The Burning Question: Your CPA License

February 23, 2009

The most frequently asked questions of The Ohio Society of CPAs member service staff for the week of February 16, 2009 are:

  • How do I reactivate my CPA license?
  • Why should I hire a CPA over an unlicensed accountant? (for tax preparation, professional services, job opening)

There’s a common message in both questions – the CPA designation has value and relevance that’s critical in today’s environment.

Why the focus on the CPA credential; and why right now? In a climate of rational and irrational fears – Will I keep my job? Will I be able to retire? Will my investments recover? Is my business at risk? – the CPA designation brings a missing component the market is craving of stability and TRUST.

CPAs are respected and trusted. Our own marketing spin on CPAs is that they are the trusted professionals who bring insight and integrity to business information of all types. As professionals focus more on personal branding and how to make themselves essential to clients or employers, today’s reality is that the CPA is a strong differentiator. Members in business and industry are increasingly making sure that they’re able to “hold out” as having their CPA designation, and members in public practice are thinking “CPA first” in their marketing message. As staffing demands reduce, the CPA credential is more frequently a consideration in promotion and retention by employers.

If your CPA designation has not been a priority for you, now’s the time to rethink its importance. In Ohio, CPAs are required to maintain an active permit in order to use the designation without qualification. Reactivating your permit is easy – the Accountancy Board of Ohio (ABO) requires that a licensee who holds an Ohio registration (inactive license) apply for the active permit and complete a total of 120 hours of continuing education credit during the three years preceding application.

Completing the CPE is easy as well, with options convenient for your needs. If you have any questions, the Member Service staff at OSCPA will be happy to assist you with your unique needs at CPAnswers@ohio-cpa.com, or 888.959.1212. For specific questions related to your CPA license, the ABO staff encourage you to call: 614.466.4135.

Why a CPA?

  • You worked hard for it. The process to become a CPA is rigorous – you’ve earned it – use it!
  • CPAs adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. That means something in terms of direct value in today’s marketplace (Integrity + Objectivity + Professional Competence = Trust. Trust = Value.)
  • CPAs have a commitment to continual learning. Knowledge = Value.

The Ohio Society of CPAs is fully committed to being your partner in success.

For the public:

  • To find a CPA in Ohio, call toll-free 888.959.1212 or visit our Web site.
  • This season, make sure the person you turn to for advice and help is certified and proudly identifies themselves as a CPA.

H&R Block ads present more opportunity than challenge

February 5, 2009

Lots of CPAs are upset by H & R Block’s current advertising campaign. In a few ads, they take blatant pot shots at CPAs’ accuracy in preparing tax returns.

These ads upset me too. I’ve spent most of my career working with CPAs and advocating for the value, knowledge & insights CPAs provide, as well as CPAs’ tremendous public service.

The AICPA has asked H & R Block to pull the ads and we’re told H&R Block has responded that they’ll reevaluate the ad series. But we can also use this as an opportunity to boost the public’s already high opinion of CPAs.

In national surveys, CPAs have consistently ranked among the most trusted and respected financial professionals. So we don’t have to defend CPAs’ credentials so much as reinforce why a CPA is the best professional for the job.

An Akron Beacon Journal reporter nailed it two years ago when she pointed out the advantages she gained in using a CPA for her own taxes. She also did them herself, and used H & R Block for comparison.

Her experience with the CPA was the least expensive and required less time, yielding the largest return. The CPA found more qualifying credits and an additional $800 she could claim through amended prior-year returns. She summarized the experience as a “good checkup that put her on the right path.”

Her experience with H & R Block? Not so good.

The preparer didn’t ask the right questions for her situation. The fees were higher, her federal refund was lower, she ended up owing on her state return, and the process required more visits to the H&R Block office. Although she was paying for expert advice, she didn’t feel she received it.

At The Ohio Society of CPAs, our goal is to steer the public toward developing a year-round relationship with a CPA, not just at tax time. The benefits of looking on financial management as a year-round necessity, not just a tax-time task, are more important today than they’ve ever been. We reinforce this in all of our consumer communications. And the media recognizes the CPA profession’s expertise because they call on us to provide CPAs for interviews and to answer consumer tax questions, not the other guys.

Visit our Tax Headquarters to see how we’re positioning CPAs to the public. And e-mail Amy Johnson at the OSCPA for talking points you can use to encourage everyone you know to use a CPA rather than a preparer who isn’t licensed, receives minimal training, and is paid an hourly wage to prepare returns just four months out of the year.

If you want a first-hand view of the training and compensation for H & R Block tax preparers, see this blog series from The Virtual CFO. It was written by a CPA who considered working there before he earned his CPA.

The proof is in the returns.


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