Choosing A CPA

Choosing a New CPA – Question Tips on What to Ask to Find a Good CPA

Ask. . . Because, A good Accountant will file your taxes, but a Great Accountant Works With you to Help Save You Money!

changing accounts to save money-mwbmw-comOk, so you are looking for a new or different CPA.

. . . Maybe you had a great CPA in the past,

. . . Maybe you are just looking for someone new and different because you want to or

. . . Maybe you are feeling as if you could do better on your taxes if you switched your CPA (OR Bookkeeper).

Whatever your reasons, there are a few things to keep in mind when you are choosing a new CPA (OR Bookkeeper).  Tax filing season is upon us and ideally, your search has begun long before this time of the year. The bottom line is that the sooner you get started, the better, because good relationships have a chance to develop before it’s crunch time!

Overwhelmed Accountants are hard pressed in March or April to help a client who is completely new. if you decide to show up at a CPA’s office on April 1, hoping to be put first in line for completion of your Schedule C and your Corporate tax filing (plus your payroll and 1099/1096 filings) – think again. You are more than likely to be put at the end of the waiting list and will probably have to file an extension.

SEE HERE for a current list of Federal tax filing deadlines/calendar.

There are important issues that matter beyond your tax preparation. You will need (and want) to find a professional who understands – specifically – your type of business and may understand your personal financial situation too. You’ll also want someone you feel comfortable with. I have found that it is one of the most important choices you will make. You are trusting someone else with the information that makes up your business, your assets, and your problems. Complete confidentiality.

Choose a CPA carefully. Most people start looking by asking like-minded business owners for referrals, especially if they are in the same industry. For instance, a restaurant owner is going to want an accountant with experience in restaurants and an auto repair business will want someone with experience in auto repair… because their experience in that area is important.

Once you have some names to call, make an interview appointment with that person. Do not be shy when it comes to asking probing questions about a CPA’s experience and background. They will be handling all of your issues regarding your financial security. It’s not out of the ordinary to ask these questions.

Good questions to ask –

Has anyone ever sued you for malpractice?

Have you ever been reported for malpractice?

Do you have references? May I have three?

When you call the references ask them:
(1) How that accountant works with them
(2) Whether or not they are satisfied with the service they are getting.

Do I pay by the hour, OR as I go along?

OR, one lump sum for designated services (contracted)?

Do you require a retainer? Is the retainer applied to my balance or is additional money due?

Often people with a small business require the help of a CPA who knows more than tax prep. They need a person who is willing to also give them business advise. Not just their business, but their lives in relation to their business – vacations (for instance) that can be taken as business trips. Those kinds of business owners need quarterly tax help, business projections, tax projections, and generally want a comptroller type of accountant to watch over them.

If you are that kind of business person then another question you need to ask is if that accountant is willing to work with you in that capacity and what percentage of their client base makes up those kinds of clients?   For example, you’ll want to know if you can get the numbers you need for projections in time for your year-end meetings.

And some business owners want even more help yet – they want a CPA who will also do their bookkeeping.

– Watch out for this for the simple reason that a bookkeeper AND a CPA can work together and a bookkeeper will – in general – charge less than a CPA to do the same work, plus you have the added bonus of two set of eyes cross-checking the work of the other, therefore your chances of theft are lowered. Theft is big business these days.

Other questions you want to ask include:

If I am audited by the IRS will you handle the audit for me?

Do you provide correcting general journal entries to my bookkeeper at the end of the year when my taxes are filed or do you charge extra for that?

Do you do on-site visits for tax ‘health checkups?’

Coming from the side of the accountant you want to hear them asking YOU these questions:

What areas do you need help in? (Corporate taxes, individual taxes, business succession, estate planning, strategic planning are just a few of the things they should be asking you about).

The best question will be saved for last by any good accountant:

Why are you changing accountants?

  • Have a good answer ready because if you answer this one with, “I didn’t want to pay them,” you’ll be told by the person you are talking to that they aren’t accepting any new clients right now. It’s a small community and accountants call each other.

Finding a good CPA and bookkeeper can be scary, so use these simple tips to get yourself started.