Before you can become a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), you must meet several CIA requirements. However, you must also satisfy a few requirements after you receive the CIA certification in order to maintain it. Specifically, you have to fulfill the Institute of Internal Auditor’s (IIA) continuing professional education (CPE) requirements. You must continue to address the CIA CPE requirements for as long as you want your certification to remain active. Therefore, you should learn more about the CIA CPE requirements now so you can always uphold your CIA status.
“As the business environment changes and new risks emerge, the knowledge and skills internal auditors need to possess to provide professional assurance and consulting services for their organizations continually evolves. The IIA’s International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing recognize this and require internal auditors to seek continuing professional development.” — Certification Candidate Handbook
This statement from the IIA demonstrates that, as with other professional certifications, the upkeep of the CIA involves continuing education. Consequently, the IIA has 2 main reasons for mandating that CIAs meet CPE requirements in order to stay in good standing:
Internal auditing policies change from time to time. So, the IIA has established the CIA CPE requirements in order to ensure that all CIAs remain fully informed of developments in the profession. Furthermore, by meeting the CIA CPE requirements, CIAs are always capable of adhering to the latest internal audit standards and codes. Therefore, CIAs need CPE to help them continue to do their jobs accurately and efficiently.
To stay a CIA, you must earn and report CPE credit hours by December 31 every year. And, the number of CPE credits you must earn and report depends on whether you are a practicing, non-practicing, or retired CIA. The IIA applies these definitions to these terms:
So, if you are a practicing or non-practicing CIA, you must do the following in order to keep your certification active:
However, retired CIAs do not have to meet the CPE requirements as long as they remain retired. When you go into retirement, you must communicate your new situation to the IIA by submitting a status change form through the Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS).
In the year that you become a CIA, the IIA will award you 40 credit hours. Then, the following year, the IIA will give you another 40 credit hours for a total of 80 credit hours in 2 years. So, according to the IIA, passing the CIA exam is worth 80 CPE credit hours, which gets you through 2 years of CIA CPE requirements. But in your third year as a CIA, you must start acquiring CPE credit hours on your own.
The number of CIA CPE credit hours you must obtain in a year (again, by December 31) are as follows:
Actively performing internal audit or related activities
Not actively performing internal audit or related activities
Furthermore, if you hold multiple IIA certifications, then you can apply the CPE hours you earn for the CCSA, CGAP, CFSA, CRMA, or QIAL toward your CIA CPE requirements as well.
As mentioned, 2 of the CPE credit hours you earn annually must focus on the subject of ethics. The IIA doesn’t dictate where you have to get your ethics training, only that you have to get it within the reporting period every year.
As you can see from the information above, the IIA expects individuals who are certified to maintain the very high standards of the internal audit profession when choosing activities to fulfill their CPE requirements. This means you cannot choose just any activity and call it done. Rather, you will be expected to choose from activities that have been pre-approved, or “qualified” by the IIA.
The biggest way most people earn qualifying CPE credits is through educational programs. Let’s explore what that might entail.
Many certified individuals use educational programs to get most or all of their CPE credits. We will talk about some other qualifying activities below. However, because most people earn their CPE credits through educational programs, the PCB has established certain guidelines that must be adhered to when choosing a qualifying educational program. Before you take a program with the intention of getting CPE credits, it’s essential you make sure it meets these guidelines first.
For a CPE program to be approved, it must meet the following criteria:
The PCB currently recognizes the following programs as acceptable for earning CPE credits:
As mentioned above, education programs are the most common methods of earning CPE credits, but courses are not the only way to do it.
Some additional qualifying activities include:
It’s all about establishing yourself as an expert and showing that you are up-to-date on the internal audit profession and current acceptable standards and procedures.
These additional qualifying activities can be done alongside your formal educational programs as various ways of obtaining your CPE.
After you become a CIA, the IIA will remind you each year of your obligation to earn CIA CPE. Then, before December 31 of that year, you are responsible to submit a CPE reporting form. This form is a signed statement that you met all of the CPE requirements for that year. You must fill out a separate CPE reporting form for each IIA certification that you hold. However, at this time, you don’t have to include supporting documentation of your CPE credits, such as certificates of training completion that you use to calculate the number of CPE hours you’ve earned.
Because you are responsible to submit your own CPE information, you are also responsible to ensure that your CPE credits adhere to the IIA’s established CPE guidelines and that your report your credits appropriately.
If you live in North America and many other countries, you can submit your CPE information directly through CCMS. Additionally, North American IIA members do not have to pay a fee for reporting their CPE hours, as free CPE reporting is a benefit of IIA membership. But non-members do have to pay a fee.
On the other hand, if you are a member of certain IIA affiliates, then you must report your CPE directly to your affiliate. The countries that are IIA affiliates include:
What’s more, your IIA affiliate may charge a fee for reporting CPE, so you must check with them to learn more about their CIA CPE reporting process. Currently, the CIA CPE reporting fee is $30 for an IIA member and $120 for a non-member.
If you successfully met the IIA CIA CPE requirements upon submitting your CPE form through the CCMS, then the IIA will send you an acknowledgment of compliance.
Again, you don’t have to provide the IIA with supporting documentation of your CPE credits when you present your CPE reporting form. However, in the event that the IIA or its designee audits your CPE records (which the IIA does annually), you do need to keep copies of all supporting documentation as well as the CPE reporting forms you submitted for at least 3 years. The records of your CPE credits must contain the following information:
As mentioned, you must keep all of this information on hand because the IIA or its designee conducts annual audits of CPE reporting records. So, if the IIA selects you, you must give them documented evidence of the CPE credits you’ve earned. If you can’t provide this information by the deadline, the IIA will demote your CIA status, and you can no longer claim to be certified.
If you can give the IIA proof of your CPE credits but the IIA finds that you haven’t earned enough CPE for the amount of time you’ve been a CIA, then the IIA will give you 6 months to correct the issue. During this time, you must earn the missing amount of CPE and submit documentation of the hours you earned to the IIA Global.
Finally, the IIA will report any CIA found to have falsified documentation or acted unethically to the Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee for further investigation.
If you haven’t earned enough CPE in the calendar year, then you shouldn’t submit a CPE report, as that would be lying. Instead, you should only complete the CPE reporting form once you have earned enough CPE credit hours.
Consequently, if you can’t submit the CPE reporting form before December 31, then the IIA will change your CIA status from certified to inactive (grace period).
You will learn from your CCMS account or your local affiliate if the IIA has changed your status to inactive (grace period). If the IIA has done so, then you can no longer claim to be certified.
To incentivize the IIA to change your status back to certified, you must complete the prior year’s CPE reporting form. If you didn’t earn enough CPE during that year, you can use hours from the following calendar year to make up the deficiency. But then, once you use CPE hours to move your status back to certified, you can’t reuse those hours toward the current year’s reporting requirements.
If you stay in an inactive (grace period) status for more than 12 months, then the IIA will automatically transition your status to inactive.
Again, the IIA will notify you through CCMS or your local affiliate if they have changed your status to inactive. And again, if your status is inactive, you can’t hold yourself out as a CIA. To transition your status back to certified, you must fulfill the CPE requirements for one reporting period, complete a CIA reinstatement reporting form, and pay the reinstatement fee. The reinstatement fee is currently $100 for IIA members and $250 for non-members. Finally, you also can’t use CPE hours utilized for reinstatement toward the current year’s reporting requirements.
As mentioned above, the CPE reporting is one way for the IIA to keep track of acting CIAs. If you stop practicing, this also needs to be reported. You still need to complete your 20 hours to keep your designation.
A CIA who is not currently practicing may change their certification status on their CCMS profile, but is still required to complete 20 hours of CPE each year. Maintaining 20 hours of CIA CPE allows CIAs to maintain their designation, but they are not able to practice internal auditing functions.
What is the difference in CE and CPE? All of those letters can get a bit confusing, even when this is your specialty. So, CE refers to continuing education. This is required for most accounting certifications and specialty areas.
Accounting professionals are required to get continuing education credits each year. These courses keep the accountant up-to-date on changes in all areas of accounting such as Federal Tax Law, Auditing and Financial Reporting.
CPE stands for Continuing Professional Education, so they are essentially the same thing. The main difference in CE and CPE lies in what designation the accountant has. Enrolled Agents (EAs), for example, call it CE. For the CIA designation, it’s called CPE.
CPA is usually done on the state level for CIAs and CPAs, whereas CE is done with IRS or federal-level designations.
As you can see, the CIA CPE is very important. If you commit to becoming a CIA, you also commit to your continuing education. It’s just part of the deal.
Not only is it important to get your CPE so that you can maintain your certification, but it also helps you do your job better. As you can see from this guide, there are many different options of types of CPE courses you can take.
This gives you the freedom to choose the types of courses you are interested in. You can do your job better when you take advantage of these courses to stay up-to-date on the latest in your industry. CPE courses also give you the opportunity to expand your knowledge into a new area of expertise, that might be a bit different from the one you currently practice in your job.
It’s understandable if you have questions about these CPE requirements and reporting. I’m going to cover these as best I can for you.
Here are the common questions. Feel free to ask other questions you may have in the comment section. I’ll add them to our list and answer for you.
1. I heard there is a CPE reporting fee. Is it true?
Yes and no. If you work or live in North America or the Caribbeans, you don’t need to pay for the CPE reporting fee. For others, the fee level varies.
2. What happens if I don’t submit the CPE credits?
If you fail to take or report the CPE credits, you are placed in inactive status, and cannot hold yourself out as a CIA certification holder.
3. Can I use these credits to fulfill the CPE requirements of other qualifications?
IIA doesn’t have the restriction, but you’ll have to check whether these credits are accepted by others. For example, the credits given by passing the CIA exam are not NASBA sponsored, and therefore cannot be used to fulfill the CPA CPE requirements.
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.
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