Tracking CPE hours can be tedious, but it’s an important and necessary practice for CPAs with an active license.
Public accounting firms often have a CPE management tool for employees with a CPA certification, but accounting professionals in the private industry are usually on their own. Which means not only do you have to find and earn CPE credits throughout the year, you also need a way to track them.
Here are some best practices on organizing your CPE credits effectively and efficiently. Keep reading for access to a free spreadsheet to track your CPE credits, as well as helpful tips on staying current with your CPE documentation.
Why Do CPAs Need to Track Their CPE Credits?
Passing the CPA exams is only the first step in earning a CPA license. Committing to continuing education is another.
For accounting professionals with an active license, maintaining accurate CPE documentation is critical. Failure to comply with continuing education requirements may result in fines or a loss of certification.
Each state has different ways of tracking CPE credits: Some randomly audit licensed professionals, while others may require them to provide CPE details to the state board on a regular basis.
Keeping track of every CPE course and credit may sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you follow these best practices.
Create a CPE Folder
The first step to staying organized: Keep all CPE documentation in one place.
One option is to create a folder on your personal or work laptop for CPE content only.
Another – and our preferred – option is to create it in the cloud, where your CPE information will be easily accessible no matter where you are.
You can do it for free, too, on Google Drive. If you have a Gmail account, you’ve likely already used this feature before.
If you’re not familiar with it, you can access the Drive in two steps with a Gmail account:
- Click the nine-dot grid on the upper right-hand corner of your Gmail page, which will show you a list of apps available with your account
- Click the “Drive” icon
One you’re in the Drive, create a new folder:
- Click the “New” icon
- Click the “Folder” option
You can name the folder as you please, but this will be where you house all your CPE documentation. For purposes of this demonstration, our main CPE folder is called “CPE Tracker.”
Tip #1: Save all CPE documentation in a designated CPE folder. That way you’ll know exactly where to go when you’re looking for CPE information.
Track CPE Credits in a Spreadsheet
A simple spreadsheet will suffice when it comes to documenting CPE information. Just make sure to keep track of the following information:
- Name of CPE course
- Delivery method
- Date completed
- Field of study
- Number of CPE credits
That should be enough information for CPE-tracking purposes in most states, but you probably know your way around a spreadsheet. Use a few simple formulas to keep a running total of the number of CPE credits you’ve earned for the year, as well as how many you have remaining.
And don’t neglect tab names in the spreadsheet. Each tab name can reference the year for which you’re tracking the information. Then simply create a duplicate of that tab for each subsequent year.
We’ve already done the work for you: Download the CPE Tracker template and start tracking your CPE compliance information. We used a sample CPE certificate to record our first CPE course in the “2021” tab.
(Keep in mind each state has different CPE requirements. For instance, many states require a certain number of ethics hours to maintain your CPA license. Make sure you’re keeping track of these as well. The CPE Tracker template does not take into account specific state requirements, but once it’s downloaded, you can customize it to fit your needs.)
Tip #2: Record your CPE information in a spreadsheet as soon as you’ve completed a course. This helps to ensure you aren’t over- or under-reporting your CPE credits.
Save CPE Certifications by Year
It’s not enough to just track CPE information in a spreadsheet. You need a copy of each CPE certificate to verify that you have taken and passed the course. If you get audited by your state board, they’ll likely ask for these certificates as proof of completion.
That’s why it’s important to save all the CPE certificates you’ve earned after attending a course or session.
Save these certificates in the same folder you’re storing your CPE Tracker spreadsheet to make maintenance a little bit easier.
To keep the folder organized, it’s a good idea to create a subfolder within the main folder. We called ours “CPE Certificates,” which now gives us two items in our main “CPE Tracker” folder.
Here’s what our main “CPE Tracker” folder looks like now:
Within the “CPE Certificates” folder, create folders for each individual year for which you’re saving CPE certificates. This may not seem necessary now, but this organization will come in handy in the future, when you’re saving several years’ worth of certificates.
Here’s what our “CPE Certificates” subfolder looks like now:
Now you can start saving your CPE certificates in their respectable folders. You can come up with your own naming convention for these PDFs. Our suggestion is to use the course name as the naming convention. Not only will you be able to search for it easily, you’ll also be able to match it to your CPE Tracker spreadsheet.
Check out our “CPE Tracker” folder for an example of how you can set up your folder to save and record documentation.
Tip #3: Save your CPE certificates as soon as you receive them. Don’t forget these certificates serve as proof of course completion, so you need to keep these around.
It’s Easy to Track CPE Information
Keeping track of CPE credits isn’t challenging, and following these tips will ensure you’re compliant with your state’s continuing education requirements.
If you have tips of your own, share them in the comments below.