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Unless you are a very small operation and have a lot of extra time on your hands (not to mention exceptional mathematical skills), an accountant is an expense that the vast majority of small businesses need to consider seriously if they hope to turn a profit. The fact is, a good accountant shouldn’t cost you any money at all, as the theory is they will save you more money than they’ll cost you.
But how can you ensure you’re getting a skilled accountant? Screening potential candidates and asking for recommendations from friends and family members is certainly one route to consider, but the more practical option is looking specifically for a certified public accountant (CPA).
What is a CPA?
Like a conventional accountant, a CPA will be tasked with auditing your financial statements, analysing your expenditure and giving experienced advice on everything from tax to employee salaries. The primary difference between a CPA and a traditional accountant is certification. CPAs are officially licensed practitioners who must obey the law if they want to maintain that licence.
The exam, which is taken via the CPAA (Certified Public Accountants Association) in the UK, is very thorough and constantly evolving. The exam requires at least 150 hours of study and is split into four dense parts. Even after they have passed the exam, a CPA must meet their continuing training requirements. For this reason, CPAs typically charge a little more than their non-verified counterparts, but you can be assured you’re getting a skilled and compliant professional.
The CPA accounting difference
The saying goes that all CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs. Anyone who is able to analyse financial records could technically be called an accountant, but a CPA has so many more skills to offer that they will have learned as part of their training. They can move seamlessly between auditing and consultation to financial planning and litigation without breaking a sweat.
As a business, a family or an individual, you always want access to the best possible advice when it comes to your financial planning. CPAs are not the kind of accountants who will be happy to just go through your taxes every January and leave it at that; they are the kind of accountants who will drive strategic decision-making and develop your financial growth.
It’s not a career path or a job title, but a designation that denotes professionalism and expertise. A CPA will be hired because of their flexibility, knowledge and reliability, all of which are confirmed simply by their credentials.
Should I become a CPA?
If you work in accounting, then there’s no good reason not to apply for your CPA licence, as long as you think you’re ready. It’s a badge of quality that you should wear with pride because:
The prestige that comes with passing the CPA Exam is quite substantial.
A CPA will have several avenues to explore when it comes to career development both within and outside the financial sector.
CPAs are always going to be in high demand and that means a level of job security that is almost unparalleled in the field.
CPA certification means you are more likely to be qualified to perform more specialist tasks. This will ensure your job remains exciting and rewarding.
The average salary for a CPA is often significantly higher than the average salary for a non-certified accountant.
We can help
If you’re interested in finding out more about certified public accountants, or any other aspect of your business finances, then get in touch with our financial experts. Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.