First there are two types of “CPAs”, active and inactive. As you can guess an inactive CPA should not represent themselves as a CPA. One day, maybe decades ago they passed the CPA exam. They might not even be up to date on new tax regulations. An active CPA continues to take continuing education course to keep their accrediation.
Next, there is the network that goes along with being a CPA. From the AICPA to state CPA societies to Twitter, I’ve connected with many CPAs purely based on the fact that we are CPAs. This may be my own selection bias, but I’ve yet to see inactive CPAs networking with each other. It’s just not quite the same.
No one should promote themselves as a CPA unless they’re an active CPA. But double check, each state has a certification search. Here’s ours for Florida.
Now that I’ve made my case for being licensed, let me briefly give you some general details on what that entails. The specifics will vary from state to state but generally speaking, getting/renewing your license requires the following:
To be fair, the cost of CPE courses can add up quickly, but with a little research you’ll find you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on each course as people often assume. There are many CPE providers offering great value for their courses, and I can honestly say that maintaining my CPA license is one investment that I don’t second guess.
The truth is anyone can be an “accountant”, it’s a title like “cook”. Can you microwave a bag of popcorn? Okay now you’re a “cook”. Can you add 1+1? Okay now you’re an accountant. CPA is a state accreditation that makes note this person understand that particular state’s complex tax logic.