A CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, is a financial professional who offers his services to individuals and businesses. A CPA typically requires a bachelor’s degree and professional certification to work. State boards of accountancy license CPAs who must pass a national exam and fulfill state requirements to receive the license. CPAs earned a median annual salary of $61,690 in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A CPA can work for one business or have multiple individual clients. She may examine financial statements to ensure her clients are complying with federal and state regulations. She computes any tax liabilities due, prepares client tax returns and makes sure her clients pay taxes on time to avoid additional fines and penalties. She may help clients organize their financial information and maintain their financial records at her own office. To help clients reduce costs and improve profits, she can suggest new procedural methods, accounting tips and operational changes.
A company or government agency might hire a CPA to audit an individual's or business’s records for accuracy and compliance. A CPA can audit a business’s current accounting and financial record-keeping system to make suggestions for improvement. A CPA can also help determine accounting fraud for government agencies, police officials or individuals.
The Internal Revenue Service allows a CPA to represent his client in tax court and disputes with the IRS. He must be licensed and not under suspension or disbarment from practice. The CPA may communicate with IRS agents directly or advise his clients on his rights, liabilities and privileges while dealing with the IRS. A CPA can represent his client during IRS conferences, meetings and hearings. He can prepare and file tax-related documents on behalf of his client and provide the IRS with additional information requested, as long as his client has given prior, written consent.
A CPA must develop a trusting relationship between himself and his clients. Accountants can freelance or be self-employed rather than work for a large accounting firm. A CPA working for himself might spend several hours cold calling prospective clients or cultivating relationships with current clients. To help gain a larger client base, he may offer consulting services to entrepreneurs starting new business ventures. While doing so he can help a business owner create a business plan, obtain financing and assess the business’s viability.
A CPA handles a client’s financial information; he has a duty of confidentiality. Rule 301 of the “American Institute of Certified Public Accountants” lists the professional standards a CPA must abide by. At all times, a CPA must maintain his client’s confidentiality and he cannot disclose any information without his client’s consent. Requests by an IRS agent for information must be followed with a court order or subpoena for the CPA to release his client’s information. A CPA has a fiduciary duty to his client to keep his client’s best interests at the forefront. He cannot suggest new products, services or investment ideas that benefit himself. A CPA should avoid any conflicts of interest, especially when selecting his clients or vendors.
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