CPAs now required to report suspected elder abuse

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2018 by Gary Hunt

While Ohio residents have always been encouraged to contact authorities with concerns about abuse of people of all ages, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has added CPAs to a lengthy list of “mandatory reporters,” professionals who are legally required to report suspected elder abuse.

The requirement became effective Saturday, Sept. 29. Other professions added Saturday to an already long list include real estate agents, bank employees, financial planners and notary publics.

The law requires specific individuals who, having reasonable cause to think an older adult is being abused, neglected or exploited – or is in a condition resulting from such treatment – to immediately report the belief to the county department of job and family services. In addition to physical and behavioral signs, CPAs should be on the lookout for financial indicators such as sudden and unexplained changes in banking practices, the inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card and abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents.

Anyone in Ohio can report possible elder abuse 24/7 by calling 1-855-OHIO-APS or by contacting the nearest county department of job and family services. Physical proof or other evidence is not required. Reports are not subject to public records laws, and Ohio law protects any person who makes such a report from civil or criminal liability unless the person commits perjury during testimony or for situations where bad faith or malicious intent are involved.

CPAs should file a report if they have reasonable cause to suspect an elderly person is being abused. If mandatory reporters fail to report possible abuse, they could face fines of up to $500. There are no exceptions for professional relationships.

Employers should note that the act also requires each entity that employs or is responsible for licensing or regulating mandatory reporters of abuse, neglect or exploitation of older adults ensure those individuals have access to ODJFS educational materials.

On Oct. 1 the ODJFS provided OSCPA with a report with details for financial service professionals that employers can share with impacted employees to meet that responsibility. They are also working on a profession-specific guide, and developing training for any employers who might want that. The change in the law was included in Ohio’s budget bill. You can read it in its entirety in the Ohio Revised Code.


8 comments

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  1. John Michel CPA | Dec 12, 2018
    Although sympathetic to the underlying goal of this legislation I am immediately skeptical when I read about statistics or estimates of "unreported" cases.  If a case is "unreported" is it really a case at all?  Who would even know?  It reminds me of calling someone a victim (or survivor) of something before a judge or jury deems them a victim.  I know this sounds like the antics of comedian George Carlin parsing the English language.  I am also anxious to learn later of the number of reports that actually result in convictions or some discipline against the offender.  I plan to follow the law as best I am able but only judges and juries are really able to ascertain if a violation of the law actually took place.  But we live in a world where such referrals that are then turned over to law enforcement might ruin the lives of those who are accused but did no wrong.  The American justice system is quickly becoming a guilty until proven innocent standard in my opinion.      
  2. John Keyes,CPA | Oct 09, 2018

    Training, will it be provided by the State of Ohio? What type of liability insurance is needed?Will ODJFS provide speakers to train at CPA meetings such as the ADVANCE? What about confidential matters?

  3. ghunt | Oct 05, 2018
    Richard: It would appear the answer is "no."  The summary says Certified public accountants and registered public accountants under R.C. Chapter 4701.
  4. Katie R, CPA | Oct 05, 2018
    While this may help with some physical and financial abuse, financial fraud is often legally insidious (gambling casinos courting elders, multiple will changes influenced by others, etc. ). Too often families and professionals are unable to address difficult situations under current statutes.  So glad to report, but more statutes to protect the vulnerable and deter abuse are needed,  
  5. Marie B | Oct 04, 2018

    We had 4 family members report to Ohio Department of Job & Family Services re:  Elder Abuse and issues with someone tampering with my mothers medication and cashing checks, etc.    She used my mothers credit card, had her PIN number for her bank account and it was a joke - They did nothing except talk to my mother who was not right obviously - It made a bad situation worse.  A waste of taxpayer's money - The girl would also borrow some of my mother's Norco - What does that tell you!!!

     

     

  6. Brian B CPA | Oct 04, 2018

    Another "Watch Dog" requirement for CPA's?  Will it increase my liability insurance?  What is "Reasonable Cause"?  It is one thing to recognize and inquire about financial impropriety (and one thing I will gladly report), but asking how a client got a bruise on their arm could be a whole other matter in my opinion if that is also a requirement of the reporting.

  7. Richard Ayres, EA | Oct 04, 2018
    Would Enrolled Agents and tax practitioners fall under this mandate?  The reading in your article suggests no.  I have had two of these incidents for my career.
  8. Jim Strunk | Oct 02, 2018
    Be glad to report!

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