A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is an accounting professional who has earned licensure from the state where they provide tax and accounting services to individuals, businesses, and corporations. The CPA designation signifies the satisfactory completion of education and testing that demonstrates knowledge and expertise in the accounting and tax field and the ability to represent taxpayers in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) matters. There are approximately 1.4 million accounts in the United States and about half of them are registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
The role of a CPA
The services provided by a CPA vary by their client base and whether they work in public practice for individuals and businesses or as part of a tax and accounting team in a corporation. The primary responsibility of a CPA is to maintain accurate financial records that are in compliance with local, state, and federal laws and guidelines. As part of this work, CPAs do the following:
- Analyze financial data
- Complete business performance projections
- Audit financial records for accuracy and compliance with laws
- Manage tax and accounting records
- Prepare tax returns and other financial documents required by law such as those needed for potential business investors, regulatory boards, or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the case of publicly-traded companies
Because a CPA has in-depth knowledge and understanding of an individual’s or business’s financial state, they often are sought for advice in ways to improve financial performance, create financial goals, and develop a plan for success. CPAs may be self-employed, work as part of accounting staff at a corporation, or be employed by a public accounting firm that services individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations.
Required education and credentials
CPAs are required to demonstrate knowledge and skill by completing extensive education and training and pass required testing. Licensure is regulated at the state and federal level and requires the following:
- Complete 150 college hours before sitting for the Uniform CPA Exam
- Work under the supervision of a licensed CPA
- Successfully pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (Uniform CPA Exam) administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- More than 40 states also require a passing score on an ethics exam, many requiring the exam test on laws and standards specific to the state
CPAs who specialize in tax preparation have experience and knowledge of state and federal tax codes that allow them to minimize an individual’s or business’s tax liability. CPAs must pass the Uniform CPA Exam as part of the credentialing process; however, tax preparers and accountants without the CPA designation are required to pass an IRS exam and meet other requirements to have the right to represent clients in IRS matters such as audits and tax investigations.
CPAs may choose to specialize in several areas, such as the following:
- Tax preparation, including quarterly tax filing, for individuals and businesses
- Forensic accounting that involves the investigation of financial crimes such as embezzlement, securities fraud, and other financial crimes
- Management accounting and analysis of financial information for organizations
- Government accounting and financial records maintenance for public agencies
- Information technology accounting involving the review of financial controls and computing systems for an organization
Neumeister and Associates, LLP. is a CPA firm in Los Angeles, offering full-service accounting and consulting services in the San Fernando Valley, downtown Los Angeles, and the surrounding areas. We specialize in forensic accounting, including commercial damage calculations and fraud investigations, as well as family law matters, business valuations, and litigation support.
Having earned advanced degrees and receiving numerous specialty credentials, the professionals at Neumeister and Associates have an immense understanding of the complex, multi-faceted accounting field. Our team remains actively involved in continuing education and stays up to date on current market trends and evolving tax codes. When searching for a CPA firm in Los Angeles for your accounting and tax needs, contact Neumeister and Associates to learn if our services are right for you.