducting substantial portions of field work or reporting on financial or compliance audits of a government agency. Licensees who engage in the same tasks for a non-governmental entity must complete 24 hours of A&A each recertification period.

Some licensees only perform preparation engagements as their highest level of service. And accordingly, 8 hours of CPE specific to preparation engagements or accounting and auditing are required each renewal period.

For licensees who are subject to the A&A, Government or Preparation Engagement CPE requirement, an additional 4 hours of fraud CPE related to the detection and/or reporting of fraud in financial statements is required. The fraud CPE is part of the 80 hours of CPE required for license renewal. But it is not part of the 24-hour A&A or Government CPE requirement.

Credit Limitations and Calculation

CPAs in California can earn up to 50% of their required CPE credit through instruction or formal presentation. Here, the Board will accept credit for repeat presentations only if the program material has substantially changed. Overall, credit for this method is equal to the actual presentation hours, plus up to two additional hours for actual preparation time for each hour taught.

Nontechnical subjects have a limit of 50% of the maximum required credits. Typically, this includes communication skills, word processing, sales, marketing, motivational techniques, negotiation skills, office management, practice management and personnel management. Also, learning or teaching the use of accounting software qualifies as general CPE in the technical subject area. But not as credit for accounting and/or auditing. Furthermore, California does not accept CPE for specific subject areas. For instance, personal growth, self-realization, spirituality, personal health and/or fitness, sports and recreation, foreign language and cultures, etc.

Licensees in higher education courses can claim up to 15 CPE hours per semester hour for accounting and auditing subjects. Or, if they take a quarter-hour course, 10 CPE hours. And alternatively, non-credit university courses are worth 1 CPE hour per classroom hour.

For self-study CPE credit, licensees must pass any courses with a 90% or higher score.

Credit from all methods must be earned initially in full-hour increments. However, once that hour has been obtained, CPE can accrue in half-hour amounts.

Other Policies and Exemptions

There are no continuing professional education requirements for any CPAs listed in the following categories. However, they must not offer services to third parties:

  • Retired individuals
  • Any member currently unemployed
  • Individuals who have temporarily left the workforce (even if they plan to return at some point in the future)
  • Members who have formally listed their status as “inactive”

Sometimes, a licensee may feel there are barriers to completing the California CPE requirements on time. But, they have the option to request a waiver for exemption. For instance, some typical reasons include:

  • Health complications
  • Active military service
  • Major disasters
  • Other specific like circumstances

Additional Resources for California CPE Requirements

Article written by Braden Norwood

Last updated June 10, 2024