Whether it be for personal, business, or tax purposes; finding the right accountant for you is quite important. The consequences that come with having a poor accountant are too significant for someone to simply go with whatever person a friend/family member is using, or the first person/firm that shows up on a Google search. There are many qualifications to consider when beginning the process of choosing the right person for you. Here are 10 steps that need to be taken in this qualification process.
This is a simple yet important point. Whichever account that you select to work with will be exposed to the greater details of your personal and/or business financial information. For this reason, you need to ensure that the prospective client is competent and trustworthy. “Has there been any past discrepancies that you do not feel comfortable with?” is a question you should ask yourself. An accountant should be able to provide you with verifiable references. This is quite helpful because you will get information from the best sources who have first-hand experience working the accountant.
Whomever you choose as your accountant should be well trained and educated in order to best serve you. Look for accountants who have certifications like CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CMA (Certified Management Accountant), or EA (Enrolled Agent). This will ensure that they have passed an advanced exam and must take continuing education courses to keep their certification. These people will be knowledgeable and keep their minds fresh as time moves forward. What kind of formal education does the accountant have? This is also important. If your accountant has a bachelors or masters degree in accounting, then you know that they dove in deep on multiple accounting topics and came up successful.
While certification and education are important, it is beneficial to know what type of knowledge your accountant has focused in on. For example, a CPA may have tons of experience in financial accounting but may have very little focused training in tax accounting. An account like that would not be the best option when rare and advanced tax issues arise. On the other hand, if the accountant was an EA or had an accounting degree with a focus on personal and business tax, then this would be the better fit when looking for someone to tackle big tax issues. Lastly, with all education and certifications being considered, the best situation is if their training is coupled with direct experience in the areas that are most helpful to you.
Years of Experience
How many years of experience an accountant has is another asset to consider. An accountant with years of experience can sometimes be more beneficial than one with all the certifications and college degrees with little to no outside experience. The more years of experience allows for an accountant to be exposed to more varieties of tax work and the complexities that come with it. For this reason, look for accountants who have some years behind them in the field.
Most people and businesses need help and require tax advice in the event of an audit. There are many services that can be offered by an accountant. Services like bookkeeping, estate planning, financial analysis, investment advice, and representation before the IRS may be something you need. It is wise to look for accountants who can offer a variety of services. This will make sure that no matter what kind of assistance you need, the person helping you understands your financial situation from multiple angles, and you will always be working with someone that you makes you comfortable.
Though cost should not be the biggest factor in choosing an accountant, it is. Consider that accountants who have the most experience will have higher costs. Do not settle for the absolute cheapest option because the service you receive will likely reflect the cost. Also, do not allow yourself to be price gouged. Be sure to look at the industry standards in the services cost and compare before making your final decision.
The location and availability of your accountant could be extremely important if you need to see them multiple times and not just once a year to file taxes. If you are a person who will need frequent support to answer important questions, then you will want an accountant who is easily accessible. An accountant who is just a simple phone call away is great to have. How responsive an accountant is to their email is also very important. At times when you are on the move and have some important topics of discussion, sending an email is a great option, but you need to know that the person on the other end of that email will get back to you within a reasonable amount of time. Lastly, sometimes you just need to be able to sit down with your accountant at look at them in the face. In this case, being able to schedule an appointment at a time and within a time frame that is effective with your schedule is also important. Be sure to understand the level of accessibility and availability you need from your accountant and what level they can offer you before making your decision.
Do they save you money?
Having tax and accounting compliance is imperative when working with an accountant, but their services should go beyond that. Make sure that saving you money is one of the major benefits that an accountant offers you. Great tax and financial accountants should plan and focus on saving you money with their services.
Will they help your company grow?
Another accounting aspect to consider is the growth of your business. If you own a business, look for an accountant who will make it their business to periodically analyze your company to ensure that you are on a growth trend and advise accordingly if you are not.
Finally, as you go through your candidates and check off the boxes, do not forget to trust your intuition. Pay attention to how you feel when you meet with this person for the first time. Do not ignore the pertinent information, but also go with your gut because this is a person that you will be working with.
If you are currently or will be looking for an accountant, it is my hope that this information will help you along the way. What I can tell you is that Molen & Associates offers an array of services like tax preparation, tax advising, IRS representation, bookkeeping, financial statement analysis, and investment management. So, if you are in the market for an accounting firm, we can offer great assistance with your needs.
Tax Advisor, Accounting