CPA vs. Accountant - What's the Difference?
Most people use the terms "accountant" and "CPA" interchangeably, but there is a big difference. The CPA designation is one of the most widely-recognized and highly-trusted professional designations in the business world. CPAs are distinguished from other finance professionals by stringent qualification and licensing requirements.
What Can a CPA Do for You?
CPAs are not just number crunchers and tax preparers, they are business and financial strategists who help chart the paths of businesses and individuals. Businesses are tapping CPAs to not only manage finances and taxes, but also to determine profitable new product lines, help diversify investments and provide a variety of other consulting and business services. Individuals turn to their CPAs for tax and financial planning services, investment advice, estate planning and more.
CPA Core Services
- Business Financial Services
- Management Consulting
- Personal Financial Services
- Tax Advisory Services
- Human Resources Consulting
- Litigation Services
- Small Business Services
- Accounting and Auditing Services
- Estate Planning
- Assurance Services
- Business Valuation
- Financial Planning in Situations of Divorce
Things You Should Consider When Choosing a CPA
Before you select a CPA, make sure you consider the following questions:
- Does the individual hold an active CPA license?
- Are your needs compatible with the CPA's personality and communication style?
- Does the CPA have the experience you need?
- How active is he or she in professional organizations?
Professional membership is important. CPAs who are members of the American Institute of CPAs and/or the Oklahoma Society of CPAs are regulated by a strict code of professional ethics. Once every three years, their accounting and auditing practices are rigorously reviewed by their peers.
Get the Most Value from a CPA
When it comes to working with a CPA, you are in control. There are a variety of things you can do to get the most value out of your time and money spent with a CPA.
- Before you contact a CPA, be prepared with your goals and objectives of what you want the CPA to do for you. Have a list of questions and a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.
- Before you meet with a CPA, gather all documents and information you think you may need—past tax returns, financial statements, investment documents, business plans—and take this information with you to the first meeting.
- Keep your CPA up to date on what's happening in your life. Are you getting married, divorced, having children, needing to plan for your child's college education, expanding a business or giving the business to an heir? You'd be surprised what life experiences can have a significant impact on your tax liability and personal financial goals.
What Do CPAs Charge?
CPAs normally base their fees on the time required to perform the services you request. Fees depend on the type of services you require, the prevailing costs in the community, the CPA's level of expertise and the complexity of your work.
Talk frankly with your CPA about fees. Compare the cost of having work performed by a staff accountant under CPA supervision, a higher-level employee such as a supervisor and the CPA to determine who can best meet your budget needs.
Why Employ a CPA at My Company?
CPAs aren't just in public accounting; they are an asset to every industry. The CPA designation represents an unmatched professional competency for both the individual and his or her employer. An investment in your CPA is an investment in your company and a commitment to excellence.
Learn more about how the OSCPA can support CPAs at your company.