Okay, CPE cheating is a thing. I recently had a few CPA friends of mine tell me they only buy downloadable text-based CPE courses. They do this so they can go straight to the test, and if they miss any questions they can do a text search in the course pdf file, find the answers, and pass the test on the second try. The higher CPE the course, the better it is. Apparently they can complete 40 CPE credits in about two to three hours (YMMV).

So Much for Ethics

Okay, no one likes CPE. It’s about compliance, not learning. But it should be about learning, and it certainly shouldn’t be about cheating. I find it ironic that some (actually surprisingly many who I have asked) CPAs who are signing up to take required ethics courses are routinely cheating on their CPE. I asked one of my colleagues about that and got a shrug in response. 

The real irony here is that all of these folks could use some brushing up, and certainly have gaps (no pun intended) in their technical accounting. And they seem to be perfectly law-abiding citizens otherwise. So, what is it that drives CPAs to do this?

Why Cheat on CPE?

40 hours is a lot of CPE. I hear that all the time. In fact, I feel it and I get it – I’ve got 40 hours, too. But there is no doubt that whether you’re in a firm or in industry, everyone’s working 50+ hours/week these days, and 40 hours is a whole week’s worth of learning time. In fact, it’s more than that since, were you doing it legitimately, you’d have to find your CPE, schedule it, pick it up and put it down, get to your live webinars and seminars, plus their waiting-/down-time. It’s just a lot of time.

And then there’s the quality of CPE. Goodness it’s a bore. Well, most of it is. I especially blame the written courses. Seems like you have to read a ton of pages to get just one credit. I far prefer video courses, but their quality can vary as well. Nobody is taking CPE just for the fun of it (and if you are, I hope you have other hobbies as well). Many of the cheaper CPE options are pdf-based (the worst), and the sites are terrible to use. The whole thing is inconvenient and un-fun!

What’s the Alternative?

Well, just doing it the right way. I haven’t found a non-cheating way to make the time go faster, but there are good platforms and good courses out there (look for user-rated courses, it makes life much nicer), although you have to actually look for them (try www.cpe-compare.com for platform reviews – that’ll help). 

You should also spread it out. If you want to stay in compliance and learn, you could create a learning plan and execute it over 12 months instead of getting backed up and desperate around Thanksgiving (or whatever your 11th/12th month is). I just schedule an hour every Friday morning (I can’t do it Friday afternoon, I’m too antsy to get out of the office). But you should find the time that works for you, and knock out at least 2 hours/month, or more if you have a slow month. Anyone can do two hours/month, just put it on the calendar. If you can stretch that to 3 hours/month you’ll only have a few extra left to do in December. 

The moral of the story is, “Get on it!” And don’t cheat. For Pete’s sake, that’s goes against everything a CPA should be about. You can do better. And in doing this better, you’ll get better and feel better. It’s all upside. If you’re not cheating, great! Good for you! You are already on top of it and should feel good. If you are, you and I both know you don’t feel great about that. But you can get there and get better. Good luck!