Whether you’re just starting a business or your company has taken off, managing finances and legalities can be complicated. For one, keeping track of the money going in and out is key to turning over revenue. On the other hand, understanding the legal implications of business structure decisions can be the difference between protecting your hard-earned wealth or having your personal assets on the line.
If you’re looking for a hand, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can help you navigate the financial and legal aspects of your business. Among many responsibilities, a CPA can assist you to maximize your tax savings or represent you before the IRS in the case of audits or collections. In addition, a CPA gives you valuable insight into your business’s well-being. For example, they may help you understand critical business metrics, such as the ratio of salaries to total revenue.
Deciding who to hire as the CPA for your business is an important decision. Before you choose someone, consider asking them these seven questions.
Question #1: What Services Will I Need?
Are you looking for someone to help you handle accounting and payroll, or do you just need some assistance during tax season? Will you need an in-house CPA, or are you primarily searching for part-time help? The answer to this question may depend on the size of your business or the stage of growth your company is experiencing. Figuring out what you’ll need help with and to what extent you’ll need the CPA’s support can help you determine the kind of experience and qualifications to look for in a CPA.
Question #2: What Are Their Credentials?
If you’ve found a few candidates, check to make sure each one is a Certified Public Accountant. A CPA can complete certain actions that an accountant cannot, such as preparing an audited financial statement. In addition, a CPA has passed an exam, is licensed by your state and completes ongoing education requirements. To verify, you can look up their license number. You can use a tool such as the NASBA CPA Verify site. Furthermore, if the CPA will be preparing your taxes, double-check that they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). You can do this by searching the IRS Return Preparer Office Directory.
Question #3: Do Others Recommend This CPA?
If you’re looking for a starting point, ask for recommendations from other local business owners who you know and trust. Another way to get a good grasp on a potential CPA’s reputation is by reading online reviews and conducting a simple Google search. If you find or read anything questionable, you may want to take it as a red flag.
Question #4: How Long Have They Been in the Industry?
Understanding a CPA’s level of experience can be critical in deciding whether or not you want to work with them. Depending on what you need assistance with, you may need to seek out an experienced CPA with a background in handling complex account situations. Asking the CPA about their previous experience can help you better understand if they can meet your needs.
Question #5: Who Will I Be Communicating and Working With?
In some cases, a CPA might work with a team and delegate certain tasks. If this is the case, you may want to ask how large the team is and what their qualifications are. If their team is comprised of those who are new to the industry, this may not be the kind of support you’re looking for. In addition, you’ll want to understand who you’ll be directly communicating with along with how they prefer to communicate. If you are someone who prefers phone calls but a CPA usually has an assistant communicate with you over email, they may not be a good fit for the high-touch service you need.
Question #6: What Are Their Fees?
Understanding how much potential candidates charge is essential in choosing the CPA that is right for your business. You may also want to ask how they bill. For example, some CPAs may bill by project, while others might charge hourly. This also might change depending on the service. When possible, getting an estimate in writing will enable you to have a document to refer to when discussing payment.
Question #7: Would They Be Able to Represent Me in Front of the IRS?
In the case of an audit or collection, having an enrolled agent in your corner can advise you and help you adequately prepare. Some CPAs are also enrolled agents, professionals who are legally permitted to represent taxpayers in front of the IRS. Enrolled agents have completed a comprehensive test, must adhere to certain ethical standards and are required to complete ongoing education.
Meeting candidates in person can help you gauge whether or not you can trust this individual and if you feel they’ll be a good fit for your needs and communication style. After all, a CPA will be assisting you with confidential and critical matters towards the present and future well-being of your business.
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