FAQ

What is a CPA?
A CPA, Certified Public Accountant, is the statutory title of qualified accountants in the United States who have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and have met additional state education and experience requirements for certification as a CPA. In most states, only CPAs who are licensed are able to provide to the public attestation (including auditing) opinions on financial statements.

CPAs function as independent auditors and act as advisors to individuals, businesses, financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies on a wide range of finance and tax-related matters.

To qualify for certification and a state license, an individual generally must:

  • Have a college degree or its equivalent
  • Pass the rigorous uniform CPA Examination
  • Meet certain experience or postgraduate study requirements
  • Meet annual continuing education requirements
  • Adhere to certain ethical standards and codes of professional conduct established by governmental bodies and peer organizations
What does a CPA do?
The CPA plays an important role in business and the economy. Possessing technical knowledge and skills, the CPA is trained to apply sound judgment in business situations, helping people and organizations evaluate the use of economic resources. Today’s CPA provides a wide range of services to various sectors including, but not limited to, the business and corporate industry and government and nonprofit organizations, playing many roles such as:

  • Auditor
  • Educators
  • Management Consultants
  • Personal Financial Representative
  • Tax Advisor
  • Technology Consultant
What is the difference between certified public accountants (CPAs) and accountants? If I get an audit by the IRS, can either of them represent me?

A CPA has demonstrated professional competence by passing a rigorous examination and meeting high standards of education. In addition, they must meet strict continuing education requirements, undergo peer review, and adhere to a stringent set of ethical standards.

CPAs are authorized to represent taxpayers in an IRS audit, as are attorneys and other professionals known as enrolled agents (EA). An EA is an individual who has demonstrated technical competence in the field of taxation and is the only taxpayer representative who receives their right to practice from the U.S. government. An accountant can only represent a taxpayer before the IRS if he or she is an EA.

How do I know if I can do my own taxes or if I need to consult a certified public accountant?

The IRS estimates that it can take 28 ½ hours to research tax law, organize your records, and complete a standard 1040 return with three common schedules. Tax law is constantly changing, so it is important that you are educated about these changes so you correctly fill out your forms. Being technologically savvy is also important as tax preparation software can help eliminate errors, both mathematical and technical. If you’re not comfortable with using this type of software, you may want to contact a CPA.

If you’re a salaried employee who takes the standard deduction, your return is likely to be simple. However, if you’ve encountered a major life change, such as marriage or divorce, or own a vacation home or rental property, your tax situation may be more complicated.

Self-employed individuals and small business owners are more likely to be audited by the IRS, and working with a CPA will help lessen that risk. In addition, if you have a high income, live in a state with high income taxes, or have a lot of miscellaneous itemized deductions, you could be subjected to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT, which eliminates many itemized deductions and was created to ensure that the wealthy pay their share of taxes, is now affecting more middle-class taxpayers. If you think this might affect you, consult a CPA.

Information for this question comes from The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Should I consult a CPA if I am starting a new business?
It is advisable that you contact a CPA. You will need to discuss the organization of your company for tax purposes as well as numerous other issues relating to operations, not the least of which will be setting your target pricing and gross profit margins. Don’t wait until the year-end to have this discussion. You could be making decisions without the proper advice, and that could wind up hurting you financially or legally.
How much should I have withheld out of my paycheck?
It depends on your financial personality. Do you prefer to have more withheld today so that you can get a refund next year? (This is really an interest-free loan from you to Uncle Sam.) Or are you disciplined enough to set aside some of your paycheck today and save it to pay your taxes next year? (You could invest the money in the meantime.)

It is also depends on your prior year tax liability. Do you know how to avoid an underpayment penalty situation?

We can tell you how to avoid the underpayment penalty, and we can compute approximately how much you will get back or have to pay in.

Contact us today to find out more.

Do I really need to pay a CPA to prepare my financial statements? Couldn't I save money by doing it myself?

Ask yourself, “How valuable is my time?” Imagine what you could be doing to build your business with that time. Could you earn more than what a CPA would cost? The answer to these questions will change as your business grows.

Also, consider if you have the skills and the desire to do it yourself. Will you have to learn these skills? Will you have to keep yourself updated? Do you really want to crunch numbers? Do you want more than just a report when you are done?

Let us be part of your team. Contact us.

How can I know which CPA is best for me?
Any professional you choose should not only have the technical knowledge required but should also treat you with respect.

Does your CPA and advisor take time to listen to you? Does your CPA and advisor return your calls in a timely manner? Do you feel comfortable asking your CPA and advisor a question?

When you need a professional who will make you their top priority, call us!

Are there things I should consider before I talk to you about being my CPA?
Yes. The more you understand about your needs, the better job we can do together of matching our services to those needs. Your first step is to decide what you want from us. Different CPA firms offer different levels of experience and provide different services. Prior to meeting with any CPA you are considering, you should review your present and future financial goals and needs. Some general questions you should ask yourself might be:

• Will you need help with personal financial issues, individual or corporate tax returns, retirement, estate, or college planning? Are you seeking investment help?

• Do you need financial statements prepared for your business? Must those statements be audited or reviewed? Will you need special financial reports for government agencies?

• How comfortable are you in your own ability (or in the case of a business, your staff’s ability) to handle financial and operational details. Do you want to do as much as possible in-house, or are you considering out-sourcing some of your bookkeeping, accounting, or CFO functions?

• Do you need help preparing a business plan or a personal or business loan application?

• Will your business need other services such as technology planning, strategic planning, process consulting, or costs analysis?

• What is your budget for CPA services?

Having answers to these questions can help guide you in choosing a CPA.

How much do you charge?
Our fees are based on a number of factors including the type of services required, the time required to perform the services, the level of expertise and experience required, and the complexity of the work. Our fees fall into three categories:

Hourly based fees: For much of our work we are compensated based on the numbers of hours it takes to complete the work. We are happy to quote our hourly rates and to provide fee estimates for specific tasks.

Task based pricing: Our payroll processing service is priced based on the number of pay periods per month, the number of checks in each pay period, and the costs of any expenses (such as delivery fees).

Fixed fee services: For some longer term projects or commitments such as monthly write-up we charge a fixed fee.

Different types of services command different rates because of the expertise level of the people who perform them. We will talk frankly with you about our fees and put together a plan that utilizes the right CPA or staff person for the services you need, so that the value of the service and the price of the service make sense for you.

Contact us today to find out more.

How do I know what exact services you will perform and what they will cost?
We use engagement letters that define the work and the associated fees before any work is performed. The letter is designed to prevent any misunderstandings and describes in detail the services to be rendered, fee ranges, and other terms and conditions of the engagement. It is a contract determining our responsibilities and your responsibilities and sets both of our expectations for a successful relationship.
How can Clark & Anderson serve me, my business, or governmental entity?
We can help by:

    • Recommending tax planning strategies
    • Preparing tax returns
    • Advising individuals on personal financial planning, including retirement and estate planning
    • Reviewing a company’s accounting system and recommending improvements
    • Consulting on business problems and advising ways to improve the use of a client’s resources
    • Assisting in the design and installation of data processing and management information systems
    • Conducting special studies (financing, inventories, cost accounting, credit, and collection) for business, government, and nonprofit organizations
    • Helping clients apply for loans and credit by gathering and preparing information required
      by lenders
    • Working with clients, attorneys, and bankers on mergers, acquisitions, and expansions

 

    What is the benefit of working with Clark & Anderson?
    Our team acts as advisers to individuals, businesses, financial institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and government agencies on a wide range of financial matters. Many individuals turn to CPAs for help not just with their tax preparation, but also with their business and personal financial planning.

    Most CPAs meet substantially the same education, training, and licensing requirements. Nonetheless, they provide a broad and varied range of services. We specialize in small business, tax or financial planning, audit/assurance services, to name just a few.

    In order for you to get the most value from any CPA relationship, it is important to first analyze your current and future financial needs. This will help you select someone who can address your particular concerns.

    How can Clark & Anderson help my family and me?
    We can help…

          • Develop a personal financial plan
          • Create a family budget
          • Plan for retirement
          • Develop an estate plan
          • Assess insurance needs
          • Advise on divorce settlements
          • Devise savings and investment strategies
          • Build college funds
    How can Clark & Anderson help me as a taxpayer?
    We can help…

          • Develop tax strategies
          • Prepare tax returns
          • Minimize tax liability
    How can Clark & Anderson help me as a business owner?
    We can help…

          • Set up accounting systems
          • Secure financing
          • Analyze operating results
          • Provide management consulting services on such subjects as data processing systems
          • Develop budgets and business plans and forecasts
          • Prepare tax returns
          • Audit, review, or compile financial statements
          • Assess benefit and compensation plans
    Is Clark & Anderson available to me throughout the year?
    We are here for you twelve months a year, not just during tax season. Whether you have a simple tax question, need advice on the tax implications of a business decision, or want clarification on a government notice, feel free to call or email us.

    Are my personal and business documents kept confidential?
    We maintain a policy of the strictest confidence concerning our clients’ affairs. Rest assured, no one will learn about your business or tax status—even relatives, associates, or friends who might have referred you to us.

    What can I do to get the most value out of a relationship with my CPA?
    The primary step is to commit to a partnership with us. While we believe we are very good at what we do, we are only as good as the information we have. For our relationship to be successful for you, you need to:

    • Be prepared to discuss your plans, goals, problems, and questions. We can most effectively advise you and serve your best interests when we understand your goals.

    • Gather all relevant personal and business financial information so we can get an accurate picture and ask specific questions.

    • Be clear and candid about what you expect from our services.

    • Keep us informed of changes in your professional and personal life. A marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, an inheritance, a career change, or a generous bonus can have a significant impact on your tax liability and financial goals.

    • Be open to new ideas, tools, and opportunities.

    • Ensure that you and your staff meet your commitments to deliver appropriate, accurate, and timely information so that we have the information we need when we need it so we can do the best job for you.

    Other questions? Contact us today.