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What Is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) ?

A Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, is a professional who has passed the certification exam for public accountants. More than passing the certification exam, the person also has to have the required experience practicing his profession. The specific requirements for this title differ from country to country. In the United States, a person must meet the state-dictated education and experience requirements and pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. In other countries, the examinations may be termed differently, and the list of requirements may differ as well.

A Certified Public Accountant can offer services such as income tax preparation and advice. This could very well be the most common “use” of CPAs for the individual. CPAs do offer the same services to small businesses and corporations as well. In some cases, companies hire CPAs to take on a larger role. It is not uncommon to see a CPA in the role of a Chief Financial Officer or even as Chief Executive Officer. Accountants may practice their profession without being CPAs. In this case, however, their tasks are limited as compared to the tasks of CPAs.

Oftentimes, however, CPAs offer their services as consultants. As a consultant, a CPA can offer a variety of services, some of which are as follows:

- Assurance and attestation services
- Corporate finance
- Corporate governance
- Estate planning
- Financial accounting
- Financial analysis
- Financial planning

In the United States, a CPA has to renew his license on a regular basis. On top of this, a CPA has to have 120 hours of courses in order to keep his license. These courses are considered continuing education courses.

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