How to Choose an Accountant: 7 Questions to Ask – Are you on the hunt for a new accountant to handle your bookkeeping and taxes? A good accountant will ensure accurate, timely records, as well as comprehensive, correct tax filing on an annual basis. Before you choose one willy-nilly, recognize the importance of this decision, and do the appropriate research necessary to make a solid choice. Here are seven questions to ask prospective accountants.
- Do you have experience with my specific needs? If you’re a self employed writer or real estate agent with a lot of deductions and self employment taxes to worry about, make sure your accountant has experience working with people just like you. If you own a high-tech company that issues stocks, make sure your accountant knows about that too.
- How long have you been in the business? Look for at least five years experience in tax advisory or bookkeeping, and even more for CPAs. Experience with a large firm is a good sign because it means the accountant may have a broader skillset and range of experience.
- Will you review my previous taxes? A good accountant will do this as a matter of course, both as a courtesy to find mistakes from your last accountant as well as a preparatory tool to help get to know your situation better. Reviewing your prior year’s returns shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes for a seasoned accountant.
- What fees do you charge? Many tax accountants charge by the hour, which varies by region of the country. You can expect at least one hour spent discussing your situation with your accountant, an hour of review time for your prepared return, and perhaps a couple of hours billed at a lower rate by a staff member who takes care of the data input and software operation to calculate the return.
- What can I do to cut down on the total cost? The less work the accountant has to do, the less the overall cost. You can cut down on your cost if you send him or her your QuickBooks spreadsheet containing your income and expenses instead of a bunch of disorganized papers, and provide a list of charities instead of a jumbled mess of canceled checks, etc. All of that paperwork adds time to your accountant’s day – and more to your bill’s bottom line.
- Who will actually calculate the return? In a large firm, you may speak with a CPA or accountant who handles your overall return, including preliminary discussions and reviews, but they may pass off the actual act of calculation to a staffer. If you’re uncomfortable with this arrangement, go with a smaller firm or choose an accountant who can assure you they will work on it themselves.
- Can I meet with you in person? Many people like to sit down face to face with an accountant rather than do things over the phone, Dropbox, or email. Choose a local accountant if this is a deal breaker for you.
Heed these tips when choosing the right accountant for you. Chris Whalen, CPA, can give your returns the local, personalized attention you’re craving. Call 732-673-0510 for a free evaluation of your personal or business tax profile.