Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
Kathleen E. DavisTell us about your work -- what do you do? I am a self-employed certified public accountant . My practice focuses primarily on the area of taxation with specialization in the field of oil and gas taxation . My clients include individuals, partnerships, "S" corporations, and trusts. I also do some general bookkeeping for selected clients and occasionally accept contract accounting work from outside parties. All of my work (with the exception of contract work with outside parties) is done from my home office. What skills are needed? - Passage of the Certified Public Accountant's examination - Good analytical skills - Ability to use computer spreadsheet programs and tax software - Proficiency on a ten-key pad - Knowledge of tax law and ability to research tax issues - Good verbal and written communication skills - Continuing professional education to maintain license What was your major? I have a Masters degree in Accounting . How did you get started in your career? I began thinking about public accounting when I assisted with the start-up of a small manufacturing company in Boulder, Colorado. At that point in time I did not have any background in accounting so I enrolled in the University of Colorado to take some accounting classes. The education I received in the classroom was immediately applicable to my work in setting up the accounting records of this new company. When the outside auditors came in to review our financial records, I decided that public accounting looked like a great opportunity to work with a variety of individuals and companies. I continued my accounting classes at the University of Colorado until I had enough credit hours to sit for the CPA exam . (I already had an undergraduate degree , which is also required for the exam.) I took a position with a medium-sized certified public accounting firm in Casper, Wyoming where I did both auditing and tax work. Eventually I specialized in taxation with many clients involved in the oil and gas industry. Later I set up my own practice in Denver. What experience do you need in this job? In order to represent yourself as a certified public accountant, you must pass the national CPA exam and have at least one year of experience working in a public accounting firm . The experience requirement varies from state to state with some states accepting a masters degree in lieu of experience with a public accounting firm and other states accepting experience in industry under the supervision of a CPA. In Wyoming, I was required to have two years of experience working in a public accounting firm. Experience in the industry is also extremely valuable (although not required) since it allows you to look at financial data and accounting procedures from the client's perspective. Describe your "typical" workday: My typical workday depends largely on the season of the year. From January through mid-April I am heavily involved in the preparation on income tax returns which consists of: - interviewing clients in person to review their current year data - assessing any tax issues or concerns - comparing the current year to the previous year to be certain no items are missing - preparation of any adjusting journal entries that may be needed - inputting the data to my tax software - preparation of any supplemental schedules that are required - reviewing the final federal return - preparation of various state tax returns - transmittal of the return to the client At other times of the year, I may still be preparing tax returns (those that are on extension), but my day may also include meeting with clients regarding specific tax problems or issues, updating the books and financial records for selected clients including payroll tax reporting, and responding to various client phone calls and requests. Some days may be devoted entirely to contract assignments with outside parties. What is the hardest aspect of your job? The most difficult aspect of my job revolves around tax research of complicated tax issues. As a sole practitioner, there is no one available within your firm to consult with when a unique tax problem arises. While there is no shortage of tax documentation and research available, it is the inability to "bounce" ideas off a co-worker that is frustrating. I normally will contact another CPA or attorney when confronted with an issue that is very complex or outside my realm of expertise. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? The best part of my job is that I have complete independence. I am in total control of the amount and type of work that I want to accept, the number of hours I want to work, and the manner in which the work is to be done. I find my job rewarding when I am able to assist a client in organizing his or her accounting and tax records in a concise and meaningful manner and prevent the payment of tax penalties. It is also rewarding when I can assist a new client in correcting errors or omissions on prior year tax returns. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? Someone considering this field must enjoy working with numbers and have good analytical skills . They must also enjoy working with people and have strong communication skills. The person entering this profession must be willing to put in very long hours, particularly during "tax" season. Many times a person will spend a few years in a public accounting firm which will then lead to other opportunities either in industry or in the establishment of his or her own practice. A career in public accounting often opens many other doors besides the opportunity to become a partner in the firm.