What is a CPA?

Business woman working on computer in office

What is a CPA?

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is an accounting professional that is licensed and credentialed by a state to offer accounting services, analyze financial data, and provide financial projections and tax preparation. CPAs are certified for their educational background and accounting skills. CPAs are also granted the right to represent taxpayers before the IRS by the Department of the Treasury.

What does a CPA do?

The most essential function of a CPA is to keep or inspect financial records for individuals and businesses to ensure that that the information represented is accurate and complies with state and federal IRS laws and regulations.

This can include:

  • Organizing and maintaining financial records
  • Examining financial statements for accuracy and accountability
  • Preparing tax returns
  • Providing financial forecasts
  • Providing auditing services

Because accountants intimately understand an individuals and businesses finances, they are often in a position to suggest ways to help improve your financial performance, set financial goals, and help you plan how to achieve those goals.

What Education and Credentialing is required to be a CPA?

CPAs are licensed and regulated at the state and/or federal level. States require that CPA candidates:

CPA Specialties

There are actually several specialties for CPAs, some choose to focus on some, while others become proficient in many or all specializations.

Tax Preparation

Helping individuals and small businesses file their taxes.

Forensic Accounting

Investigating financial crimes such as embezzlement, securities fraud, and other criminal financial activities or often used in divorces as well.

Management Accounting

Analyzing the financial information for businesses and acting as their CFO.

Government Accounting

Maintaining and examining the records of public agencies, as well as non-profit agencies.

Information technology (IT) Accounting

Reviewing financial controls for an organization’s computing systems.