On May 7, 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 on the auditing field by announcing three new exceptions to continuing professional education (CPE) requirements, making it easier for auditors to maintain compliance.
These extensions are welcome news for those of us who need the time, but what about those that don't? Why not knock out your CPE now?
Auditors performing engagements under generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS) must complete at least 80 hours of CPE every two-years and at least 20 hours of CPE annually. The GAO alert does not remove the obligation to complete 80 hours of CPE. It does make it easier for auditors to meet the requirement in light of coronavirus. The exceptions waive the 20-hour annual CPE requirement (now you may complete the 80 hours at any point in the two years) and allow auditors to carry over 40 hours of CPE to the next CPE measurement period if they perform more than 80 hours in the current period.
The most significant exception, however, introduces a six-month grace period for the completion of CPE. Under these temporary, pandemic-friendly rules, auditors who have not completed their 80 hours have up to six months immediately following the two-years to finish their remaining hours. Of course, hours completed during the grace period to make up for hours not completed in the previous CPE period cannot also be applied to the next CPE period.
The GAO's exceptions are needed. Many are struggling to meet demands, adapt to change, and keep up with their pre-crisis schedules. But while some auditors need extra time, others will use the opportunity to put off their CPE requirements because they can.
Resist that temptation, friend.
COVID-19's effect on some of us is catastrophic. Some are too busy putting out fires, home-schooling our children, or caring for loved ones to worry about CPE. Others have more free time than they did before the pandemic. Take a realistic look at your schedule. How much time are you saving working from home instead of commuting? Ordering groceries for delivery instead of shopping? Think of all the time you used to spend buttoning shirts and pants in the morning!
Maybe coronavirus has made it harder to meet your CPE requirement, but perhaps it's made it more manageable. If so, knock out your CPE now, from home.
Keep in mind: the GAO's exceptions don't remove the 80-hour requirement; they merely delay it. The six-month grace period overlaps the next two-year period. Wait too long, and you'll be trying to complete two periods' worth of hours in one period.
Make the responsible, efficient choice. Get your CPE done now if you can. It's what an auditor would tell you to do.