• Cory S. Noeller, CPA

Tax Preparer (Mis)Representation?

As long as they don't misrepresent their qualifications, almost anyone can call themselves an accountant and/or a tax preparer.

While most believe that accounting is merely the recording and reporting of business and financial transactions, accounting is the process of measurement, recording, cataloguing, analyzing and reporting financial and non-financial information about economic entities. In Wisconsin, anyone that performs a function related to financial reporting can legally call themselves an accountant.

Non-certified accountants are legally able to perform tasks such as bookkeeping, payroll reporting, maintaining general business accounts, and taking care of simple tax-related matters. Many accounting functions don't require licensing; even in public accounting, not all functions require a Certified Public Accounting (CPA) license.

All CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs.

A CPA is different than an accountant. A CPA is someone who has earned a professional designation through a combination of education, experience, and licensing. Because a CPA’s toolbox includes everything from tax preparation, to financial statements, to financial planning, to forensic accounting, to internal auditing, to income tax, the CPA’s primary function is to help businesses thrive.

Like ‘accountants’, there are very few requirements an individual must meet before legally call themselves a ‘tax preparer’. As the tax season begins, it’s important for you to understand the differences and how your tax professional measures up.

A tax preparer is any person who prepares for compensation, or employs one or more persons to prepare for compensation, all or a "substantial portion" of any return or tax or any claim for refund. However, tax professionals have differing levels of credentials, skills, education and expertise. Some tax professionals have simply paid a nominal fee to attain their PTIN and EFIN while others have dedicated themselves for years to understanding the intricacies of the tax law.

If you're ever audited, not all tax preparers can represent you, even if they signed your tax returns. It's important that you, as the taxpayer, understand your tax preparer's credentials so you can be confident you're working with a qualified professional who is able assist you in receiving your best tax outcome. Click here to learn more about the different types of tax return preparer credentials and qualifications.

Avoidance of tax is not a criminal offense. Taxpayers have the right to reduce, avoid or minimize their taxes by legitimate means. As Certified Public Accountants, we are ethically bound to help you pay the lowest tax you are legally required to pay.

Also see

Understanding Tax Preparer Credentials

Bookkeeping vs Accounting

A Good CPA