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Working abroad as a CPA

Discover tips for working abroad as a CPA.

Thinking about taking your skills as a CPA to an exotic foreign land? Good. Countries everywhere are clamoring for your knowledge on how to rock today’s global economy. But before you secure a passport and some durable luggage, here’s some advice on getting your ticket abroad.

Learn the big picture first.

“Stay general initially,” says CPA Cris Wolff, who specializes in international tax. “Learn about accounting issues, international standards, taxation, and start getting involved with international projects.” You have to know your stuff before a firm or company will feel confident sending you abroad.

Let your plan be known.

If you’re ready to be on the first plane to China, tell your managers and human resources that’s your goal. Find out what the organization’s policies are for transferring employees abroad, what opportunities there are, and how they can help you get there.

Use your passport whenever you can.

Wolff encourages young CPAs to travel abroad, even for fun, to get a feel for different people and places. “If [you] have an opportunity to go overseas, do—to actually try to live in a different country, to experience a different culture, to experience how business is conducted elsewhere, it definitely gives you a much better perspective.”

Get licensed before you go.

Having your CPA license will give you a leg up on the competition for international jobs. “The first question anyone will ask is, do you have your CPA or not?” says Felix von Lepel of KPMG Germany. “It’s difficult to distinguish between good students, so you need to have some kind of quality check—the CPA will put you in front of other people.”

Be ready for some challenges.

Obviously, moving to Russia isn’t like moving to Rhode Island. There will be all kinds of cultural differences, even at the office, cautions von Lepel. You’ll also have to get used to working in international financial reporting standards (IFRS) every day. And if you plan on staying a while, you’ll need to get licensed in that country—which could be as tough or tougher than the CPA was.

Looking to meet some international CPAs? Follow these tips for smart networking.

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