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An accountant is a person who keeps financial records for a family or business. The two basic kinds are a certified public accountant or CPA, and public accountant. A CPA has a college degree with a major in accounting and must pass a national examination. Many states require CPAs to take a certain number continuing education hours in accounting every year. Public accountants don't have such rigorous academic standards. They don't even have to have a college degree. A public accountant can prepare simple financial statement or tax returns. A CPA can certify an audited financial statement; a public accountant can only prepare one. A CPA is more expensive than a public accountant, but be aware of the limitations of a public accountant and know what financial statements you're looking for and where they will be sent.
An accountant keeps up with the many forms that need to be filed. A business owner who spends time completing and filing out forms for the company’s taxes, stock issues, quarterly reports and other financial forms is being taken away from the main focus of the business. The accountant completes the forms and files them, freeing the business owner to tend to other duties. A competent accountant is able to take advantage of the latest tax laws and save the client money.
It's difficult for a business owner to keep up with the latest tax law changes or trends in accounting. An accountant can give objective advice on how to increase profits for a business. He can advise on many business-related topics: tax changes, financial outcomes on possible corporate expansion scenarios and bank loans.
Even though accountants are liable for errors and omissions, errors can cause the business owner a lot of stress. Errors and omissions can result from several sources, such as an accountant missing a filing deadline or making an incorrect calculation on information supplied by the client. Clients can sue the account for these errors, but this takes the business owner away from the business.
Depending on the kind of work, size of the company and location of the firm, accountants may charge from $150 to $400 an hour. Before employing an accountant, make sure about the type of work you need and the level of expertise required. The decisions can have a large impact on the cost.
Eileen Baylus has worked in the publishing field since the 1980s. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science from Towson University in mass communications, she has spent time as a writer for local newspapers, a proofreader for journals and an editor for book publishers.