CPA Exam For Dummies with Online Practice
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CPA Exam For Dummies with Online Practice

Kenneth W. Boyd

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eBook - ePub

CPA Exam For Dummies with Online Practice

Kenneth W. Boyd

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Get started on the path to passing the CPA exam today

Passing the CPA exam can be the first step to a long and rewarding career. With CPA Exam For Dummies, you'll get a full overview of the exam, information on how to register, the requirements for taking and passing the tests, as well as a review of the four sections. This comprehensive introductory study guide provides you with a wealth of information, including all the current AICPA content requirements in auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and accounting regulation. From start to finish, the text is designed to prepare you for each portion of this rigorous exam.

Preparing for the CPA exam can be a daunting process. With the classic For Dummies approach, CPA Exam For Dummies offers an overview and steps on how to get started. Go at your own pace to master the various sections of the exam, and use the book as a reference on an ongoing basis as you prepare for the exam portions. Dive into the book to find:

  • An overview of the CPA exam, featuring exam organization and information on scoring
  • A content review, including practice questions and explanations of answers
  • Online bonus practice exams to boost your knowledge and confidence
  • An overview of the benefits of passing the CPA exam and becoming a certified public accountant

For those seeking to pass the CPA exam and launch their accounting careers, CPA Exam For Dummies is the go-to resource for getting started!

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Part I

Getting Started with the CPA Exam

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In this part 

  • Find out what it takes to become a CPA — and why all the work is worth it.
  • Become familiar with the structure of the exam and what types of skills it tests.
  • Find out how to register for the exam and what to expect when you arrive on test day.
  • Put together a study plan that works around your busy life to ensure that you’re as successful as possible on the exam.
Chapter 1

So You Want to Become a CPA

In This Chapter
Considering the benefits of a CPA designation
Mulling over what a CPA does
Weighing the CPA credential with other designations
A certified public accountant, or CPA, is a valuable credential in the world of accounting and finance. To gain the credential, a candidate must pass the CPA exam. Before you put in the work to prepare for the exam, though, make sure you understand the CPA designation.
In this chapter, you discover the added responsibilities that may come with a CPA designation. CPAs have a higher level of expertise and responsibility than non-CPA accounting professionals. As a result, many senior-level accounting positions require a CPA. Next, you go over the type of work that CPAs perform. The designation allows you to work in a variety of accounting positions. Finally, you look at a comparison of the CPA credential to other designations in the accounting profession.

Added Responsibilities with a CPA Designation

A CPA designation can allow you to advance your career beyond those people who simply earn an undergraduate degree. That’s because the CPA exam tests you on a set of skills that are more specific than you find in an undergraduate business program. Also, the sheer amount of information tested makes passing the exam a real accomplishment. In this section, you see some of the additional responsibilities that come with a job that requires a CPA credential.
Many successful people in business, government, and the not-for-profit world started out as CPAs. That may be because CPAs understand how an entire entity works. An accountant has to understand each process within an organization, because he’s responsible for posting the accounting transactions for those processes.
CPAs also generate the financial statements for the entity. To put together the statements, an accountant has to understand how the entire organization operates. It’s the CPA who often must answer to stakeholders regarding the financial statements. Stakeholders include regulators, lenders, and investors, to name a few. Here are some typical issues that a stakeholder may bring up with a CPA:
  • Balance sheet and debt: A potential lender to the company may want details on the amount of debt a business already owes to creditors. Some lenders compare the company’s total debt to total assets. That ratio indicates the assets a company can sell to pay off debt, assuming that the company can’t make payments of principal and interest.
    You can compare this situation to using a car as collateral for a loan. If the car buyer can’t make the payments, the lender can sell the car to recover some (or all) of the amount loaned.
  • Stockholders and earnings: A common-stock owner may look into the amount of earnings an entity generates. One measurement of earnings is earnings per share (EPS). EPS is defined as the company earnings divided by average common stock shares outstanding. This ratio explains the dollar amount of earnings that a business generates for each common stock share. Average common stock is defined as follows:

    Many investors feel that EPS is an indication of a common stock’s value.
  • Regulatory requirements: Regulators require many financial institutions to maintain a certain amount of equity, which is defined as assets less liabilities. To a regulator, equity represents funds available for investors. If a financial institution violates a rule or regulation, the business can repay investors using its equity.

Considering What a CPA Does

A big advantage of the CPA credential is that it increases the variety of tasks an accountant can perform. Like many professionals, a CPA may specialize in a field or branch out into other areas of the profession.
This section explains what a CPA does and specific types of positions that are staffed by CPAs. Many of the jobs are useful in many industries. Retailers and manufacturers, for example, both need tax returns and financial statements prepared. Although specific industry knowledge is important, CPAs have a set of skills that are largely transferrable.
Many businesses will hire accountants without a CPA to operate in accounting positions with less responsibility. A staff accountant handling accounts receivable or accounts payable may not have a CPA designation. Other positions with more responsibility will require a CPA. The company controller and chief financial officer are typically CPAs.

Accounting work and controller positions

One big distinction between types of accounting work is accounting versus tax. Accounting is thought of as posting transactions and generating financial statements. Tax, on the other hand, refers to tax planning and filing tax returns. This section discusses accounting work.
A chief executive officer (CEO) is responsible for hiring senior management, and one of those positions is chief financial officer (CFO). The CFO has overall responsibility for all financial matters of an organization. Here are some specific tasks that a CFO must manage:
  • Controllership: Controllership refers to maintaining control over the financial transactions of a company. The CFO needs to ensure that the accounting transactions are posted correctly. Controllership also refers to generating accurate and timely financial statements shortly after the end of each month and year.
  • Treasury: Treasury refers to the cash needs of a company. Businesses use debt and equity in some combination to raise capital, which refers to the cash and other assets the company acquires. The decision on how much debt or equity to raise is in the hands of the CFO. The CFO plans for short-term cash needs to operate the company each month. The CFO also plans for long-term financing needs, such as planning for an expensive purchase (building, equipment, machinery, and the like).
  • Financial strategy: The CFO has overall responsibility for financial strategy. This includes analyzing company profit by department or product line. A CFO is expected to recommend how each department can make changes to improve profit. Because nearly every company has a limited amount of capital, the CFO needs to analyze how that capital should be used to maximize earnings. That may mean buying a new piece of equipment for Department A and closing the operations of Department B. A CFO works closely with the company’s operations managers to make processes more efficient.
The CFO is both an accountant and a manager. Here are some of the positions the CFO will hire and manage:
  • Controller and treasurer: The CFO hires a controller to manage the accounting transactions and financial-statement process. He or she also hires a treasurer to manage the treasury activities.
  • Accounting manager: A CFO, using input from the controller, may hire one or more accounting managers. These managers are responsible for certain areas of the controllership process. One manager, for example, may handle the company’s accounts receivable process. That manager processes sales, receivables, and bad-debt transactions. The position also includes reporting financial results to the controller and CFO.
  • Staff accountant: Accounting managers, in turn, hire staff accountants. This type of position is responsible for the day-to-day transactions of a company. If the staff accountant works with accounts receivable, he or she reviews incoming customer payments and reduces accounts receivable. That same person analyzes credit sales and posts accounts receivable. A staff accountant position may be the first position you work in as a CPA.
Not all companies have all the accounting positions I explain here. A small company may have a CFO, controller, and a few staff accountants; no accounting managers are needed to manage the company’s accounting work.

Auditing, reviews, and compilations

CPAs fill the role of a third-party auditor. An auditor is a CPA who is independent of the company under audit. Independence means that the only relationship that the CPA has with the business is the fee paid for the audit. An audit occurs when an auditor performs procedures on the company’s financial statements. The auditor uses the procedures to gather evidence about the financial statements. After completing an audit, the CPA provides a written opinion on whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement.

Reviewing jobs in the field

CPA firms perform audits. These organizations are typically partnerships formed by CPAs. Here are some of the positions you find in a CPA firm:
  • Partner: A partner has an investment in the partnership. The partner is responsible for the management of a particular group of audit clients. Like a CFO, the partner selects an audit staff and manages the audit. Audits involve layers of review. The audit partner is responsible for the final review of the audit work.
  • Manager: A manager works for the partner. Each manager may be responsible for several audits that are in process at the same time. The manager reviews the work of the audit staff below him or her. A manager is the client contact for most of the audit client’s managers. When a question or concern needs to be discussed with the auditors, the company manager usually goes to the audit manager first.
  • Senior: A senior has day-to-day responsibility for the audit work performed. This individual is present at the client’s offices during the audit’s fieldwork. Fieldwork refers to when the auditors gather evidence at the client’s offices. The auditor and the client agree on when and how long fieldwork will take place.
  • Staff accountant: Staff accountants perform the bulk of the audit procedures. This may include testing accounting transactions using company documents or interviewing the client’s staff. If you join a CPA firm’s audit department, you’ll probably start as a staff auditor.

Going over the audit process

When planning an audit, the CPA firm creates an audit program. An audit program documents the procedures that will be performed for each area of the audit. An audit of cash, for example, will include a review of the clie...