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What Do All The Initials Mean? (CPA, CVA, CFE)

I thought this was a fun question to discuss. I am often asked, “What do all the initials that follow your name mean?” This question is very important. People need to understand whom they are hiring to work with their money and knowing the difference between these different sets of letters will help you make the right choice.

The Easy One- CPA

The CPA is the easy one.  CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant and means that you have special training, primarily in accounting and taxes, to help individuals and businesses in their financial dealings.  It requires that you pass a difficult 4-part exam, an ethics exam, have at least 2 years of experience working for a CPA, and (under Nevada law) have at least 1,000 hours of looking at companies books and preparing their financial statements.  Furthermore, once you become a CPA, you are required to have approximately 40 hours of continuing education each year.  I say approximately because depending in which area you practice, it could be substantially higher than that!  Most people do not know that each state certifies the CPAs in their state, rather than having a national certification.  The requirements in the State of Nevada are more stringent than those of our neighbor to the west, California.

Okay Now For CVA

The CVA stands for Certified Valuation Analyst.  It means they have special training in the valuation and determination of value of businesses.  It does NOT mean they can do appraisals.  I originally used the certification in helping attorneys resolve accounting matters in the court (litigation support).  I’ve also used it in estate cases, divorce cases, shareholder lawsuits, mergers with other companies, helping companies determine whether or not to buy a competitor, helping business owners decide whether or not to add a new partner or enter a new line of business, and even in gifting situations where a business owner wants to give part of their company to their heirs.  It is extremely technical in nature, and the part I like best is explaining what is going on in easy to understand terms to my clients.

Last But Not Least- CFE

My most recent addition to the letters behind my name is the CFE certification.  It stands for Certified Fraud Examiner, and means I have formal training in the research and investigation of fraud and forensic accounting matters.  I have been doing this for about twelve years, and love it! The “sleuthing” of accounting really gets me going.  I love seeing how the fraudster got away with it, assisting law enforcement in putting away the bad guys, or even resolving how an owner is stealing from his partners!  It can be complex, or as simple as fixing procedures around the office to deter employees or customers from making off with the valuable assets of the company.

Before you hire an accountant, make sure you understand what they are certified in and that they can adequately handle your financial needs. Remember, when it comes to your money you need to make the best decisions possible.

Reno’s Best CPA,

Tim Nelson

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