What is public accounting?

Definition of Public Accounting

Public accounting can be viewed as firms of accountants that serve clients such as businesses (retailers, manufacturers, service companies, etc.), individuals, nonprofit organizations, and governmental organizations.

Public accounting firms range in size from sole practitioners to a few huge international firms that employ hundreds of thousands of CPAs throughout the world. In between are local and regional firms as well as very large national and international firms.

The people employed in public accounting are often certified public accountants or CPAs. Many accountants leave the larger public accounting firms after several years of experience and become an employee at a business or other organization. In their new position they are referred to as a private accountant, corporate accountant or internal accountant.

Examples of Public Accounting Services

The services provided by public accounting firms vary by the size and the expertise of the firm. Here are some of the public accounting services:

  • Preparation, review, and auditing of the clients' financial statements
  • Tax work including the preparation of income tax returns, estate and tax planning, etc.
  • Consulting and advice involving accounting systems, mergers and acquisitions, and much more