How to choose an accountant: 5 tips for small businesses

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As someone who owns or runs a business, there will likely come a time when you need to hire a reliable small business accountant. The value a good accountant can offer your business cannot be overstated. It’s one of the most important decisions you can make for your business.

A qualified and reliable accountant can help you handle dynamic and ever-evolving tax laws and navigate circumstances that could help you to scale your business in the most optimal, efficient, and economical ways. Choosing the right accountant can help you take your business to the next level; choosing the wrong accountant can be counterproductive to your business’s health.

Therefore, it’s vital that you know what to look for in a business accountant and put in the research to ensure you choose a professional who is the right fit for your business. Here are five tips to help you choose the best accountant for your small business.

Understand your needs

Before you hire an accountant, you should first have a basic understanding of what you want the accountant to do for you. Do you need someone to handle bookkeeping and financial statements? Or an accountant to help you prepare and file your taxes?

A bookkeeper or non-certified accountant can help with day-to-day accounting; however, if you require someone to provide strategic tax advice, file your taxes, or assist with an audit, you might be best off choosing a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Understanding the responsibilities and work you need help with, and how often, is an important step toward finding an accountant.

Seek referrals and reviews

Are you friends with other entrepreneurs or part of a small business association or network in your community? One way to discover a dependable accountant for your business is to ask for recommendations from your peers.

At the same time, you might also conduct a Google search to find accountants in your area. You can also seek out online reviews and use them to compare and evaluate prospects. LinkedIn, Yelp, or other online communities like Reddit and Facebook may also be helpful resources for referrals and reviews that could inform your decision.

Evaluate their qualifications and experience

A reputable accountant should have the qualifications and experience to support their knowledge and expertise. It may be in your best interest to look for an accountant who has experience working with other businesses in the same industry as you.

This can be beneficial because they are likely to be familiar with the needs, challenges, and tax laws specific to your business type or industry. Training and formal qualifications will determine the type of accountant you can hire and the services they can provide. Here are some qualifications to look for in an accountant:

CPA certification

A certified public accountant, or CPA, is an accounting professional who has passed the CPA exam and maintains the necessary qualifications to be a licensed CPA. All 50 states have different CPA licenses, and requirements for certification vary by state. In addition to the exam, applicants often need to have a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience in accounting. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has a helpful directory you can use to find CPAs, accounting companies, and local accounting organizations.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

CMA is an accounting designation that signifies expertise in financial accounting and strategic management. The certification is sponsored by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree and two consecutive years in management accounting or financial management.

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)

The CGMA is a global certification issued by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) for CPAs who work in business and government. This certification distinguishes professionals who have advanced proficiency in finance, operations, strategy, and management.

Enrolled Agent (EA)

An EA credential recognizes professionals, including CPAs, licensed by the government to represent taxpayers. They advise clients, prepare personal and business taxes, and deal with the Internal Revenue Service on matters related to business or personal tax audits. The certification is awarded by the IRS.

Other certifications

There are many additional accounting certifications that recognize specific skills. These include Accredited Payables Manager (APM), Accredited Payables Specialist (APS), Accredited Receivables Specialists (ARS), and Certified Payroll Professional (CPP).

Meet with prospective candidates and ask questions

Once you’ve conducted your initial research and compiled a list of a few prospects, it’s time to conduct a series of meetings or interviews with them. This is your opportunity to ask questions and gain a better understanding of how they work. Of course, you might find the answers to some of these questions with a little online research, but it’s still a good idea to spend a few minutes with a prospective accountant to get a better idea of whether they might be the right fit for your business.

Here are a few questions you might ask prospective accountants:

  1. What accounting qualifications and training do you have?
  2. What types of accounting services do you offer?
  3. What are your fees and how do you charge?
  4. What types of clients do you work with? Do you have experience with other clients in my industry?
  5. What technology or software do you use?
  6. How can you support my goals? What additional value could you offer my business?

Consider how they’ll help your business grow

It’s important to weigh your options and carefully consider if the accountant you’re considering will be the professional whose financial advice will help you make successful long-range decisions for your business.

Some accountants will simply focus on completing the task at hand. They will fill out tax returns and manage your accounts, while others will be more proactive in handling your finances. When you are choosing a business accountant, you should always ask what recommendations they have for saving your company money.

The best accountants will be able to share thoughts about processes that could be put into place to help your business succeed. Before you choose your small business accountant, you should consider how this professional relationship will ultimately help contribute to, support, and guide your business growth.

In conclusion

It’s important to look at an accountant as an integral member of your team. After all, they can play a pivotal role in the success of your business.

The best accountants will be able to share thoughts about processes that could be put into place to help your business thrive. On the flip side, an inexperienced or otherwise unqualified accountant can be extremely counterproductive.

Therefore, to ensure you choose the accountant who is the best fit for your business, be selective and take your time with the decision. Ultimately, you want to choose an accountant who is within your budget, reliable, reputable, dedicated to supporting your goals, and committed to helping you scale your business (if that’s part of your business plan) and save money.

Disclaimer: Fundbox and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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Tags: Accounting and TaxRunning a Business