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About CPAs

What Does a CPA Do?

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in public practice act as advisors to individuals, businesses, financial institutions, not-for-profit organizations and government agencies on a wide range of financial matters. Many individuals turn to CPAs for help not just with their tax preparation, but also with their business and personal financial planning.

Most CPAs meet substantially the same education, training, and licensing requirements, which equips them to provide a broad and varied range of services. A CPA may specialize in small business, tax or financial planning, insurance, or banking, to name just a few options.

About CPA Services

CPAs act as independent auditors, as well as financial and tax advisors to individuals, businesses, government, and the not-for-profit community. CPAs are professionals, distinguished from other accountants by stringent licensing requirements. They must pass a rigorous national examination, and meet certain experience requirements in order to qualify for the CPA certificate and state license. In addition, CPAs are governed by a strict code of professional conduct. The hallmarks of this profession are independence, objectivity, and integrity.

The Engagement Letter

The engagement letter, offered by your CPA at the start of your working relationship and whenever you authorize your CPA to begin a new project on your behalf, fosters effective communication between the professional advisor and you. Better communication, goodwill, and understanding will be promoted through the engagement letter.

In a professional engagement, the CPA agrees to comply with professional and ethical standards, while you agree to cooperate, to render assistance, and to compensate the CPA. An engagement letter clarifies these mutual obligations; it insures that the CPA and staff members understand the type of engagement to be performed and the expectations they agree to fulfill.

Signing an engagement letter does not alter the relationship between the client and the CPA, nor does it change the obligations of either party. What the letter does is commit to writing precisely what is involved in an agreement, thereby reducing the possibility of misunderstanding later.

Read the engagement letter with care. Give it the same careful attention given to any significant agreement. Discuss its content with your CPA. Be sure you understand the services described, the limitations of the services, the fee arrangements, and any other significant provision. When you sign the engagement letter, be aware that you are accepting the terms of the agreement. Retain a copy of the signed engagement letter as you would any other written agreement.

Ethics Information

CPAs are required to maintain high professional standards through ongoing continuing professional education, which includes required courses on ethics and current professional conduct standards. In addition, OSCPA members are bound by three sets of ethics rulings:

  1. Article X of the OSCPA Bylaws
  2. Oregon Board of Accountancy rules codified in Oregon Administrative Rules, beginning Chapter 801, Division 30;
  3. AICPA members: AICPA Code of Professional Conduct.

The OSCPA Professional Conduct (Ethics) Committee

The OSCPA Professional Conduct (Ethics) Committee seeks to promote consumer satisfaction with Oregon CPA services within the framework of the OSCPA's mission to serve its members. They accomplish this through the Client Relations Program.

Client Relations Program - Resolution of Disagreements


  • In seeking to reconcile fee disputes between clients and CPAs, the Professional Conduct (Ethics) Committee acts as a forum in which both parties are given an opportunity to voice their disagreements before a neutral person.
  • The Professional Conduct (Ethics) Committee encourages both parties to listen to each other and to re-establish communications where they have broken down.
  • The Professional Conduct (Ethics) Committee is not endowed with any formal powers. It cannot arbitrate or mediate disagreements by dictating solutions. It works solely through informal means of listening, helping both sides articulate their concerns, and enabling them to discover creative ways of resolving conflict.
  • The Professional Conduct (Ethics) Committee members receive special training in handling complaints and dealing with angry people. Members are required to respond to complaints on a timely basis. Forms and procedures have been developed to create a confidential record of each complaint and to ensure consistent handling.
  • The Professional Conduct (Ethics) Committee encourages CPAs to use engagement letters, talk frankly with clients about fees (at the outset and at critical junctures of an engagement), and to clarify the services clients will receive so "expectation gaps" can be prevented.

Contact the Oregon Society of CPAs
Sherri L.D. McPherson, President / CEO
Email Sherri
Phone: 503-597-5480 / 800-255-1470, ext. 120 

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