When you finally grow to the point that you need an accountant and not just the local tax place each tax season, you might be a little worried about choosing the right one. How do you know if they can do what they say they can, how do you know if they have experience dealing with your industry, and so on. There are tons of questions that pop up and you don’t feel that comfortable interviewing accountant after accountant. Now what?
Well, first you need to decide if you need to hire someone full-time, or if you just need a CPA or another accountant. If you decide to hire on someone full-time, then a great place to find a qualified accountant is through a temporary service that only deals with accounting or finance temps. Most major cities have these types of employment services, and if yours doesn’t, you can always check with the professional temporary services as you will find an accountant there. But, why not just hire someone out of a classified ad? Here’s why: through a temporary service, an applicant is already screened and their skills are assessed before they ever get to your door. The agency will ask you what it is that you need and want in a full-time accountant, and they will work their hardest to provide that person for you. Through a classified ad, someone can send you a great resume and you can hire them, only to find out that they can’t do what you need.
If you decide that you just need a CPA or outside accountant, then the search is on. One of the best places to find a good accountant in your area is to start with your local Chamber of Commerce. Usually, your local Chamber will have a list of accountants in your area and will be happy to recommend a couple to you. You should also check with other business owners or friends and family who own businesses in your area. There is also the good ‘ole phone book, as you can find a listing there of all the accountants in, and around, your area. Start making a list of CPAs and accountants in your area who have gotten good recommendations from people you know or the Chamber, and then start making your list of questions to ask them.
Most business owners will moan and groan at the thought of interviewing an accountant until they find one that they are satisfied with, but if you ask the right questions, you’ll find the right one quickly. Here are some questions that you need to ask any CPA or accountant you are considering:
1. Do they have experience in dealing with your industry? When you talk to an accountant about this, make sure that you tell them which industry you’re in and a bit about your needs. Ask them if they have dealt with any other companies or businesses in the same industry and if they have experience dealing with the things you need. Ask if they know about tax breaks for your specific industry or other items that will help you come tax time.
2. Do they have a degree, and if so, what in? This one is self-explanatory. You don’t want an accountant who has an acting degree.
3. Do they have experience dealing with an audit should one arise? You don’t want to have an account that has never dealt with the IRS or an audit when you have one.
4. Are they open all week, or only certain days? If they aren’t in their office all day, can you reach them by phone?
5. Do they cover their own mistakes? Such as, if they make a mistake on a tax return will they pay any fees or penalties caused by those mistakes.
6. If they have been in business for a while, ask how long their longest client has been with them. This will tell you if they are a good accountant or not, as a good accountant will have a long list of clients who use them year after year.
7. After tax time is over, can you get in touch with them throughout the year for information or advice for tax purposes? Or can they help you with organizing your finances to help at tax time next year?
Of course, there are always those online accounting services, but they are not recommended for business owners. You have to either mail or scan and email in all of your information and you don’t get to sit down and deal with a real person when your taxes are being prepared. It’s always best to find a local accountant that you can sit down with.
When you are interviewing accountants, make sure that you find one that you feel comfortable with. You don’t want to hire an accountant that you don’t get along with, so hire the one that makes you feel comfortable with their abilities and skills and that you can talk to about tax information or problems. This will make tax time go a lot smoother.