CPA vs Accountant: The Key Differences Explained

Rohan Mathew

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If you own a business, property, or a variety of assets, you probably have someone keeping track of your income, expenses, and other money-related concerns. That person might even be yourself.

Perhaps you’re not good with numbers and are in need of someone who is to help you oversee the financial side of your business.

Everyone has heard the term “accountant,” and “CPA” around tax time. And folks with these titles can help you with your personal and business taxes. But to find the right professional to meet your needs, you need to explore the CPA vs accountant debate and know the difference between them.

Read on to learn about a CPA vs accountant and how they compare.

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Accountant Defined

There are so many options out there for accounting and free tax preparation , and they’re usually pretty solid options if you’re savvy with numbers and bookkeeping. If you’re not so good with numbers, then you may simply need to find someone who is to help you oversee the financial side of your business.

Accountants offer tax planning and filing advice as well. They also usually hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting practices.

CPA vs Accountant

CPA stands for “Certified Public Accountant.” CPAs are licensed and have passed a rigorous CPA certification exam. CPAs must also complete a certain amount of continuing education each year to stay on top of the latest in tax and finance laws.

Besides certification, CPAs have more legal standing than regular accountants, as they can sign tax returns, attest to the validity of documents and signatures, and perform audits for businesses.

The title of CPA was created to have a higher standard for accounting practices that are respected by both the IRS and business owners.

Finally, CPA’s are “fiduciaries,” which means they have a legal duty to act in the best interest of their clients. Accountants are not bound by the same responsibility.

CPAs and accountants often trade ideas and business practices in an accounting network.  Networking with other business owners in similar situations will help you in your decision to hire a professional for your particular situation.

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Which Professional is Best For Me?

If you are a small business that needs someone to do financial input and basic record-keeping, you can probably do this in-house or hire a bookkeeper.

If you need tax preparation help, or you have a small business you are trying to launch and need a basic financial plan, an accountant would serve you best, and is less expensive than a CPA.

A CPA will be the best choice for your business if you have legal needs with regard to your finances and financial documents, and if you need someone well-versed in the latest in tax law. The expertise of a CPA will cost a bit more, but these professionals are best suited to handling the complexities of larger businesses and their finances.

In the CPA vs accountant debate, the winner is the professional that best fits your particular needs.

If you want more info on business and finance, as well as health, marketing, and many other topics, check out more of our blog posts!