About the Author

Eric Butts, CPA, MBA is a financial consultant with Accenture, focused on reporting, planning and enterprise performance management. Prior to joining Accenture in 2010, he spent 5 years in various accounting roles at Pepsico. In addition to Eric's corporate experience, he has prepared individual tax returns for the last 6 years and is well-versed in bookkeeping for small businesses. You can reach Eric at ericbutts.com.

CPA VS Accountant...Why Hire a CPA?

Guest article written by on Jun 11
CPA vs Accountant

First there are two types of “CPAs”, active and inactive. As you can guess an inactive CPA should not represent themselves as a CPA. One day, maybe decades ago they passed the CPA exam. They might not even be up to date on new tax regulations. An active CPA continues to take continuing education course to keep their accrediation.

Choose a CPA with Network Of Colleagues

Next, there is the network that goes along with being a CPA. From the AICPA to state CPA societies to Twitter, I’ve connected with many CPAs purely based on the fact that we are CPAs. This may be my own selection bias, but I’ve yet to see inactive CPAs networking with each other. It’s just not quite the same.

John Smith CPA

No one should promote themselves as a CPA unless they’re an active CPA. But double check, each state has a certification search. Here’s ours for Florida.

CPAs Have Continued Eduction

Now that I’ve made my case for being licensed, let me briefly give you some general details on what that entails. The specifics will vary from state to state but generally speaking, getting/renewing your license requires the following:

  • 120 CPE hours every three years (80 hours maximum to be completed via self-study or book authorship) – some states require minimums for each year within the three-year reporting period and others look only at the three years in aggregate. Refer to your state board of accountancy for the specific on you state’s CPE requirements
  • 4 hours minimum of ethics every three years – again some states may require ethics each year and I’ve seen states with as many as eight hours of ethics required every year. Your state board of accountancy can provide you with the ethics requirements for your state’s CPAs

To be fair, the cost of CPE courses can add up quickly, but with a little research you’ll find you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on each course as people often assume. There are many CPE providers offering great value for their courses, and I can honestly say that maintaining my CPA license is one investment that I don’t second guess.

CPA vs Accountant

The truth is anyone can be an “accountant”, it’s a title like “cook”. Can you microwave a bag of popcorn? Okay now you’re a “cook”. Can you add 1+1? Okay now you’re an accountant. CPA is a state accreditation that makes note this person understand that particular state’s complex tax logic.

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