Ethics Articles

Ethical Implications of a CPA Becoming a Real Estate Broker

by MICPA | Jun 03, 2014   ()
This column highlights issues and questions submitted to the MICPA Professional Ethics Task Force. Responses may not consider all of the unique circumstances that are part of an ethical inquiry.

Q. I am a licensed CPA who is considering becoming a real estate broker with my firm. What ethical implications must I keep in mind when acting as the real estate broker?

A. There are several provisions of the Code of Professional Conduct to keep in mind.

As a member in public practice, you must maintain objectivity and integrity. You cannot sign anything that is either materially false or misleading.

Code section 0.300.050 states that “members employed by others to prepare financial statements or to perform auditing, tax, or consulting services are charged with the same responsibility for objectivity as members in public practice and must be scrupulous in their application of generally accepted accounting principles and candid in all their dealings with members in public practice.”

You also may use the CPA designation, along with employment title, on a business card, on stationery/letterhead or in paid advertisements as indicated by the Code. “However, if the member uses the CPA designation in a manner to imply that he or she is independent of the employer, the member would be knowingly misrepresenting facts in violation of rule 1.130 [ET section 1.130.10]. Therefore, it is advisable that in any transmittal within which the member uses his or her CPA designation, he or she clearly indicate the employment title.”

The Code of Professional Conduct allows for practice as a CPA in combination with another licensed profession; however, the ethical standards for each professional group must be observed.

It must be clear that when you are acting as a real estate broker, you are not acting as a CPA. If at all possible, it is recommended that you develop an engagement letter to describe exactly what service(s) is being provided.
Source: The Michigan Association of CPAs