Services CPAs ProvideThe type and range of services offered by a particular CPA firm will depend on the skill, interest and experience mix of the partners and staff.
PERSONAL FINANCIAL PLANNING
Whether you're looking for more effective ways to fund a college education, save for retirement or better manage your cash flow, CPAs can help. They'll often work with you in establishing financial goals and design action plans to help you achieve them. Owners of privately held businesses can also benefit from a CPA's help in setting up retirement plans and addressing insurance and investment issues.
To help you preserve the financial security that you are working so hard to achieve, many CPAs offer estate planning assistance. With your future and that of your heirs in mind, they'll show you how you can dispose of your property according to your wishes and minimize the tax burden on your estate.
MANAGEMENT AND BUSINESS CONSULTING
CPAs can assist with the formation of businesses and provide the services needed through various stages of development, such as:
- Installing accounting systems and controls
- Developing cash flow models
- Identifying ways to improve profitability
- Securing or restructuring financing
- Providing business valuations
- Advising on mergers, acquisitions and divestitures
- Designing employee compensation and benefits packages
- Ensuring compliance with government regulations
Ever-changing tax laws and the growing complexity of financial and investment decisions have prompted more individuals and businesses to seek a CPA's help. CPAs offer tax planning strategies to minimize current and future tax liabilities; prepare federal, state and local tax returns; help clients comply with tax laws and regulations; and represent clients during examinations by various tax authorities.
ACCOUNTING AND AUDITING SERVICES
Virtually all entities - whether they are privately held, publicly owned, governmental or nonprofit - must prepare reports on their financial performance. These reports help owners and management make operating decisions, enable creditors to evaluate loan applications and assist individuals in making investment decisions. To serve their clients' varying needs, CPAs offer several kinds of financial statement services.
- Compilations - A compilation is useful when limited in-house capabilities for preparing financial statements exist. In these cases, CPAs prepare financial statements from information provided by management. Compilation standards permit an accountant to omit footnote disclosures as long as the omission is clearly indicated in the compilation report and there is no intent to mislead users. However, if a business needs to provide some degree of added assurance that its financial statements are reliable, it may need a CPA to perform a review or an audit.
- Reviews - A private entity may engage a CPA to perform a review and issue a report that provides limited assurance that material changes to its financial statements are not necessary. In a review engagement, a CPA will apply analytical procedures to company-prepared financial statements to identify unusual items or trends in the financial statements that may need explanation. A CPA remains independent of the client during the review and is required to include all appropriate footnotes in the reviewed statements.
- Audits - A public or private company or governmental agency may engage a CPA to audit its financial statements and to issue a report that provides the highest level of assurance that its financial statements are presented fairly and in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles. Audits also provide a reasonable level of assurance that the financial statements are free of material errors and fraud.
Public trust in the integrity and objectivity auditors bring to client engagements has led to the development of new services in which many CPAs provide added assurance as to the reliability of various kinds of information. These newer, value-added assurance services are aimed at improving the quality of information, or its context, for decision-makers. They include:
- Providing business risk assessments
- Measuring business performance
- Measuring health care performance
- Reporting on the reliability of information systems
- Assessing whether systems and tools used in electronic commerce provide appropriate data integrity, security and privacy
- Asserting on the reliability of websites
- Offering eldercare assurance services
Many CPAs work with clients in harnessing the power of technology by providing IT planning and assessments, designing systems, selecting and implementing software solutions and advising on the use of electronic commerce. CPAs can also be instrumental in developing information security policies and helping both individuals and businesses remain technologically competent.
As client needs emerge, so, too, do new CPA services. More and more CPAs are being called on to use their accounting, tax and financial skills along with investigative talents to help people resolve significant matters involving money such as:
- Bankruptcy and insolvency reorganizations
- Divorce settlements
- Civil lawsuits
- Fraud investigations
- Professional liability claims