CPA Job Description
A Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, assists either organizations or individuals with tax and financial statement preparation. They are knowledgeable about tax laws, various financial transactions, auditing processes and bookkeeping systems. A CPA can be self-employed, work for accounting firms or in corporate financial departments.
The demand for accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 11 percent through 2024, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of this expected job growth can be related to the growing economical need for accountants to handle the financial records of public companies. In addition, changes in laws and regulations in this field could make it more difficult for those who are not CPAs to understand and adhere to these standards, thus increasing the need for a professional’s expertise.
CPA Duties and Responsibilities
To accomplish their goal of managing a corporation’s or individual’s tax and financial information, a CPA performs various tasks. After analyzing several job listings, we have identified these main CPA duties and responsibilities.
Prepare Tax Returns
Preparing and filing federal, state and local income tax forms are among the chief tasks of a CPA. This includes the analysis of tax and financial planning information. They would consult with companies or individuals to review client-specific information and ensure that all information is being presented and filed properly. A CPA will interpret relevant tax laws and ensure that tax returns are completed according to federal and state regulations.
Assist with Financial Planning
A CPA can help corporations review financial planning activities and prepare financial statements for assets and payroll. Reviewing retirement plans and compensation and benefits packages, completing shareholder reports, assisting with budget management and preparing W-2’s, 1099s and other relevant forms are all responsibilities that fall to a CPA.
It is mainly the duty of a CPA to ensure that all financial and tax records and reports are adequately prepared for an audit. A CPA can review financial information and create audit reports. In addition, a CPA can advise a corporation or individual being audited by the IRS.
Strong communication, mathematical, decision-making and analytical skills are crucial for success as a CPA. An eye for detail and the ability to understand the financial needs of a client are equally important for CPAs. They should be able to work alone with minimal supervision and in some cases have an entrepreneurial spirit if they are interested in operating their own business. Besides these general and personal skills, employers might prefer CPA job candidates to possess the following skills.
Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want CPAs with these core skills. If you want to work as a CPA, focus on the following.
- Understanding federal and state tax laws
- Preparing and presenting financial and tax reports
- Consulting with clients about financial planning and tax preparation services and needs
- Reviewing accounting procedures and making suggestions for improvements to budgets, costs and other areas
- Applying computer skills to work with relevant accounting software, such as Quickbooks
Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your CPA toolbox and broaden your career options.
- Ability to work within a team environment
- Work well under pressure
- Meet short deadlines as needed
You might be interested in reviewing various resources as you contemplate a career as a CPA. Below, you will find links to online and other resources that we feel might give you more insight into the job.
On the Web
Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA) – A blog for CPAs by CPAs. Presented by MACPA, this is a useful resource for CPAs seeking tips and strategies for career success.
Rita Keller: Solutions for CPA Firm Leaders – An online blog offering strategies, insights and advice about how to manage a CPA firm.
The Accounting Onion – Up-to-date information about changes and most recent laws and regulations affecting CPAs.
American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) – Established in 1887, AICPA is the largest accounting organization in the world. Members can benefit from information about continuing education, professional development, conferences, online articles and more.
National Society of Accountants (NSA) – Since 1945, NSA has been a source of professional support for all fields of accounting. CPAs can get information about tax laws, professional practices, educational courses and accounting journals and publications.
The CPA Profession: Opportunities, Responsibilities, and Services – From legal aspects to the environment of an accounting firm, this book presents a detailed guide to what it’s like to be a CPA.
Ethics for CPAs: Meeting Expectations in Challenging Times – An in-depth look at CPA professional conduct, regulations and ethical standards.
The Complete CPA Reference – Fifth Edition by Nick A. Dauber, Jae K. Shim and Joel G. Siegel – A practical guide for applying accounting techniques and understanding accounting procedures. Covers accounting and auditing standards and practices.
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