Fact or Fiction: Myths About the CPA Profession
In 1896, accounting was officially recognized as a profession when the New York legislature passed a licensing bill becoming the first state to have the CPA certification. In the past century, many stereotypes have emerged on what CPAs are like and what type of work we do as professionals. On countless occasions, I’ve had the same conversation with family and friends that starts with something like, “You’re the CPA—can you do my taxes?” Each time, I find myself explaining that I am actually an auditor and that I don’t even prepare my own tax return. And while I don’t love having this seemingly repetitive conversation, I’ve come to realize that so many people have misconceptions about the CPA profession. Below, I’ve shed some light on what I’ve found to be the most common CPA myths while working at the Atlanta CPA firm, PKM!
Being a CPA is all about math.
Don’t get me wrong…CPAs typically analyze A LOT of numbers and calculations, but we also do much more than that. Much of what we do is analytical and involves researching and interpreting authoritative guidance, laws and regulations. Furthermore, a great deal of time as a CPA in the public accounting industry is spent gaining an understanding of the operations and processes of clients—no numbers involved! Generally speaking, the CPA profession is less about mathematics and more about analyzing numbers or processes and determining what they actually mean and how we can use them to draw conclusions. Believe it or not, sometimes our work doesn’t even involve math at all!
CPAs are introverted.
Odds are if you’ve met anyone from the Atlanta CPA firm PKM, this myth has already been busted for you! While there are definitely CPAs out there that are quiet or shy and prefer to keep to themselves, there are plenty of us who enjoy being social and are actually very outgoing. As with any profession, there are both introverted and extroverted CPAs and it all depends on each person’s personality traits. The public accounting industry involves a ton of interaction with our clients regardless of department or area, and CPAs are responsible for turning accounting-related matters into a language that is comprehensible and easy to understand. All that to say, a CPA is more likely to be a people person that you think!
All CPAs prepare tax returns.
Wrong! While we do have a knowledgeable group of tax experts in the PKM Tax Department, the Audit and Systems Departments are full of CPAs who are not exactly well-versed in all things “income tax.” As CPAs, we all have an understanding of income taxes and the related laws and regulations. However, we are not all preparing tax returns during the normal course of our career. Speaking for the Audit Department, the work we do varies greatly and can include anything from financial statement compilations to independent financial statement audits to internal control testing—no tax return preparation involved. And though all of us CPAs may not have the best knowledge of income taxes, we know other CPAs who do who are more than happy to help!