Let’s face it: You didn’t start a business because you were passionate about spreadsheets and taxes. Your business exists to make use of your talents and provide for yourself, your employees, and your families. It’s time to invest your time and energy into your true purpose as a business instead of drowning in mundane tasks.
One of the best ways to do this is to pass off your accounting to a qualified expert. But what’s the best way to find an accountant for a small business, and how should you determine who is qualified to handle your particular finances?
Here are the most common ways to search for a small business accountant as well as the most important questions you should ask to ensure they are the best suited for your business.
While it’s tempting to rely on Google to tell you about CPAs Near You, the ease of this strategy belies the lack of quality results. Search engines can find you an accountant (maybe even too many to reasonably look through), but will they find you a good accountant? That’s a much more difficult thing to discern amid a sea of boosted links and ads.
So if search engines aren’t the best way, how else can you find an accountant for your small business?
Most small business owners have connections who are also using CPAs. It may be your product supplier, your signage guy, your retail neighbor, or even a client or customer. Get to know others in your business network and ask for their referrals and reviews of their own CPAs. This is an especially good way to find a qualified CPA if you consult with others in the same industry.
If you can’t find a good recommendation, you may want to instead refer to your state’s CPA directory. These websites can be a good resource that confirms licensed CPAs, but they can be out of date and do not usually include specialties.
You should interview any potential CPAs for your business just like you were hiring an employee. You want to know their qualifications, education, experience, and specialties. Here are some of the top questions to ask when looking for a small business accountant.
Experience matters. Most businesses will prefer a seasoned professional.
Small businesses require a different skill set than personal taxes or even corporate finances. You want to find someone who has a proven track record of serving small businesses.
In addition to small business experience, niche industry experience can be incredibly important. A salon may have unique expenses and financial issues to account for that don’t apply to an IT company, a restaurant, an e-commerce shop, or a construction business.
Some CPAs focus on annual or quarterly taxes. Others focus more on helping with day-to-day tasks like recording receipts and running payroll. Still others specialize in “audits” that require in-depth reporting to help you make smarter business decisions. If you’re not sure what you need, choosing a full-service firm may be the best option, if they allow you to choose your services and drop or add on services as needed.
Your CPA should be available when you need them. Some prefer email contact only, while others are okay with quick phone calls and occasional meetings for complex issues. Monthly, quarterly, or annual meetings may be established as an expectation to help keep your finances on track.
If your CPA candidate focuses on taxes, they may be unavailable outside of the tax season. Choose your CPA carefully in case you need accounting help during the year.
Not all CPAs are qualified to represent you in front of the IRS. This requires a CPA to be an “Enrolled Agent.” If you have complex taxes, you’ll want an accountant who can back you up and save you time and stress in the event of an audit.
Being able to manage some of your own paperwork and run simple reports on-demand can be a valuable tool in your overall accounting strategy. An officially certified Quickbooks expert can train you and your employees in everyday accounting tasks to give you more control and easier insight over your finances.
Accountants accept payment in different ways. Some charge an hourly rate while others prefer a monthly retainer. Some charge for simple emails and others are more lenient. Make sure you know what is expected from your end in terms of payments.
By simply asking around for recommendations and vetting your CPA’s experience and qualifications, you can invest more time, money, and energy into growing your small business.