T Nation

Choosing an Accountant

Hey all!

I own a small business and am looking for an accountant. I realize that I should have done this earlier, but alas, I didn’t plan effectively.

My question is basically what should I look for in an accountant? I know that there are websites for this specific purpose, but I’m hoping that someone may be able to speak from personal experience.

Any advice would be great.

Thanks.

At a minimum a CPA. Beyone that look for one who lists himself as a former IRS agent or employee. It’s a big difference if you have a problem. Also depending on your business try and find one that knows your industry. It is imperative to find someone who does business accounting as a speciality.

At this stage of the game most accountants that are good will not take on a new client. They are too busy. Might want to get a referral from someone. That always helps.

Kin~

I work as an accounting specialist in an accounting department,am finishing my accounting degree, and my Pop is CPA (yeh I know, whoopdee doo)…but I think I can give a couple of thoughts here.

First, a lot of companies are starting to hire people for ‘accounting positions’ without a lot of accounting background.

Frankly, I find this is great to see as I for one hate to see the snobbery of some professions that think that a degree and a test necessarily replace experience and ‘real world’ knowledge.

I had to bail from a promising 8 year coaching career due to the fact that my dream job was given to a brand new college grad with 0 years of coaching experience because she had a degree…but I digress.

BUT at the same time, when it comes to the financial and legal ramifications of accounting, the legitimate argument that does come from hiring someone with the degree and certification (CPA) is that they are most likely up to date on the ever changing tax laws and accounting guidelines that businesses need to follow. Not to say that the other employee is in the dark but sometimes complacency can set into the accounting parctices of smaller businesses. I’ve seen it first hand and the after effects.

Check with your local commerce board, State Board of Accountancy, and local merchants associations for prominent small business accountants in your area.

Tips from http://sbinformation.about.com:

  1. Check with the state board of accountancy (for CPA’s), although that won’t tell you if they are “good” or “bad”, only if there have been complaints or other actions taken against the CPA. There are LOTS of people out there that are great, others that have had problems, and both never get recognized.

  2. Build a Referral List: Find at least five accountants by contacting your financial planner, banker, insurance agent, & industry association. Talk with business owners in your industry that you do not compete with directly.

  3. List Contact: Call the five accountants on your list and ask to discuss their services. Find out the firm’s size, their experience in your industry and educational background. Ask them to send information on their billing policies and fees.

  4. Select Three Best Candidates for Personal Meeting: Choose the accountants that responded promptly to your request and that had an understanding of your business and have fees within your budget.

  5. Final Interview: Find out if they will work directly on your account or if it is handled by an employee. Will they advise you on an audit, your ownership structure, and provide assistance with analysis of your financial statements?

  6. Final Selection: Base your selection on the best answers to your questions and the fact that they have other services to grow with your business or meet upcoming challenges. Are they approachable and professional enough for you?

An accountant should be more than a simple tax preparer. You need their advice and guidance in steering your business now and in the upcoming year.

Some sites:

http://www.find-an-accountant.net
http://www.1800accountant.com

Good article about finding a good accountant:

http://www.davidharkins.com/articles/finance/ten_steps.htm

Good luck~

Sprout

Sprout,

That is a fantastic post. You covered every aspect of what a good professional can provide and made it simple to follow.

Kinetix, follow that process and you will have the best service available.

If you are only getting a tax return from your accountant you are not fully utilising a valuable resource.