Selecting a Small Business Accountant
by ChristineL, Former Moderator
- Created: November 4, 2009, 9:40 am
- Updated: February 10, 2011, 7:41 pm
Many small business owners do their finances and taxes on their own, so you may ask: why should I find an accountant? The reason: no matter what stage your small business is in, you can benefit from having an accountant on your side.
Why Hire an Accountant?
- Accountants often do more than prepare tax forms for their small business clients. They can act as a trusted consultant and advisor to your small business. A good accountant would be able to advise you on growth opportunities, risk management, bookkeeping, and general financial planning.
- If your small business is closely tied to your personal finances, a good accountant can help you make sound judgments that are beneficial to both your personal finances and your small business. This guidance can be especially helpful when you're just starting up and using your own funds to finance business expenses.
- Accountants can serve as a great resource that you can tap into for recommendations on which loans to apply for, banks that satisfy your small business needs, and whatever you need on the finance end.
Good Practices for Choosing an Accountant
Here are some tips for avoiding common pitfalls and needless headaches in your search for a small business accountant:
Determine your needs
There is no one-size-fits-all method for managing small business finances. Make sure that your accountant specializes in small businesses, and ideally has knowledge of your industry. Beyond that, you will need to decide what level of support is appropriate and affordable for your business. Enrolled agents, certified public accountants, and tax attorneys bring different skills and charge different rates.
Word of mouth is a good way to find good accountants. Talk to your family, friends, peers, even your attorney for recommendations. You can also inquire with institutions and organizations like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants*, your state Board of Accountants, or a local Chamber of Commerce.
Interview your candidates
Remember that you are hiring someone that will fulfill your business needs and requirements. Treat it like a job interview that you would give to any potential employee. Ask about:
- Professional qualifications like their licenses and experience
- Personnel who will actually do the work, and their response times
- Fees and charges to make sure they are in line with your budget
- Specialized services that you may want in the future - for example, audit support
- Clientele (past and current) so you can gauge their expertise
What if My Current Accountant Isn't a Good Fit?
If you had a bad experience with an accountant, take what you've learned to find a better fit for your business. You should also consider your timing - if you're just about to file significant tax changes or take on a large financial project, you'll want to leave yourself enough time to find someone new. After all, a rush to judgment could leave you in the same position you're in.
You are the person who is ultimately responsible for your taxes and finances. Be wary of accountants who promise things that seem too good to be true. If you have concerns about an accountant's claims you should contact your state's Board of Accountancy* and/or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility to check their licenses and ensure they are in good standing.
SCORE's tips on How to Find a Good Accountant
*Note: Hyperlink directs reader to non-government web site.
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