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What’s the Difference Between a Tax Credit Specialist and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)?

We here at the Tax Credit Group are tax credit specialists, but we always get a lot of questions about personal and corporate taxes and accounting. It’s understandable. For many people, the words tax and accountants are synonymous and so it’s easy to think that we can specialize in taxes and CPAs specialize in tax credits. But that’s not the case.

What’s a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)?

According to Investopedia, the CPA designation is given to people who are certified by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). They have met the education and experience requirements set forward by AICPA and have passed an exam.

A CPA has at least a bachelor’s degree, has completed 150 hours of education and has completed at least two years of public accounting experience. He or she has also passed a certification exam and must complete several continuing hours of education every year to maintain his or her certification.

But the key here is that’s what has to happen before a CPA even starts specializing in a field. Even among CPAs, there is a difference. Some of them specialize in audits, making sure a company’s books are in order and there’s no fraud. Some specialize in personal taxes, making sure that people submit the right paperwork to the IRS. Still, others specialize in non-profits, making sure that those non-profits meet the rigid requirements of the state and federal government.

How is a Tax Credit Specialist different?

A tax credit specialist does not have to be a CPA, but it can certainly help.

In most cases, a CPA will likely have a general understanding of the tax code, but he or she may not be specialized in the particular tax code you’re dealing with. And it’s not the fault of the CPA. The tax code is immense. So big in fact, that no one can quite figure out how many pages it is.

To give you an idea, there’s a book called Federal Income Tax: Code and Regulations–Selected Sections (2018-2019) on Amazon that totals 1,776 pages. Mind you, that’s just selected sections.

A tax credit specialist understands the ins and outs of very specific parts of the tax code. This person will understand the nuances of the tax code and know when to push the envelope and when to be cautious.

CPAs and Tax Credit Specialists are not interchangeable

A very lucky few will find a CPA that can specialize in the tax credits they are trying to apply for, but for a majority of people who are looking for business tax credits they will need both.

A CPA can apply tax credits to your taxes, however a tax credit specialist will be the one to find the tax credits, tell you how to fulfill the requirements necessary for you to qualify for those credits, and then make sure that you and your CPA have all the paperwork and forms necessary to apply those tax credits to your taxes.

Do not cut corners and pick one over the other. You could end up leaving money on the table.

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