Licensed accounting professionals - called certified public accountants or public accountants - prepare, evaluate, and attest to the accuracy and completeness of financial statements and related information. The term "public" typically refers to third-party reliance on the integrity of the financial information presented by the licensed accountant. Licensed accountants also provide a wide range of services as employees in private industry and governmental services.
Licensed accountants are required to maintain active registrations when providing regulated services. Certain regulated services are restricted to licensed accountants who are either owners or employees of registered public accounting firms. Licensed accountants provide financial services, including the following:
- Accounting and auditing services
- Licensed accountants develop financial books and records and prepare financial statements. These statements are used by owners, investors, and others to determine the financial position and operating results of an organization. Third parties, such as banks, use financial statements audited, reviewed or compiled by licensed CPAs or PAs who are independent of the organization whose records are being evaluated.
- Tax services
- Licensed accountants prepare tax returns, advise on tax issues and planning, and may represent clients before taxing authorities such as the Internal Revenue Service. Attorneys and individuals who are registered with the IRS as "enrolled agents" may also represent clients before the IRS.
- Management advisory services
- Licensed accountants analyze, evaluate, design, and implement the systems that affect the planning, organizing, and controlling of business activities. These services also include assisting clients on business transactions (e.g., mergers and acquisitions) and offering expert testimony in legal proceedings. Some licensed accountants provide personal financial planning services as well.
- As employees in private industry and governmental services
- Licensed accountants are employed in many industries where they provide essential services to their employers. These services include accounting, auditing, tax, advisory and a host of other services. Employers recognize that licensed accountants have met the requirements to be licensed and that they continue to meet the continuing educational requirements.