Licensed accounting professionals - called certified public accountants (CPAs) or public accountants (PAs) - prepare, evaluate, and attest to the accuracy and completeness of financial statements and related information. Only a licensed CPA or PA may perform the attest function in New York State. CPAs and PAs may also provide tax planning, financial advisory and management advisory services. These particular services may also be provided by unlicensed individuals in NYS. The term "public" in the CPA and PA titles typically refers to third-party reliance on the integrity of the financial information presented by the licensed accountant. However, CPAs and PAs may also be employed in private industry, government, not-for-profit and educational institutions where they apply their professional skills and knowledge to help ensure that the employing entities books, records, management and financial operations are maintained in a manner consistent with applicable standards.
Certified Public Accountant and Public Accountant are titles that may only be used by those who are licensed by the Board of Regents to offer public accounting services in NYS. While certified public accountants (CPAs) and public accountants (PAs) are both licensed to perform the same public accounting services, they prepare differently to become licensed.
The title "accountant" by itself is not limited in NYS - anyone, regardless of the level of their training or experience, can call themselves an "accountant," whether they have a license or not.
Applicants for licensure as a CPA in NYS generally have a minimum of five years of college education with the equivalent of a major in accounting; courses include accounting and business subjects as well as liberal arts studies. Applicants may submit 15 years of public accounting experience in place of college preparation.
CPAs have also passed a four-section national licensing examination and had at least one year of accounting experience supervised by a U.S. licensed CPA or NYS PA.
A Public Accountant has a license based solely upon public accounting experience. This is the result of a one-time provision of a 1959 licensing law which allowed those with the required experience to use the PA title and earn a PA license.
While CPAs and PAs have prepared differently for their NYS licenses, they have identical rights to practice public accounting in NYS. In addition, practicing CPAs and PAs must satisfy annual continuing professional education requirements.
CPAs and PAs provide financial services, including the following:
Accounting and auditing services
Management advisory services
Financial advisory services
Seek a recommendation from a satisfied colleague or relative. You may also check under "Accountants - Certified Public" or "Accountants - Public" in the yellow pages of your phone book. CPAs and PAs practice as individuals or as owners or employees of accounting firms. Professional associations may also provide the names of their members who offer services in your area.
The State Board for Public Accountancy cannot refer you to a practitioner or CPA or PA firm.
Ask such questions as whether the service location is physically accessible (curb cuts, ramps, restrooms, etc.) as well as whether there is a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) and parking for people with disabilities.
When conducting business with your CPA or PA, you should:
In turn, your CPA/PA should:
New York State CPAs and PAs must display a current NYS registration certificate; this certificate lists the professional's name, address, and the end of the registration period. Licensed accountants must reregister every three years to practice in NYS. Some professionals also display their original NYS license, diploma, licenses from other states, and membership certificates. You may verify an individual's license and registration on this site.
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