5 Things You Need to Know Before You Hire an Accountant
Tax season. For most of us, this is the most dreadful time of the year — that’s why a good accountant is one of the most in-demand professionals out there. In addition to wading through confusing financial records, qualified accountants expertly crunch numbers, speak fluent financial jargon, and can easily juggle multiple clients at a time.
With the passage of the recent 2017 tax bill, accountants will now face even more challenges in their work, which means choosing the right accountant for your personal or business finances may become even more difficult. To simplify the process, we’ve compiled five tips to make finding and hiring the best accountant for your needs a breeze.
Determine Your Requirements
Just as not all lawyers practice the same type of law, neither do accountants. There’s CPAs (or Certified Public Accountants) who take advanced courses in accounting, auditing, and taxation, and typically charge more for their services. Business accountants focus on business management needs, while tax accountants are well-versed in the Internal Revenue code, and forensic accountants know the ins and outs of financial crimes. Before you begin your search for an accountant, research exactly what type of financial help you require.
Look for Prior Experience
Would you trust your money in a novice’s hands? We didn’t think so. While inexperience might be cheaper, in the long run, it can cost you more financially. Experienced accountants come with more knowledge and confidence in their abilities, which can help put both your mind and your wallet at ease. Before you hire, talk to references and past clients about their performance and delivery. Or visit your state’s Society of Certified Public Accountants website or the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy to get a referral.
The last thing you want is to hire someone and then, once the contract is signed, you never hear from them again. This common bait-and-switch tactic is annoying at best and can be financially devastating at worst. When interviewing a potential accountant, discuss their turnaround time for filings, reports, and other urgent matters. How accessible are they on the phone, email, or in-person visits? If possible, talk to previous clients to get a sense of their responsiveness.
Compare Pricing and Service
Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to compare costs for nearly everything. But as we learned earlier, cheaper isn’t necessarily better. So get clear about pricing and inquire about their pay structure or estimated costs. When shopping for accountants, we recommend interviewing at least three separate candidates. Be thorough and thoughtful in your conversations and keep in mind that it is their job to convince you that they are the most capable person for the job.
Be an Expert On Your Finances
Just because you have employed a tax professional to help you handle your cash flow, it doesn’t mean you are no longer responsible for your own money. You should view your accountant as someone who helps manage your finances, not the one who controls them. You, and only you, are accountable for your financial health. That is to say, don’t hire anyone without first familiarizing or educating yourself about your own cash situation.
Though some of these tips require some preparation on your end, you’ll find that this extra effort will ultimately be beneficial in your search for an accountant — making this coming tax season a little less burdensome.