Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 208 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


A person using the designation or title "tax accountant" without a certificate violates chapter 226, Laws of 1949.  (Rem. Supp. 1949, § 8269-8 to § 8269-46).

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                                                                  January 8, 1952

Mr. Edward P. Tremper, Chairman
State Board of Accountancy
1112 Smith Tower
Seattle 4, Washington                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 208

Dear Sir:

            This is to acknowledge your letter of December 20, 1951, in which you asked:

            "Does a person who uses the designation 'tax accountant' but who does not have a valid permit under Chapter 226, Laws of 1949, violate the provisions of the Act?"

            Our conclusion is that a person using the designation or title "tax accountant" without a certificate violates chapter 226, Laws of 1949.  (Rem. Supp. 1949, § 8269-8 to § 8269-46).


            Chapter 226, Laws of 1949, is the public accounting act.  Section 33 of this act deals with the use of designations and titles of certain classes of accountants in the accounting field.  This section is then divided into ten subsections.  It is not necessary for our purposes to set forth section 33 in its entirety for, in our view, the conclusion reached herein is supported by reference to only two of the subsections, (e) and (g).  Subsection (e) provides:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "No person shall assume or use the title or designation 'Public Accountant' or the abbreviation 'PA' or any other title, designation, words, letters, abbreviation, sign, card, or device tending to indicate that such person is a Public Accountant, unless such person is the holder of a certificate to practice as a Certified Public Accountant under section 11 of this act, or is the holder of a license to practice as a Licensed Public Accountant under section 20 of this act, or is registered as a Public Accountant under section 23 of this act, and holds a valid permit issued under section 28 of this act;"

            Subsection (g) provides:

            "No person, partnership or corporation shall assume or use the title or designation 'Certified Accountant,' 'Licensed Accountant,' 'Registered Accountant,' 'Licensed Accountant,' 'Registered Accountant,' or any other title or designation likely to be confused with 'Certified Public Accountant,' 'Licensed Public Accountant,' and 'Public Accountant' or the abbreviations 'CA,' 'EA,' or 'LA,' or similar abbreviations likely to be confused with 'CPA,' or 'LPA,' or 'PA;'"

            The purpose of the above two subsections, and the others of section 33, was to prevent persons not holding permits from using certain titles or designations that would tend to be confusing or deceiving to the general public.

            The question herein is whether the phrase "tax accountant" is a title tending to indicate that the user is a "Public Accountant," (subsection (e)), or a "Certified Accountant," "Chartered Accountant," an "Enrolled Accountant," "Licensed Accountant," "Registered Accountant," (subsection (g)).  We think the title or designation "tax accountant" is within the prohibition of subsection (e) and/or subsection (g).

            A person using the title "tax accountant" infers that he is for one thing, an accountant.  Persons seeking the advice or aid of an accountant, in most instances, are not familiar with the different types or classifications and distinctions between them, and thus any person using the designation "accountant"  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] is to the public, one licensed to practice accounting.  Any person using the phrase "tax accountant" holds himself out to be one of the various types of accountants, and thus certainly tends to indicate that he is one of the several classes of accountants named in subsection (e) or (g).  The use of such a title or designation is prohibited, we feel, unless the user holds a permit.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General