Hawaii requires that individuals seeking to become certified public accountants hold a bachelor’s degree and be at least 18 years old. The state requires that applicants be a U.S. citizen, but they are not required to be a resident of Hawaii. Applicants are also required to hold a valid Social Security number. Individuals who meet these qualifications can take the first step to getting licensed by taking the Uniform CPA Examination.
Step 1: CPA exam in Hawaii
Sitting for the CPA exam in Hawaii requires that candidates posses a bachelor’s degree, which includes coursework in accounting.
Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in accounting from an accredited college or university. Applicants can apply to sit for the exam when they are within 120 days of completing the educational requirements.
The coursework includes:
- Bachelor’s degree in accounting
- Bachelor’s degree in a subject other than accounting, plus
- 18 semester hours of upper-division or graduate-level accounting or auditing subjects
Application and test fees
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) administers the exam. Applicants must arrange to have their educational transcripts sent to NASBA, showing proof of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. Applicants are also required to submit a 2-inch by 2-inch photo.
The process to apply for the CPA exam starts with requesting and receiving authorization to take the test, followed by acknowledgement from the state and official notice to schedule (NTS) the exam. Once this process is completed, applicants can select a date to take the CPA exam. The NTS expires in six months, after which candidates must submit a new application. The exam is given the first two months of each calendar quarter.
State law requires that first-time applicants submit an application fee of $165 plus exam fees. Those who are retaking the exam are required to pay a registration fee plus exam fees. Registration fees are $120 for four sections, $105 for three sections, $90 for two sections and $75 for one section.
In addition to the state’s application fee, there are substantial administrative costs that must be paid in advance to the NASBA.
The Uniform CPA Examination comprises four sections:
- Auditing and Attestation
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
- Business Environment and Concepts
Each section of the exam has a specified administration fee. Applicants may take one or more of the four required sections at a time. In addition to the administration fee for each section, CPA exam applicants are charged a separate fee for each testing session they take.
Taking, passing and retaking the CPA exam
The passing score for each of the four exam sections is 75. Applicants may take the sections individually and in any order, but are required to pass all four within a rolling 18-month period, which begins on the date the first examination section passed was taken.
Credit for any section passed shall be valid for 18 months from the actual date the examination section was taken. Examination credits expire by section, and applicants will lose credit for each section passed outside of the 18-month period.
Step 2: CPA certificate and license in Hawaii
Hawaii is a two-tier state that provides a license first and a permit to work after additional educational and work experience is completed. After successfully passing all four sections of the exam, applicants may then apply for a public accounting license in Hawaii by submitting an application and a fee of $195 in even-numbered years or a fee of $127 in odd-numbered years.
Applicants are also required to submit three Certificate of Competence forms completed by individuals who are personally or professionally acquainted with them.
Once individuals complete the additional educational and experience requirements, they can apply for a permit to practice, which gives them full practicing rights. Applicants should submit a permit to practice application to Hawaii along with a fee of $85.
A bachelor’s degree or higher and 150 semester hours of education are required for licensing. The coursework must include:
- 24 semester (36 quarter) hours in accounting courses, including courses in financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and managerial accounting, including:
- 18 semester (27 quarter) hours of upper-division or graduate-level accounting courses
- and 24 semester (36 quarter) hours of upper-division or graduate-level accounting or non-accounting business-related courses
- and 4 hours of CPE in ethics or professional conduct
Applicants who have been in the active practice of public accountancy for at least five years preceding the application can apply for an educational exemption.
Work experience is required for full licensing, which can be obtained in one of the following methods:
- 1,500 chargeable hours in the performance of audits involving generally accepted accounting principles and auditing standards earned while employed on a full-time basis in public accounting
- 2 years of full-time professional work experience in public accounting, private industry, government, or education
All work experience must be certified by a licensed CPA.
Out-of-state CPA licenses
Hawaii allows CPAs in good standing and licensed in other states or U.S. jurisdictions to practice in the state as long as the issuing state has been verified to be substantially equivalent to the NASBA’s Qualification Appraisal. Hawaii also recognizes individuals who hold foreign CPA certificates of licensure, provided they obtain a temporary permit that expires after three months.
Disclaimer: Requirements for Hawaii CPA test-takers and license applicants are subject to change. Visit the state’s Board of Public Accountancy website to check for recent revisions to Hawaii’s CPA requirements.
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