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FAQ

What services do CPAs provide?
A CPA is a certified public accountant, and is engaged in a number of advisory roles for his or her clients. These roles include the following:Audits and reviews: The primary task of the CPA is to audit the books of clients. If the resulting financial statements of a client meet the CPA's evaluation criteria, the CPA will issue an audit opinion concerning the financial statements that accompany the statements when they are issued to third parties. A lesser form of an audit is a review, which clients may prefer due to its lower cost.Consulting services: Clients may ask a CPA to engage in a number of consulting activities, such as advising on the adequacy of a system of controls, describing possible strategic options, or assisting in the installation of information systems.Taxation services: A major service area for the CPA is to advise on the tax strategies of clients, as well as to prepare their tax returns.Forensic accounting: Some CPAs specialize in forensic accounting services, where they reconstruct destroyed financial records or investigate whether fraudulent activities have occurred.Financial planning: A CPA may advise a client with financial planning advice, such as how to transfer a business to a buyer with the minimum amount of short-term tax impact on the client. This area can expand to estate planning, so that clients can bequeath assets at the minimum tax cost to recipients.Litigation services: A CPA can provide much of the detailed analysis required by an attorney to present a winning case in court. These skills are needed for divorce settlements, disputes between businesses, bankruptcy proceedings, and so forth. An experienced CPA may provide testimony as an expert witness.There are many CPA firms. Velin and Associates, Inc is one of the premier Los Angeles CPA firm offering a broad range of financial services at affordable prices.Source: Velin and Associates
What are the differences between an CPA and tax professional? Should it be one and the same?
There are several types of Tax Professionals recognized by the IRS:1. RTRP - Registered Tax Return Preparer2. CPA - Certified Public Accountant3. EA - Enrolled Agent4. Tax Attorney (also LLM)RTRP - the "lowest" rung of Tax Professionals. They can help individuals prepare and file tax returns. They are required to pass a competency test with the IRS and maintain good standing with the IRS. RTRPs are generally bookkeepers and those who don't care to invest the time or money to get further credentialed. While they are allowed to prepare and file taxes in all 50 states, RTRPs are generally not allowed to represent individuals, businesses, estates or trusts in disputes or matters before the IRS. They are only not allowed to practice before the Tax Court.CPA - like the other answers say, becoming a CPA requires 150 hours of college credit (equivalent of 5 years, as an undergraduate degree is generally around 120-130 hours).  CPAs must also sit for an exam within their state to be fully credentialed. The IRS recognizes a holder of a CPA license as a Tax Professional and gives that individual the authority to advise clients and prepare/file taxes only in states in which they are credentialed with a CPA license.  CPAs generally may represent individuals, businesses, estates and trusts in matters before the IRS. They are not allowed to practice before the Tax Court.Enrolled Agent - the highest credential granted by the IRS. Enrolled Agents don't have a college requirement. They must pass a series of 3 tests called Special Enrollment Exams, administered by the IRS. The test material covered is the entire tax code. They can advise and file taxes in all 50 states and have full representation rights for all clients (even those for whom they haven't filed a return in question) in matters before the IRS. They are only not allowed to practice before the Tax Court. Tax Attorney - highest rung on the ladder. Fully credentialed to represent clients before the IRS and Tax Court in all matters for anyone.  Frequently very expensive to hire, as they can have a niche practice (Oil tax law, overseas businesses, etc...). I think in terms of "bang for your buck," you want to find a Tax Professional that has experience working in tax circumstances that are similar to your own. I find little difference in knowledge between a CPA and EA who has experience. While the CPA designation is be far more common, I do find that EAs are better prepared for tax-specific concerns. The entire EA designation is focused on one thing and one thing alone - a deep understanding of the US tax code (IRC). CPAs, while they are certainly credentialed and well-prepared to figure out tax issues, have a broader focus that includes best accounting practices, audit, financial reconciliation, etc... In the end, a CPA and EA are similar in many ways.  The difference between them will be less with experience.  But if you want a CFO or COO who is going to keep the books in order and work to maximize margins, then I think having a licensed CPA on board is the right call. If you are looking for specific tax answers or strategies in setting up a business, or the strategic value in understanding tax consequences of making decisions of how to pay people and stretching each penny furthest, I think EAs will have a slight advantage over CPAs. Tax Attorneys will likely beat both out on many niche and complex tax matters.  Unless you are operating a complex scheme, a CPA or EA should do the trick. Just get someone with experience in what you need done. (done on iPhone, sorry for typos)
Does a financial agent need a college degree to be hired independently (tax agent for example)?
Circular 230 include rules governing practice before the Internal Revenue Service. Circular 230 mandates Attorneys, Certified Public Accountants, Enrolled Agents, Enrolled Actuaries, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents, and Appraisers can represent clients in proceedings before the IRS.The following describes the power and authority of a Certified Public Accountant, Enrolled Agent, and an Attorney: A Certified Public Accountants (CPA) is any CPA duly qualified to practice in any state. Such a CPA can represent a taxpayer before any level of the IRS in any state. An Enrolled Agent is any person who has filed an application (IRS Form 23), passed the Special Enrollment Examination, and passed a background check. Certain former IRS employees may request waiver of the exam requirement based on their years of experience. Like attorneys and CPAs, enrolled agents are unrestricted as to which taxpayer they can represent, what type of tax matters they can handle, and which IRS offices they can practice before. An Attorney that is in good standing of the bar of any state can represent a taxpayer before any level of the IRS in any state. Foreign law licenses are not accepted.In order to meet the rules of Circular 230, there are requirements for obtaining the positions as an Attorney, CPA, EA, ERPA, and an Appraiser. These positions require at the very least an undergraduate degree. All taxpayers should protect themselves by finding reputable tax preparers.
Can I pay for something using credit card points and then deduct it as a business expense?
I agree with Mike Emeigh - you can't deduct purchases paid with points or miles as a business expense.IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLAIMER: To ensure compliance with IRS Circular 230, any U.S. federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer (i) for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the recipient or any other taxpayer, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending advice to another party, a partnership or other entity.  The recipient or any other taxpayer should seek advice based on the recipient’s or any other taxpayer’s particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.
Tax Avoidance and Minimization: Is there any reason not to sell a stock with greater than $1 million in gains before the end of 2012 and then buy the stock back right away since federal rates will probably go up by 8.8% in 2013?
If the only reason you are considering selling the stock is due to the change in the tax rate, then you shouldn't sell it in my opinion. If you had other reasons to consider disposing of the stock and are likely to dispose of it in the next 6-12 months anyway, then yes, you should act before the end of 2012. But if this stock is a long-term hold for you (and it sounds like it is if you are planning to buy it back), then why do that now? You don't know what's going to happen to capital gains rates beyond the short-term, and odds are that at some point over the next 12-24 months the picture will change again. You also don't know what's going to happen to the company, Who knows, you could find yourself with a good-sized capital loss if you buy the shares back at a higher rate only to see the stock plunge in 2013 and beyond; then you just paid taxes needlessly.As I tell my clients regularly, you should not let tax considerations be the primary driver of your business decisions. You need to understand the tax implications, yes, and those implications should be part of your decision-making process, but when you let yourself be talked into (or out of) a business decision because of the tax implications, you usually wind up hurting yourself in the long run.
Can I avoid the capital gains tax on the sale of my home by changing the character of the property from a residence to an investment using a Owner Carryback Mortgage?
Robert is correct.  Gains from the sale of a personal residence below the $250k/$500k (Single/MFJ) thresholds may be excluded from income taxes. Read the link below for more details. http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc7...IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLAIMER: To ensure compliance with IRS Circular 230, any U.S. federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer (i) for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the recipient or any other taxpayer, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending advice to another party, a partnership or other entity.  The recipient or any other taxpayer should seek advice based on the recipient’s or any other taxpayer’s particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.