What is a CPA?Discover Our Difference
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a person who has met the requirements of state law and has been issued a license to practice public accounting by the California Board of Accountancy.
A Public Accountant (PA) is a person who has met the requirements of state law and has been issued a certificate of public accounting from the California Board of Accountancy.
Only persons who are licensed by the Board may call themselves a Certified Public Accountant or Public Accountant.
CPAs and PAs are required to complete appropriate continuing education in order to be eligible to practice public accounting. A licensee who completes the required continuing education is renewed as “active.” A licensee who does not complete the required continuing education is renewed as “inactive” and may not practice public accounting.
Word-of-mouth referrals from individuals who have used the services of a particular CPA are probably the best way to select a CPA. We are always happy to supply a list of references for potential clients to see how we have satisfied our clients throughout the years. Contact us for a list of references for your specific services.
When selecting a CPA, you should consider the following:
Check the license status from the California Board of Accountancy Web License Lookup or call the California Board of Accountancy at (916) 263-3680. Specifically, make sure the license is current and active (renewed with continuing education).
Check whether there have been any enforcement actions against the licensee and how long he or she has been licensed.
Interview the prospective CPA either by telephone or in person. A common inquiry is “what type of accounting work do you typically perform?” Compare the CPA’s experience to your service needs.
Ask about the office hours of the CPA; determine whether the office is open year-round; inquire if the CPA is available to take telephone inquiries. Ask what type of continuing education the licensee has taken recently.
Effective January 1, 2002, some CPAs are authorized to perform a full range of accounting services including signing reports on attest engagements. Attest engagements include an audit, a review of financial statements, or an examination of prospective financial information. Others will be authorized to perform a full range of accounting services, including accounting, compilation preparation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax and consulting services, but will not be authorized to sign reports on attest engagements.
Licensees are required to comply with Section 54.1 of the California Board of Accountancy Regulations. This regulation provides that no confidential information obtained by a licensee shall be disclosed without the client’s permission. Therefore, you should ask whether the CPA discloses any of your confidential information to persons or entities outside the United States in connection with outsourcing any services provided by the licensee on your behalf. While other persons or entities may provide you with financial services, including tax preparation, it is important to be aware that Section 54.1 of the Accountancy Regulations pertains only to licensees of the California Board of Accountancy.
Be aware that if your CPA prepares your tax return and offers you a Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL), the CPA must comply with disclosure requirements specified in the California Accountancy Act and Accountancy Regulations. An RAL is a loan that allows a taxpayer to borrow against an anticipated income tax refund. These loans actually are made by banks, but are frequently offered by tax preparers including CPAs in conjunction with preparation of the tax return. While these loans are most frequently described as an instant tax refund – as if they come directly from the California State Franchise Tax Board or Internal Revenue Service – they are in reality short-term loans that often have very high costs associated with them. Both the tax preparer and the lending institution often take commissions against the calculated tax refund – so the RAL is less than the amount of the actual tax return refund. CPAs offering RALs are required by Section 56 of the Board’s regulations to make specified written disclosures to consumer, including the dollar amount the CPA will receive for facilitating the loan. These disclosures must be made at or before the time of making the referral to the lender or performing other activities to facilitate the loan. These disclosures must be made at or before the time of making the referral to the lender or performing other activities to facilitate the loan, regardless of whether the taxpayer actually accepts the loan.
Before any work is done by the CPA, it is important to make certain that you receive an engagement letter detailing the work to be performed for you, who will specifically be performing the work, including whether the work is outsourced, confirming that all private and personal information is secure, and specifying the cost of the services.
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2044 Columbus Pkwy Benicia, CA 94510
2211 Santa Fe Court Fairfield, CA 94533
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“Good experience, taxes were done swiftly and efficiently. James seems very knowledgeable of tax laws and found some credits I didn’t know about. Affordable rates. I would recommend and use again.”