We have prepared the following checklist to help you compare CPE providers.
1. Is the CPE provider's website professional in appearance? Does it have secure checkout to protect your identity? Does it provide contact information?
2. Assess the age of the courses. Courses should be reviewed and updated annually. Do the courses show a revision date, or last date updated?
3. Check for pilot testing procedures
If the CPE provider's website does not have a pilot tester signup, it is doubtful that they conduct pilot testing. It is time consuming and expensive to conduct pilot testing--but it is a "cost of doing business."
4. What credentials does the CPE provider have? Here is a short list of the "rule makers" for CPE providers:
Note: Many states do not registration of any type.
IRS Department of the Treasury: Office of the Secretary regulates IRS Enrolled Agents and related CPE.
NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy), working jointly with the AICPA issues regulations for CPE for CPAs on a national basis. States can opt to follow NASBA guidelines or use their own state requirements.
NASBA-QAS Quality Assurance Service is a set of regulations governing self-study CPE for certain states that is more stringent than the standard NASBA requirements. Currently QAS courses are required for AR, FL, KS, MN, OR, TN and WV.
While all states have specific CPE requirements that must be followed, most states do not require registration of CPE providers, and several states accept CPE from providers registered in another state.
Because the fees to join the NASBA are significant, you will probably pay more for CPE from these providers.
5. Compare the total cost. Self-study CPE can include the following costs:
- Study materials
- Shipping and handling
- Expedited shipping
- Grading fee and re-grading fee if you don't pass
- Expedited grading fee (if you need quick turn-around)
- Restocking charge, if materials are returned
6. Does the CPE provider's website offer a state acceptance listing?
CPA state requirements are often confusing and ambiguous, and can change frequently. State acceptance listings can vary from one CPE provider to another due to interpretations of the requirements or infrequent updating.
Ultimately, it is your responsibility to be aware of your state's requirements and email the cpe provider before taking an exam if you are unsure if the provider's CPE meets your needs.