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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Finding a Good Accountant
Ah, it’s that time of year again. Time to start worrying about getting your taxes filed. And if you own a business, taxes can be a really stressful burden. If you do your taxes yourself or have a friend/family member help, you may want to consider hiring a CPA. Having a CPA do your taxes can be much more relaxing and take some of the burden off your shoulders.
First, it may help to know what a CPA is (if you don’t already). It stands for “Certified Public Accountant,” though it may be more appropriate to call them Certified Professional Advisors, because their roles in aiding your business will often go beyond your accounting.
There are several things you need to do in order to find the right CPA for you:
Determine Your Needs
First, make a list of what you are wanting in a CPA – what your needs and desires are, how you want them to help, how involved you want them to be in your business (every day or just when it’s tax time), what you can afford to pay, etc.
It’s better to obtain recommendations from friends, business associates, and the like regarding a good CPA rather than just looking in the phone book. Additionally, check with sources like CPAdirectory.com, which will also allow you to verify a CPA’s license (which is very important).
Narrow the Field
Narrow the CPA’s on your list down to those that have 60% or more of their clients in business similar to your own as far as size, productivity, expenses, etc. This means the CPA will have more experience with the laws and regulations associated with taxes for your type of business. While that 60% of their clients doesn’t necessarily need to be in your specific industry, they need to have a knowledge and familiarity with your industry (i.e. at least two other clients).
Don’t make any final decisions without interviewing the prospects on your list. It’s better to do so in person, rather than over the phone, so you can get a better feel for their personality. You’ll be working with this person very closely, so you want to make sure you get along well. Ask the following questions in the interview:
Will you have one CPA assigned to your account and always work with that person only, will there be associates helping from time to time, or will you have a different person helping you every time you call? It’s better to work with the same person so that you can develop a relationship. When it comes to handling your finances, trust is of the utmost importance.
What are their rates and how are they calculated (i.e. do you get charged for every single telephone call)? It’s a good idea to take a copy of last year’s tax returns to the interview so that they can better determine what services you will need from them.
Is there a certain program they prefer you use? How often and in what format do they prefer that your records be turned in for calculations? What can you do on your side in order to save them time and save yourself money?
Request information on the CPA’s business (i.e. how long they’ve been in business, how often they or their clients get audited, the status of their certification, etc.). Additionally, request references and be sure to call them. You have to know how they are handling their other clients in order to get a better idea of how they will handle you.
Ask them for a couple of suggestions, based upon what they see thus far of your business, of what you might be able to do to help maximize deductions and save money. Their responses will help you to determine how helpful they would be as your CPA.
Compare their responses during the interview to the needs and desires you wrote down initially. More or less, however, this will be a time when you should probably trust your instincts. If you don’t feel right about a certain CPA, even if you can’t pinpont why, then you probably shouldn’t hire him/her. On the other hand, if everything feels right, then give them a shot. Keep in mind that, when they take on the responsibility of filing your tax returns and being your overall accountant, they are held just as responsible as you are should a problem arise. Don’t make the decision lightly, but realize that they are taking a risk too.
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