CPA vs Accountant

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A CPA, or Chartered Professional Accountant in Canada or Certified Public Accountant in the United States, is a designated trusted financial advisor who helps individuals, businesses, and other organizations. Across industries, CPAs are sought out for their reliability, industry knowledge and credentials. CPAs work in various fields and sectors such as public accounting, business and industry, government, education and not-for profit. In fact, earning the CPA designation can grant opportunities in nearly every industry.

So what’s the difference between a CPA and an accountant?

  • An accountant is a professional who offers financial advice to businesses. A bookkeeper enters data and creates reports, but an accountant analyzes those reports and turns the data into an actionable, long-term business plan to help you succeed. 
  • An accountant has one of the most important roles in any business, whether they work in large corporations or small businesses. As the financial backbone of a business, they prepare and examine financial records, ensure all money transactions are accurate, and that taxes are paid on time.
  • Accountants generally have a bachelor’s degree. 
  • A CPA is a designated public accountant, which is an accountant with a provincial or state license to practice. 
  • CPAs assist businesses with the management of expenses and investments and help with financial planning. They also have the ability to perform more advanced taxation and auditing services than an accountant without a license.
  • While the CPA qualifications vary slightly by province/state, all CPAs must have a bachelor’s degree and have passed the CPA certification exams. After passing the exams, CPAs must meet yearly education requirements to maintain their designation, meaning they are often more informed on the latest tax laws and practices.
  • Like general accountants, CPAs are in the business of offering financial advice. CPAs are often viewed as more trustworthy since they have to undergo stringent requirements to obtain and maintain their license.
  • In addition to the roles of a regular accountant, a CPA: can legally represent you and your business before the CRA or IRS, creates audit reports, creates review reports, has advanced tax knowledge and support, and adheres to a strict code of ethics


All CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs. The value of the CPA designation is recognized by organizations worldwide. 

CPA Ontario has a wonderful page on CPA Spotlights, showcasing how diverse and interesting Ontario CPAs’ careers are. Take a read of featured spotlights directly on their website:

https://www.cpaontario.ca/insights/spotlights

 

Chartered Professional Accountant providing tax consulting, preparation and education. Expat tax

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