Today, you can find an online tutorial for anything, including your taxes. With all the resources available, do you need to hire a CPA?
A good certified public accountant (CPA) doesn’t only file your tax returns. They can work with you year-round to keep your business’s finances in order and ensure you comply with all necessary regulations.
From fraud prevention to cash management, a CPA can help give you and your business the best chance at success.
How Do You Find the Best CPA?
Finding the best CPA for you and your business means doing research. Still, having an expert on your side will work to your advantage in the long run. Use these tips to help with your CPA search.
Step 1: Compile a List of Potential CPAs and Accountants
1. Ask friends, family, and co-workers for referrals.
Ask people around you who they rely on and trust with their taxes and financials. Make sure to ask for specifics. Find out exactly why they like their CPA.
Knowing what qualities are most important to you — thoroughness, personal attention, extensive knowledge — will help you find a CPA who fits the bill.
2. Search the IRS directory.
Most people don’t visit the IRS website outside of tax time. The IRS website can be a vital resource when you’re making your list of potential CPAs. You can find helpful tips and look into the credentials of qualified professionals in your area.
3. Check with your state or national associations.
The best CPAs often maintain memberships in professional organizations on a state and national level. These organizations, like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the National Association of Tax Professionals, can help you locate CPAs in your area.
Step 2 Verify Their Credentials
Read online reviews.
Google is a valuable resource for CPA research, and you can even use Google to find reviews on each CPA. These online reviews can help you figure out which CPAs to keep on your list and which ones to avoid.
2. Ask for a Preparer Tax Identification Number
Make sure to request your CPA’s Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. Remember that the PTIN is not an indication of quality or qualifications. It only means the holder can prepare a tax return for a client. You still need to do your homework to be sure a CPA has the expertise and experience you want.
3. Reconsider those who don’t e-file
Any paid tax preparer, including CPAs, who file 11 or more returns a year must use the e-file system. If your CPA doesn’t, they may lack experience or play fast and loose with the rules. Cross them off the list.
Step 3 Make an Appointment
Once you have narrowed down your list of potential CPAs by obtaining referrals, checking credentials, reading online reviews, visiting the websites of state and national professional organizations, and going to irs.gov, your due diligence still isn’t complete.
Next, make an appointment to visit each CPA on your list in person. Some, like MI TAX CPA, offer free initial consultations. You should arrive at the office with a list of questions to ask during the meeting, like those below.
Why should I retain your services instead of acting as my own accountant?
Millions of people use online tax preparation software every year, but all it does is file your taxes with the information you input. An expert CPA lives and breathes complex accounting and tax laws. They can keep your financial world in order all year — not just on April 15.
What is your standard timeline during tax season?
No matter how accurate a CPA’s calculations are, if you have different thoughts about timelines, you won’t have a good working relationship. Choose a CPA who files according to what makes you comfortable. If you organize your information and like to file early, work with a CPA who does the same.
Will I typically meet with you or members of your staff?
Plenty of CPAs surround themselves with quality teams who help serve their clients. That may work for you. However, if you want to develop a rapport and get the expertise of one person, get a CPA who works with you personally.
How do you prefer to communicate, and how soon can I expect you to get back to me?
Some people like the immediacy of a phone call while others prefer to collect their thoughts in an email. If you and your CPA have different communication approaches, it opens the door for confusion. For example, if you reach out with an emergency and it takes your CPA three or four days to get back to you, that creates a problem.
How many clients do you have?
You may prefer the varied expertise that comes with a CPA serving a large client base. On the other hand, you may like the personal attention from a CPA with a handful of clients. Rely on your needs and comfort level to help you decide.
What type of clients do you serve?
While you’re looking for a CPA who is an expert at crunching the numbers, if they know a bit about your work, it can be helpful. As an entrepreneur, you want someone who’s worked with start-ups. If you’re a physician, you may feel more comfortable with a CPA who understands the business side of a medical practice.
Step 4 Compare fees
A new CPA may offer reduced rates so they can build a client list. But, what if they lack the expertise to deal with some of your more complex financial issues and cost you money in the long run?
On the other hand, the highest hourly billing rate does not equal the most knowledgeable and qualified CPA.
Consider each CPA’s fee with all of the other factors you’ve examined to help you make the best choice.
Whether you need help starting a new business, working through some sticky financial issues with your existing business, or filing your taxes, a great CPA can make a world of difference.
While something like day-to-day bookkeeping may seem simple, doing it well is more complex and time-consuming than you might think. A CPA who not only knows but enjoys the ins and outs of bookkeeping can help put your business on healthy financial footing.
Take the time to hire a reputable tax pro and review their work carefully to help ease your worries this tax season.
MI TAX CPA is a full-service firm dedicated to individuals and local businesses in Michigan. We combine online convenience, expertise, and a personal touch to put our clients first. Call us to set up an appointment for your free consultation.