While certified public accountants (CPA) are people who have passed rigorous testing and are typically pretty keen with numbers, not all CPAs are tax specialists.
What do CPAs do all day?
A vast percentage of CPAs work as auditors. This means the motherlode of their work involves reviewing the financials of companies. Unless they work for a firm that specializes in taxes, most CPAs are not well-versed in the finer details of tax preparation, as this Kiplinger’s article notes.
CPAs, much like attorneys or doctors, can and do work in focused areas of accounting. This means a CPA can focus on health care, with an HMO or in a hospital administrator-capacity, management consulting, treasury work, international taxation or other area of business or commerce.
CPAs are seen as “the gold standard” when it comes to accounting. But for tax preparation it is wise to work with a CPA whose area of focus is tax preparation.
What is the difference between a tax attorney and a tax preparer?
If what is on the Turbo Tax site is any indication, this is a commonly asked question. It is important to note that both a CPA and a tax attorney can technically prepare your taxes. However, a tax attorney’s focus is typically to interpret and apply tax laws. A CPA’s job is usually to review and maintain financial records and to regularly prepare taxes. A tax attorney has the knowledge and skill therefore to represent a CPA or other accounting professional should that CPA’s tax preparation or financial file maintenance ever be called into question. And yes, a tax attorney can also be a CPA.