This is the best time of year to establish a relationship with a certified public accountant. Why? Because you still have time to do some effective year-end tax planning and to provide some basic financial information to the CPA so that your tax season meeting will be meaningful and efficient.
We are lucky to have many qualified and reputable CPAs in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. It’s up to you to find one that fits your needs. However, choosing a CPA can be a daunting task. How should you go about this and what questions should you ask?
First and foremost, interview several CPAs before making a decision. This should become long-term relationship. You are going to be sharing your most intimate financial information with this professional, so you need to believe that they are serious about your situation, display a genuine concern for your issues and understand the importance of confidentiality.
Here are some interview suggestions:
• How long have you been a CPA, how long have you been with this firm and how long do you expect to stay here?
This is one profession where experience matters. It’s important to know that your CPA has not only years of experience in general, but experience with your specific industry. You also want to know that this person is not planning on moving to another firm or out of state soon.
• What is your area of expertise?
Many CPA’s specialize in areas such as estate planning, trust management, large business services, small business services, and so on. You want to be sure that your needs are a fit for the services they normally provide.
• Who will actually be doing the work on your account and how involved will your CPA be in overseeing their work?
At many firms, junior or staff accountants do most of the work and it can be difficult to reach your initial contact person once you become a client. This might be acceptable to you, but either way, you want to know.
• What is the fee structure and how will you be invoiced?
Remember that CPAs only have their time to sell, so you should expect to be billed for planning meetings, lengthy phone calls and small projects outside of the normal tax and accounting services. That being said, you will need to budget for these professional fees.
• Are they available year-round to assist you with your business and/or taxes or do they close their office after the tax season?
• Will they represent you with the IRS or local taxing agencies if you are audited?
Did you feel that during the interview the CPA was actually interested in your situation, asked the appropriate questions and was easy to understand? Financial and tax matters are very complex and it is imperative that your CPA be able to explain things to you so that you understand your choices and the implications of your decisions.
With over 35 years of experience in the public accounting arena, Kim Walker represents the small business community in business and personal tax return preparation, entity selection and business start-ups, business plan development, management consultation, IRS problem resolution and bookkeeping.