(Once again, I’m pleased to be able to host an interesting and useful post from a helpful guest poster. This time, you can read about how to choose the best accountant for your needs, which is always a tricky task. Here’s hoping that Raine Parker’s suggestions help you out the next time you find yourself wondering how to find someone to help you handle your finances and all that financial paperwork.)
Perhaps for most of your life, you’ve handled your accounting on your own. After all, you may think, why pay someone to work on your money matters when you can do it all yourself? There does come a point, however, when things get more complicated. Maybe you’ve started your own business, or perhaps you’ve acquired more assets, pursued more investments, or you’ve generally just gone on to bigger and better things. And with bigger and better things comes astronomically more complicated tax returns. While you may have some accounting strategies that you’ve picked up over the years, sometimes turning to a trained expert can help you save way more money than you think. Seen in this light, hiring an accountant to help you maximize your bottom line is essentially making you money in the long-run. Don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips for finding the perfect accountant.
1. Ask people whom you know and trust for suggestions.
The best first source to find a new accountant is to ask people within your social network. After all, you ask friends, family, and co-workers about doctors and restaurants; why not turn to them for suggestions on hiring an accountant? It’s especially helpful to ask those in your circle who own businesses or have been using (or firing) the same accountant for some time. Make a list of these suggested accountants in your area.
2. Read reviews to whittle down your list.
Online reviews, such as are found on sites like Yelp.com, are a great place to get more feedback on accountants from outside your friend circle. Once you’ve established a list from those accountants mentioned in number one, further hone your final list by availing yourself of online forums. Beware of overly enthusiastic and formulaic reviews (a sign that they are faked), and pay heed to reviews which give lots of specific details about accountants both good and bad.
3. Verify certifications, check references, and conduct interviews.
While there are many accountants out there who may have some experience, you want to find one who is a certified CPA. That means asking to see credentials and checking with your state’s board of accountancy or member organizations so as to obtain possible references. Once these preliminaries are completed, interview a few accountants. Here are some great sample accountant interview questions.
4. Place a heavy emphasis on finding a creative accountant.
Although some may disagree with this tip, you want to look for an aggressive accountant who will do everything he or she can for you in terms of taxes. Tax laws are notoriously complex and convoluted, and thus open up a space for completely legal loopholes of various kinds. If you find a creative accountant who knows the IRS and tax laws like the back of her hand, this will be a huge plus for you and your business.
5. If you have specialized needs, look for specialist.
There isn’t just one general CPA certificate for which all accountants complete to learn the same things. There’s tons of variations, so different accountants have different specialties (something you should ask for during interviews). If you have an unusual problem or set of problems that needs fixing, or if you own a business in a specific industry, find an accountant who specializes in these areas.
Finding the perfect accountant is a difficult process, no bones about it. But if you do your homework, having an accountant whom you can trust to grow your personal or business finances can be a huge advantage. It’ll save you lots of money and heartache if you make your selection process as painstaking as possible.
This guest contribution was submitted by Raine Parker, who regularly writes for online accounting degree. She can be reached via email at: raine.parker6[at]gmail[dot]com.