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CPA or Attorney: What Difference Does It Make? A Big One.

CPA or Attorney: What Difference Does It Make? A Big One.

The roles of CPAs and attorneys, and why you need both 

Timid about your taxes?

If you have both a CPA and an attorney, there’s no need to worry. CPAs and attorneys each have their own specialties, but together can help you set up a business and plan for the future. Below, Rich Adair, a CPA at Thieme & Adair in Lafayette, explains the differences between a CPA and attorney, and the importance of hiring a CPA during a financial audit. He also explains the referral process, and how his relationship with BB&C has been mutually beneficial.

What is the main difference between a CPA and an attorney?

There is a gray area, but attorneys are the only people who can legally prepare documents. CPAs are not allowed to prepare things like buy-sell agreements. There are attorneys who do tax returns, but CPAs can do financial audits, which no one else can do. 

What can an accountant do that tax preparer software cannot do?

Tax planning. Someone can sit down in front of TurboTax and do a tax return, but nothing is going to pop up during that time and say, “You could have saved money here by doing XYZ.” You also have a better chance of getting something prepared correctly if you come to an accountant. Anyone who has rental properties or a small business needs to talk to a professional. We do things right and help with long-term planning.

When would an attorney refer a client to a CPA? When would a CPA refer a client to an attorney?

A successful business person needs a team. Attorneys and CPAs work together. It’s not unusual for someone in BB&C’s office to call me from a meeting and share some ideas with me. Similarly, if a legal issue comes up with one of my clients, I don’t hesitate to get someone from BB&C on the phone. We each have our specialties. BB&C handles estate planning and business corporations and partnerships, and advises people on legalities. My office steps in with tax planning and accounting.

How important is tax planning to business owners?

Very. A lot of times, people who are self-employed don’t get a good enough return on their investments. What they usually need to do is set up an S-corporation and run out a certain amount as a dividend. A lot of people don’t know that if they don’t talk to a professional.

What is a tax audit?

Generally, an audit is when a government taxing agency wants to verify that something is proper, that the numbers on a tax form are correct. It could be a correspondence audit, something as simple as an IRS computer noticing that someone has high charitable contributions. That’s a basic type of audit—you just need to send in paperwork to confirm.

How can an accountant help with an audit?

It’s important for CPAs to be involved in an audit, because it’s very possible that the client doesn’t even have to be in the same room with the IRS agent. CPAs can have power of attorney, so we’re able to bring the agents in and talk to them ourselves. If someone tries to handle their own audit, they can get nervous, and the agent will think they have something to hide. The very worst thing that can happen is a client getting defensive in front of an agent.

How has your relationship with BB&C been mutually beneficial?

The primary benefit is getting new business. I often encounter someone who wants to start a business, but doesn’t know what to do. I always feel comfortable referring them to BB&C. Kyle Mandeville and Stuart Boehning always take good care of people and always give them advice. They always have everything I need; they never miss things.

Want to discuss your business transition or estate tax plan? Wondering if you should set up an S-corporation? To talk about your business strategy and include a CPA on your team, contact Kyle Mandeville at 765-742-9066.

The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.

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PARKING NOTICE: The sidewalks and curbs around the Columbia Center will be under construction through June 2023. Traffic patterns may change and street parking will be limited during construction, so we encourage you to park in the garage attached to Columbia Center. The entrance to the Parking Garage is on Fifth Street, and you may park in any spot not marked Reserved. There is a parking garage elevator you can take down to the 1st floor where the BB&C offices are located. Please inform a BB&C staff member that you are parked in the garage, so we can validate your parking during your visit to the office. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience and understanding during the construction.

The sidewalks and curbs around the Columbia Center will be under construction through June 2023.