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What Differentiates a CFE versus a CPA?

Have you wondered whether you should hire a CFE or a CPA? Maybe you aren’t aware of the distinction between the two. Here’s some useful information to help you make the right choice.

What’s a CFE?

A Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) is a designation awarded by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) who is a member of the ACFE in good standing, meets educational and professional standards, is of high moral character, adheres to the ACFE Code of Ethics, and passes all four parts of the CFE exam (Financial Transactions and Fraud Schemes, Legal Elements of Fraud, Investigation Methods, and Fraud Prevention and Deterrence).

CFEs have combined expertise as investigator, accountant, and criminologist, and have an understanding of the legal system. They are trained and experienced in detecting, investigating, and preventing fraud. CFEs study financial records, specifically looking for discrepancies. CFEs have specialized skills and knowledge in criminology and accounting to investigate potential crimes. CFEs collect evidence for purposes of litigation, conduct interviews, and testify at trial. 

What’s a CPA? 

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a license provided by the Board of Accountancy in each state. Requirements for a CPA license include obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, or accounting, adhering to the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, and passing the four-part CPA exam (Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reports and Regulation). CPAs are accountants who interpret financial information that allows businesses to make informed decisions. CPAs are respected business advisors, trusted financial advisors, auditors, and may act as tax or accounting consultants. 

When should you hire a CFE or a CPA? 

Problem-solving, analyzing, and research skills are competencies CFEs and CPAs have in common. What sets them apart is training and experience. 

If you: 

  • suspect corporate fraud, 
  • require an investigation and calculation of economic damages, and/or
  • need to uncover hidden assets in a bankruptcy or divorce, 

you will be best served by hiring a CFE. CFEs are experts in investigating and detecting fraud. 

Hiring a CPA would be your best choice if you require an accountant to: 

  • review financial statements, 
  • provide assurance services, 
  • perform tax planning, and/or 
  • need tax advice 

Hiring the best resource for the challenge you’re facing is an important first step on the road to resolution. You’ll save time, money, and heartache when you select the best professional for the job at hand.