As a natural progression of the Contract Audit Program, the Certified Audit Program was designed by the FICPA in cooperation with the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) to enhance the state's ability to audit sales and use tax at no cost to the state, with reduced penalties and interest for auditees and performed by specifically trained CPAs paid at market billing rates.
Under the Certified Audit Program, private entities are able to hire specifically trained and DOR-approved CPA firms to conduct sales and use tax audits in accordance with DOR standards and technical standards of the CPA profession. The DOR is authorized to waive penalties, and a portion of interest owed, to encourage business entities to participate in a voluntary audit paid by the participant. The final result is "found" money already owed to the state in sales and use tax dollars. This money is "found" at no cost to the state and with no additional full time employees. The taxpayer pays the tax owed without fear of exorbitant penalties and interests. Periods of business activity audited by a CPA are closed to further DOR audit under normal circumstances. This is truly a "win-win" situation for the state, the taxpayer and the CPA.
As you can see, the Certified Audit Program can offer many benefits to you and your clients. Your clients can deduct the cost of hiring your firm to perform the certified audit from their federal and state taxes. As a CPA you can generate more business with the Certified Audit Program and the state collects additional taxes without having to expend more resources.
If you wish to participate in the Certified Audit Program, you must possess an active Florida CPA license, attend the 2.5-day training seminar, and pass an examination (CAE). Upon completion, the DOR will issue you the CFST (Certified in Florida Sales and Use Tax) specialty designation.
For a firm to be eligible to conduct Certified Audits, several additional requirements must be met. The firm must be a licensed audit firm with the Florida Board of Accountancy (BOA), have a current on-site/system peer review with a Pass (previously Unmodified) opinion, and the must conduct the Certified Audits using agreed-upon procedures. The individual ultimately responsible for the audit must hold a CFST designation. Staff on the engagement team must have completed the Certified Audit self-study training and passed the exam. A staff member must have completed the DOR-provided training on Florida multi-tax software developed by the DOR.
Although you may not be inclined to participate in the Certified Audit Program, you may instead pursue the CFST designation primarily to show expertise in the area of sales and use tax. Many firms have expanded their sales and use tax consulting services and have capitalized on employing CPAs who have the CFST designation.