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How To Choose & Use A CPA

Who needs a CPA?

CPAs act as advisers to individuals, businesses, financial institutions, nonprofit organizations and government agencies on a wide range of financial matters. Today, many individuals turn to CPAs for help with both their tax preparation and personal financial planning. Increasingly, people rely on CPAs for assistance in building college funds, planning for retirement and creating estate plans.

Business owners and managers of various for-profit and not-for-profit organizations have traditionally depended on CPAs for auditing services and advice on developing effective accounting systems, maximizing operating results and resolving various management problems. In addition, CPAs assist businesses in designing and installing data processing and management information systems.

What qualifications should I look for?

When selecting a tax, accounting or personal financial adviser, make sure you consider the following questions:

  • Is the individual a certified public accountant?
  • Is the CPA licensed to practice in your state?
  • To what professional organizations does the CPA belong?
  • Are your needs compatible with the CPA's personality and expertise?

CPAs are distinguished from other accountants by stringent state licensing requirements. Membership in a professional organization is also an important qualification as they are governed by a code of professional ethics, and their firms must undergo a review of their accounting and auditing practice once every three years. Members must also satisfy extensive continuing education requirements.

How can you get the most value from a CPA's services?

  • Discuss plans and objectives.
  • Gather information about business or personal financial decisions under consideration so you can ask specific questions.
  • Explain what you expect from the CPA's services.
  • Save unnecessary fees by keeping good records and not using professional time for routine work.

The CPA As An Advisor To Small Businesses

More than 300 new small businesses open their doors every business day in the United States. Their ability to survive depends, in large part, on their ability to plan for the future, while meeting the present challenges of today's ever-changing business environment. CPAs are the premier providers to business advice and technical assistant to small businesses.

Accounting & Auditing Services

CPAs can assist small business owners by providing the following services in connection with financial statements:

  • Performing an audit, a review or a compilation of financial statements
  • Performing an agree-upon procedure engagement with respect to specified elements, accounts or items of a financial statement
  • Performing attestation services in conjunction with a forecast or projection
  • Developing formats for regular monthly or quarterly reporting
  • Analyzing operating results
  • Advising clients about the selection or use of computer software to generate financial statements

Consulting Services

Depending on the needs of the small business owner, below are just a few of the consulting services CPAs can provide:

  • Cash management
  • Financing
  • Business valuation
  • Succession planning for family-owned businesses
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Compliance with government regulations
  • Organizational restructuring
  • Human resources planning

CPAs help small business owners monitor and reduce production costs, control inventory and develop marketing and pricing strategies. They also provide financial analyses, including evaluation of economic projections and long-range planning objectives.

Personal Financial Planning

CPAs help business owners make the right financial planning decisions by analyzing their overall financial and tax situation; helping them devise estate plans and plans for retirement; and assisting them in risk management, insurance planning and developing an investment philosophy, among other things. Source: AICPA

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