Business Administration Faculty Publications

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The CPA Journal

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For years, the research of cognitive scientists has produced practical insights into the learning process, many of which can be applied to accounting. Specifically, accounting researchers have found a strong connection between knowledge and performance: A practitioner’s level of knowledge, whether the result of an advanced degree, CPE, or years of specialized experience, is a good predictor of performance in accounting tasks. Thus, methods that enhance knowledge can increase performance, benefiting both practitioners and their firms.

This article presents the results of a study investigating the means by which tax practitioners most effectively acquire knowledge. The characteristics of those practitioners with higher knowledge should be of interest to new practitioners wishing to succeed in their careers, as well as to any firm that benefits from the expertise of its tax professionals. esearch has shown that knowledge accounts for performance differences between practitioners when using their professional judgment. Knowledge can be a better predictor of performance than years of professional experience. In other words, professional experience alone does not generate knowledge. Management of the specific education and experience that lead to knowledge acquisition is critical to improving professional performance.

In general, practitioners begin the knowledge acquisition process by building a knowledge base of facts, concepts, instructions, and examples. Professionals must also develop the ability to apply this knowledge base to fact patterns encountered in practice. The ability to apply their knowledge base to real-world situations is possibly the single most important characteristic of a successful practitioner. Recognizing practitioners that already demonstrate this ability can be invaluable in hiring successful new tax professionals.


Tax professionals, income tax law



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