No matter how small your business is, at some point in time, you’re going to need an accountant. Some small business owners only call up their CPA once a year when tax time rolls around, but others seek financial counsel throughout the year. An experienced CPA can help guide your business away from dangerous waters, and help you build its value and your own net worth. The most critical task is finding the right accountant for your business. Here are six important steps in finding the CPA of your dreams.
1. Determine Your Needs
Are you looking for a seasoned business coach to help review your financials every month? Or, perhaps simply a CPA to prepare your returns and financial statements at year end? CPAs have varied backgrounds and specialize in different industries and business sizes. Some will do small business bookkeeping in-house, some offer consulting services, and some only deal with individual tax issues. In order to find the right fit, articulate exactly what you are seeking (in writing) so that, when you meet with potential new CPAs, you can ensure there’s a good fit.
2. Ask Your Professional Associates
One of the best sources of referrals for CPAs comes from other professionals you work with: lawyers, bookkeepers, fellow businesspeople, and even your dentist. Chances are they all have an accountant and can offer an opinion on them. While you can look up accountants in the Yellow Pages or Yelp, it helps to hear the personal experiences of those whose opinions you already trust.
3. Meet With Several Candidates
Once you have a list of potential CPAs, meet with each one personally to find out if they are a good fit from a personality perspective. A CPA’s advice can go unheeded if he can’t translate it into everyday English for you. A CPA who charges you throughout the year for five-minute phone conversations will likely prevent you from asking critical questions in a timely manner. Ask about services offered and fees assessed, and find out how many small businesses similar to yours he deals with.
4. Ask For References
Whether you found your potential new CPA through a friend’s referral or not, it’s always a good idea to get several references from the accountant’s clients. Ask for contact information for two or three clients that are similar to your business and call them. Ask them about their interactions with the CPA, and what they think are his strengths and weaknesses.
5. Visit the AICPA Website
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants maintains a listing of CPAs that have specialized credentials. If you need a CPA to assess the value of your business or set up benefit plans for your employees, for example, you can search the database for one in your area with the required skills.
6. Find a CPA on TurboTax’s CPA Select
If you’re looking for a CPA to prepare your small business taxes at the end of the year, whether you’re self-employed or incorporated, Intuit TurboTax offers a new service called CPA Select. This service provides a list of affiliated CPAs in your area. You can review their background and read reviews from clients. One benefit of this approach is that you always know what you will be paying ahead of time. If your tax situation doesn’t neatly fit in to one of the accountant’s standard categories, you can get a free quote on customized services before you get started.
Choosing a CPA can feel like a daunting prospect, but the more time and effort you put in upfront, the better your chances are of finding just the right match.