Colorado accountants can lose their professional license if they get convicted of a Colorado felony or any other crime involving dishonesty or fraud. CPAs are also expected to self-report their criminal records to the licensing board within 45 days of the conviction.
The application to become a licensed CPA in Colorado does not ask for fingerprints for a formal background check. However, applicants are expected to disclose their past criminal history voluntarily.
Accountants face prosecution for a misdemeanor in Colorado if they work without a current and valid license. The penalty is:
- 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
- $250 to $1,000 in fines
In this article, our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss how criminal convictions affect CPA licenses in Colorado. Click on a topic to jump to that section:
- 1. Who regulates licenses
- 2. Applying for a license with a criminal record
- 3. Discipline following a criminal conviction
- 4. Fighting disciplinary penalties
- 5. Working as an accountant without a license
- 6. Other professional licenses
1. Who regulates accountancy licenses in Colorado
CPAs receive their licenses to practice in Colorado from the Board of Accountancy. The Board comprises seven members, including five accountants and two members of the general public. These members are appointed by the governor and serve four-year terms.
The Board is located at:
1560 Broadway, Suite 1350
Denver, CO 80202
The phone number is 303-894-7800. The fax number is 303-894-2310. And the email is [email protected].1
2. Applying for an accountancy license with a criminal record in Colorado
CPAs with a criminal history can still apply for a license in Colorado. The Board will consider whether the criminal history is serious enough to deny the applicant a license.
Presumably, the Board is more likely to grant licenses to CPAs with criminal pasts if:
- the criminal activity took place a long time ago,
- the applicant took responsibility for the criminal activity,
- the applicant appears to have been rehabilitated, and
- the applicant is of good moral character
Colorado’s CPA application asks explicitly whether the applicants have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. Even though applicants do not have to submit fingerprints, the Board checks various criminal history databases to see if the applicant is truthful. The Board can disqualify applicants just for being untruthful about their criminal record, even if their record is not particularly serious.
CPA applicants with sealed or expunged criminal records should probably still disclose their record on the application, but they are advised to consult with an attorney first.2 (Also see our articles about Colorado record seals and Colorado record expungements.)
3. Discipline for accountants following a criminal conviction in Colorado
Licensed CPAs in Colorado are required to notify the Board within 45 days of getting convicted of either a:
- felony, or
- crime where an element is dishonesty or fraud
Once the Board learns of the criminal conviction, it will investigate the case and hold a disciplinary hearing where the CPA can appear with an attorney to defend him/herself. Depending on the gravity of the situation, the Board may vote to either:
- place the licensee on probation;
- suspend the license; or
- revoke the license
If the CPA does not inform the Board within 45 days of the conviction, the Board can impose disciplinary penalties for that alone — including revoking the person’s license. Note that accountants who have lost their license have to wait at least two (2) years before they can apply for another.3
4. Fighting discipline by the Colorado Board of Accountancy
Disciplinary hearings before the Accountancy Board resemble a mini-trial. CPAs are always encouraged to hire an experienced attorney to advocate for them.
Every case is different and turns on the specifics of the allegations. But in general, the attorney would make the following arguments in an effort to save the CPA’s license:
- the crime the CPA was convicted of does not suggest he/she is untrustworthy;
- the crime the CPA was convicted of has nothing to do with accountancy;
- the CPA has always provided competent service to his/her clients;
- the CPA’s general reputation among his/her peers is good; and
- the CPA completed all the sentencing terms ordered by the judge in the criminal case
5. Penalties for the unauthorized practice of accountancy in Colorado
Working as an accountant with no license breaks Colorado law. A first-time conviction of accounting without a license is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. The punishment is:
- 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
- $250 to $1,000 in fines
A subsequent conviction of accounting without a license is a class 6 felony in Colorado. The punishment is:
- 1 year to 18 months in Colorado State Prison, and/or
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines
Also, having a conviction for accounting without a license can be a bar for the person ever getting a CPA license in the future.4
6. Other professional licenses in Colorado
6.1. Medical licenses
Physicians do not have to submit to criminal background checks prior to applying for a license. Learn more about discipline for doctors with criminal convictions in Colorado.
6.2. Nursing licenses
Nurses have to submit to criminal background checks prior to applying for a license. Learn more about discipline for nurses with criminal convictions in Colorado.
6.3. Dental licenses
Dentists and dental hygienists risk losing their license if they get convicted of certain offenses. Learn more about discipline for Colorado dentists with criminal convictions.
6.4. Real estate licenses
Realtors must inform the licensing board if they get convicted of felony crimes. Learn more about discipline for Colorado realtors with criminal convictions.
6.5. Contractor licenses
Electrical and plumbing contractors can lose their license following a felony conviction. Learn more about Colorado contractor licenses and how criminal convictions affect them.
6.6. Social work licenses
Social workers must reveal their criminal history on their license applications. Learn more about Colorado social work licenses and how criminal convictions affect them.
6.7. Law licenses
Attorneys must notify the Colorado Supreme Court no later than 14 days after they get convicted of a crime (other than minor traffic offenses). Learn more about how a criminal conviction affects law licenses in Colorado.