21 NCAC 08N .0305         RETENTION OF CLIENT RECORDS

(a)  A CPA shall return client-provided records in the CPA's custody or control to the client at the client's request. Client-provided records are accounting or other records, including hardcopy and electronic reproductions of such records, belonging to the client that were provided to the CPA by, or on behalf of, the client.

(b)  Unless a CPA and the client have agreed to the contrary, when a client makes a request for CPA prepared records or a CPA's work products that are in the CPA's custody or control that have not previously been provided to the client, the CPA shall respond to the client's request as follows:

(1)           The CPA shall provide CPA prepared records relating to a completed and issued work product to the client, except that such records may be withheld if fees are due to the CPA for that specific work product; and

(2)           CPA's work products shall be provided to the client, except that such work products may be withheld:

(A)          if fees are due to the CPA for the specific work product;

(B)          if the work product is incomplete;

(C)          if for purpose of complying with professional standards (for example, withholding an audit report due to outstanding audit issues); or

(D)          if threatened or outstanding litigation exists concerning the engagement or CPA's work.

(c)  CPA prepared records are accounting or other records that the CPA was not specifically engaged to prepare and that are not in the client's books and records or are otherwise not available to the client, thus rendering the client's financial information incomplete. Examples include adjusting, closing, combining, or consolidating journal entries (including computations supporting such entries) and supporting schedules and documents that the CPA proposed or prepared as part of an engagement, (for an example, an audit). CPA's work products are deliverables set forth in the terms of the engagement, such as tax returns.

(d)  Once a CPA has complied with these requirements, he or she shall not be under any further ethical obligation to:

(1)           comply with any subsequent requests to again provide records or copies of records described in Paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Rule. If subsequent to complying with a request, a client experiences a loss of records due to a natural disaster, the CPA shall comply with an additional request to provide such records; and

(2)           retain records for periods that exceed applicable professional standards, state and federal statutes and regulations, and contractual agreements relating to the service performed.

(e)  A CPA who has provided records to an individual designated or held out as the client's representative, such as the general partner, majority shareholder, or spouse, shall not be obligated to provide such records to other individuals associated with the client.

(f)  Work papers shall be the CPA's property, and the CPA is not required to provide such information to the client. However, state and federal statutes and regulations and contractual agreements may impose additional requirements on the CPA.

(g)  In fulfilling a request for client provided records, CPA prepared records, or a CPA's work products, the CPA may:

(1)           charge the client a fee for the time and expense incurred to retrieve and copy such records and require that the client pay the fee before the CPA provides the records to the client;

(2)           provide the requested records in any format usable by the client. The CPA is not required to convert records that are not in electronic format to electronic format. If the client requests records in a specific format and the records are available in such format within the CPA's custody and control, the client's request should be honored. In addition, the CPA is not required to provide the client with formulas, unless the formulas support the client's underlying accounting or other records or the CPA was engaged to provide such formulas as part of a completed work product; and

(3)           make and retain copies of any records that the CPA returned or provided to the client.

(h)  A CPA who is required to return or provide records to the client shall comply with the client's request as soon as practicable, but no later than 45 days after the request is made.

 

History Note:        Authority G.S. 55B-12; 57D-2-02; 93-12(9);

Eff. April 1, 1994;

Amended Eff. January 1, 2006; April 1, 2003;

Readopted Eff. February 1, 2016;

Amended Eff. May 1, 2017.