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What Is a CPA? Roles and Responsibilities

Rob Browne
Rob Browne  |  September 10, 2019

A position as a certified public accountant has long been a desirable one.

Why? Along with earning a reliable source of income, a CPA is essential to the financial health of almost all businesses. In short, CPAs will always be in demand and play vital roles to keep their clients in business.

This article takes a look at what exactly a CPA does, some key responsibilities of CPAs that show just how vital they are, and what types of roles they fill when they are hired.  

What does a CPA do? 6 essential responsibilities

While meeting the CPA requirements takes a concentrated work ethic and effort, the roles and responsibilities they prepare a CPA for are well worth it. Let’s take a look at six CPA responsibilities below:


Clients enlist the help of certified public accountants to review their financial statements to ensure that everything is in order. The CPA, as a neutral third party and an expert on financial statements, can offer an unbiased perspective on a company’s financial health and statement accuracy. This type of work typically involves being present at a client site and working independently of the client to ensure that they are in compliance with federal rules and regulations for business operation.

The Securities and Exchange Commission requires all public companies to have their financial statements audited by CPAs before releasing this information to the public and shareholders. CPAs are a necessary part  of a company’s operations that come in as certified experts as to what a company is within its jurisdiction to do.

Business evaluation/consulting

Related to CPAs being well-versed in what constitutes a healthy financial status of a company, and as a neutral third-parties, clients are also able to make use of them as consultants. CPAs can provide valuable insights into how and why companies are operating in accord with financial rules and regulations, as well as offer insight as to what a company’s future path should be. 

Business evaluation can range from advising clients on facets of operations such as headcount and other aspects of spend to....

Forensic accounting

Forensic accounting is another potential path for CPAs interested in the more investigative, long-term cases for clients. In forensic accounting, CPAs examine the financial information of a client through a legal lens. They dig deep into both the numbers and surrounding information regarding a business's financial information to be able to understand a full case. 

This path is perfect for CPAs who want to be involved with all aspects of business operations, but come from a specified accounting background.

Financial planning

CPAs can also handle financial planning duties for their clients. These can include advising clients on when the best time to sell a business is, creating balance sheets, or the logistics of management or ownership changes. CPAs are especially helpful in this process because of how they can identify business ramifications of their clients’ financial decisions.

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CPAs can also be used to provide support for legal cases. As specialists within the accounting field, a CPA is a reliable source of information and an unbiased perspective in a case. Typically, they can serve as a witness or consultant in legal cases. Expert analysis in terms of accounting regulations arms CPAs with a unique and valued perspective in litigation.


CPAs are particularly beneficial to their clients when it comes to taxes. A popular route for CPAs to take is to specialize in the tax preparation industry to be able to assist clients with a variety of taxes and tax laws. As with most roles of a CPA, even if you are a tax specialist, you also will perform a few other of the essential responsibilities of the role in consulting clients as to how they can best minimize the burdens of taxes. Looking through the best tax services is one way you can be matched with CPAs to assist in this area.

Find the best Tax Service Providers →

Crunching the numbers

Essentially, a CPA is a specialized accountant that uses a wide array of expertise and accounting knowledge to help clients in a variety of ways. From running through tax laws to assisting in litigation, CPAs are necessary assets for businesses small and large.

Rob Browne

Rob Browne

Rob is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 Crowd writing about all things marketing. Originally from New Jersey, he previously worked at an NYC-based business travel startup. (he/him/his)