All industries are plagued with misconceptions to some degree. It takes actually being “in the trenches” to realize that the industry or profession may not be at all what you had heard, or what you may have accepted as fact (or, at the very least, as the basis for a stereotype). There really is no substitute for hands-on, experiential learning – going through the motions versus reading, listening or watching as an audience or consumer and not as an active participant.
Outside of the accounting industry, many a professional has either gotten a chuckle or become wary, quickly, of the oft-cited, “So, you’re an accountant? Can you do my taxes?” As professionals working for an accounting firm, that very word (“accountant”) means so much more than “income taxes.” It means more than one event or season during the year. The many services that we provide as a comprehensive CPA firm speak to this notion; they present opportunities for us to partner with more organizations, more often. They also present more opportunities for talent. Varied personality traits, backgrounds, experiences, work styles, interests and passions can only enrich our team and the value that we bring to organizations and the communities we serve.
Here, we break down a couple of areas that represent our client partnerships, as well as our partnerships with each other – across departments, divisions, specialties and teams.
Merriam-Webster defines “audit” as the “formal examination of an organization’s or individual’s accounts or financial situation.” Generally, audits could refer to a number of different things (not just the “books”); for instance, a homeowner or building owner may conduct an audit on the structure’s use of energy. This could be completed as part of the process of integrating sustainable solutions, or related to money-saving, efficiency-garnering credits and incentives.
In our world, AICPA® speaks the language of CPAs. Audits are defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as the “highest level of assurance service that a CPA performs.” And, as noted, these services are: “intended to provide a user comfort on the accuracy of financial statements.” Audits, partly, may be done when organizations seek financing, credit, outside investors, or are embarking on a transaction (sale or merger).
The accountant that a client partners with must perform certain procedures to obtain a high (not absolute) level of “reasonable” assurance. A qualified party, in turn, provides assurance, with a high degree of confidence, that the financial statements do not contain material misstatements. Such a “misstatement” must be sufficiently incorrect as to impact the decision-making of individuals who review and rely on the financial data within those statements. For instance, a misstatement related to revenue might motivate another party to purchase company stock. When the error is later corrected, the investor would then sustain losses as the stock’s performance declines to account for the correction.
During this process, the CPA must understand the organization’s internal controls, and have the ability to accurately assess vulnerabilities, such as the risk of fraud. The information that is provided must also be confirmed by the auditor, through the likes of specific analytical procedures, third-party consultation, inspection and observation. There is a high degree of integrity that is expected of the auditing party; if his or her independence has been “impaired,” the CPA cannot in good faith complete the engagement and must recuse himself/herself.
Ultimately, a report is prepared that clearly states where the financial statements are presented as they should be (fairly) and in accordance with applicable and accepted standards. If substantive or material weaknesses are present, they must be noted in the report. These weaknesses may apply to the client’s internal controls. There is, within the audit, the potential for improvements that could better position clients for success over the long term. Improvements may be identified to enhance systems and the ways that businesses operate, and that is incredibly satisfying.
Early careerists or career changers alike are presented with opportunities in the form of career paths within the accounting profession. And, we are happy to announce that OFWF is continuing to invest in its people. We are hiring! Some of the bright spots that you as an auditor can enjoy include:
Keen exposure to wide-ranging financial reporting
Significant client-facing work
Ideal for professionals who want to take on more of a “financial” role
A departure from “traditional” accountants with a laser-like focus on organizations’ financial statements, those accountants who choose the tax route, focus on your tax obligations as a client/business owner/taxpayer. Not only is it a must to have an excellent tax partner from a compliance perspective, but the right expertise on this front allows for you to keep more of your company’s hard-earned monies or personal wealth. So, you can reinvest what you’ve saved on taxes back into the likes of your business – those investments that add value to the firm and support sustained growth and expansion.
There are opportunities to add value throughout the year; again, tax services are not an event. To assure that you avoid penalties and the stress of the “mad rush” to meet filing deadlines, it is critical for our tax professionals to stay in touch with you throughout the year. This communication aids in our understanding of changes which, for instance, may result in your being eligible for certain deductions, credits or incentives. These opportunities can all reduce your tax liabilities. Additionally, we can partner with you to identify areas to reduce spending, enhancing income and overall profits. Our tax accountants also help you to create budgets that aid in simplifying the tax process as the “season” and filing deadlines get ever closer.
As a career choice, specializing in tax services presents unique and enriching experiences and knowledge. You have the ability to focus on a practice that is in high demand, and will consistently remain that way. As they say, taxes and death are the only two certainties in life! Additionally, it may be a great option for those entrepreneurial, self-starter types, who may have their eyes on growing a book of business in a less client-facing “space” than audit.
There are advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons, of any practice or specialization that you wish to pursue within any field. And accounting is no different. One of the many benefits of joining a team like OFWF is that you have the opportunity to experience different functions, specialties, and to gain diverse skills in areas that you may have known little to nothing about prior to embarking on your journey with us, from business valuation to advanced Quickbooks ProAdvisor certification/consultation. We encourage you to experience firsthand why we say we are “more than accounting.”