CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
CPAs are licensed and regulated by their state boards of accountancy. While state laws and regulations vary, the education and testing requirements for licensure as a CPA in the State of California requires:
> A baccalaureate degree, including 24 semester units in accounting-related subjects and 24 semester units in business-related subjects
> Successful passage of the Uniform CPA Examination
> Successful passage of the Professional Ethics Examination for CPAs
> Two years of general accounting experience or 150 semester units of education with one year of general accounting experience
> A license to practice from the State of California requires 80 hours of continuing education (CE) every
> The completion of a two-hour Regulatory Review course annually
Additionally, all American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) members are required to follow a rigorous code of Professional Conduct, which requires that they act with integrity, objectivity, due care, competence, fully disclose any conflicts of interest (and obtain client consent if a conflict exists), maintain client confidentiality, disclose to the client any commission or referral fees, and serve the public interest when providing financial services.
PFS (Personal Financial Specialist)
A PFS credential holder is more than a financial planner, he or she is a CPA with a combination of extensive tax expertise and comprehensive knowledge of financial planning.
> Hold an active and unrevoked CPA license and be a member of the AICPA.
> Complete 75 hours of personal financial planning CE
> Fulfill 3,000 hours of personal financial planning business experience
> Pass the PFS Examination
> Adhere to the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct
> Adhere to the AICPA’s Statement of Standards in Personal Financial Planning Services
> Complete 60 hours of personal financial planning CE every three years
EA (Enrolled Agent)
An Enrolled Agent is a federally licensed tax practitioner who specializes in taxation and has unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS. Unlike attorneys and CPAs, who may not choose to specialize in taxes, all enrolled agents specialize in taxation.
> Passing the challenging Special Enrollment Examination (SEE)
> Subject to a rigorous background check conducted by the IRS
> Required to abide by the provisions of the Department of Treasury’s Circular 230
> 72 hours of continuing professional education required every three years