Traditionally, accountants have looked skeptically at the idea that they should offer their clients formal investment guidance. They have considered it a conflict of interest to simultaneously advise clients on taxation matters and prepare their tax returns while also helping guide their investment decisions.

But increasingly, CPAs and EAs are coming around to the idea that they may be able to serve their clients more holistically by offering personal financial planning and investment guidance within the context of their more traditional tax and accounting services. Even the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) recognizes the potential value of offering such an enhanced mix of services; the institute provides a Personal Financial Specialist TM (PFSTM) designation to members already holding the CPA designation who complete specific requirements and demonstrate the requisite knowledge in areas like retirement planning, investment strategies and others.

The critical element for successfully combining the two service tracks in any accounting practice is recognition of the fiduciary standard of care. Accountants have been viewed by the general public as a client’s “most trusted advisor” and while accountants have not been regarded as fiduciaries — obligated to act always in the best interest of the client—the professional standards promoted by the AICPA “are closely analogous to a fiduciary relationship—objectivity, integrity, free of conflicts of interest and truthfulness.”1 This should reassure CPAs of the fiduciary alignment of working in the client’s best interest.

Advantages for Accountants and Their Clients

Advantages for clients of CPAs and EAs who incorporate personal financial planning into their practices include the potential for increased understanding of clients’ entire financial pictures, the ability to better integrate tax efficiency with the client’s overall financial strategy, and the deepening of trust placed by the client in the CPA’s or EA’s advice and counsel. The fact is that many clients already think of their accountants as sources of sound financial advice; broadening the scope of service to investment management and personal financial planning serves to solidify this bond. The holistic view of the client’s financial picture can also present opportunities that might be overlooked when there are blind spots in the client’s overall financial plan.

For CPAs and EAs, the advantages of an increased scope of service include the following:

  • Potential increases in revenue streams (without the necessity of adding new clients)
  • Enhancement of client relationships
  • Improved valuation metrics for the practice
  • Income diversification (often with a proportionate reduction in “tax season stress”)

The Wealth Advisor Alliance offers the support and resources needed to help accountants launch and maintain successful investment and personal financial planning services for their existing and new clients. We provide infrastructure services that reduce the administrative and compliance burden, allowing you to attend to the most essential factor of all: spending time with your clients. To learn more, read our white paper, “Adding Financial Advisory Services to Your Accounting Practice.”



1 AICPA & CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants), “Prudent Practices for Investment Advisors and Investment Stewards,” December 4, 2017.

2 Tom Lemmon, “How Many Accountants Are Unaffected by Stress? Just 2%,” May 13, 2019.


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