Certified Professional Accountants (CPAs) are more than just individuals who do your yearly taxes.
They can advise you on a long list of finance and business issues.
Some CPAs are also Personal Financial Specialists (PFS™). They are advisors with additional experience, education, and certification that set them apart from other CPAs.
Additionally, if you’re looking for a tax professional, Enrolled Agents (EAs) may be what you need. An EA is a federally authorized tax advisor, empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels—examination, collection, and appeals—of the Internal Revenue Service.
CPAs are part of a business owner’s core professional team along with a banker and lawyer (and I hope coach!). Here are some suggestions on choosing the right one for you and your business.
You can find a CPA through your local Chamber of Commerce, who will tell you the names of members who are CPAs. Also, when you attend other types of business meetings, ask other business owners whom they use and why.
Most people spend more time conducting research to buy a new car then they do to find the best CPA or financial advisor! Below are questions and other considerations when hiring a CPA, EA, or CPA/PFS.
Be different! Before hiring, interview three CPAs. Don’t rush this decision. Make sure you have the best CPA and bookkeeper for you and your business!
Are you in their niche?
Pick a CPA whose niche (most of their clients) is business owners. A CPA is more apt to keep up with the laws specific to clients they deal with most often. If your business is incorporated, you may want to make sure they are, too.
Basic Interview Questions
What services do they perform for their clients most often? How long have they been in business full-time? What do they do to keep up with new finance laws? Why should you hire them over another CPA? These are very enlightening questions. Of course, ask them for 3 references and ask to see their license.
What do they charge?
Ask about their rates and what those rates include. If they have a rate chart, even better. Also, ask what their hourly rate is, should you have a complex issue to talk to them about, and what the cost would be to answer questions during the year. If you bring a copy of last year’s tax return to a meeting, your prospective CPA can give you better estimates as to what their services will cost you.
What record keeping system do they prefer?
Ask what computer program they prefer you use for your record keeping and why they prefer that program. Many times, if you use the program they suggest, it can save you money because they can use your data files. Some even have programs they’ll set up especially for you. Before I became a tax preparer (many years ago), I used to bring my CPA a copy of my QuickBooks file, and I printed a P and L for the conversation we’d be having.
How do they prefer you file?
If you want to save money, ask how they want your paper files. If you bring your files to them in shoe-boxes – hey, many folks do – you will pay to have all that material organized and deciphered! You can save money if you separate the information the way the CPA suggests.
Large or small company?
Are you interested in working with a group of CPAs or a CPA that has his or her own business? If you opt for the corporation, find out if you’ll be dealing with one person or if it will be whoever answers the phone when you call. It’s best to build a relationship with one person.
When do they work?
What are their hours of operation? Are their hours something you can easily accommodate? Make sure you can call them at hours that are convenient for you.
If it’s time to add a qualified CPA to the business and finance advisors for your firm, get to it!
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