How to Find the Best Accountant for Your Upcoming Fiscal Year
Accountants don't always actively advertise themselves. Instead, they rely on personal referrals and other forms of networking to reach new clients. Because of this, you may not have even heard the names of some of the best accountants in your area, some of whom may be taking on new clients for this upcoming fiscal year.
Instead of sticking with a chain that offers impersonal service or the same accountant who messed up your quarterly filing a few years ago, take a few hours to look into whether there are better options for accountants in your area for this upcoming year. They can help reduce your tax-related stress and can even improve your company's bottom line.
Is an Internal Hire the Best Answer?
Depending on the size of your business, you may consider hiring someone to handle accounting internally. However, unless your company is quite large, with a payroll and a lot of internal finance to handle, chances are you won't have enough work to occupy an in-house accountant full time. This is particularly true of accountants who specialize in business taxes.
Instead of needing to pay a full-time salary to someone you only need part time or seasonal work from, it makes a lot of sense for most businesses to outsource this work to an established accountancy firm. They can provide your company with all the services it needs without requiring a weekly paycheck.
Take Your Time to Find a Good Fit
You wouldn't hire a doctor or a lawyer just because their office was closer than another's. You would want to look at their education, their work history, and their success rates before making a decision. The same should be true of an accountant. If someone doesn't have a solid retention rate for clients and can't state that they were able to find deductions their clients were missing or otherwise improved the financial health of their clients, why would you want them doing your taxes?
If you're going to pay someone to handle your financial statements, payroll, quarterly statements and filings, and annual tax return, you want to know they're the best around.
Look for Someone with an Industry Background
Ideally, your accountant will have a basic, if not intermediate-level understanding of what your business does and how it performs business. If not, how can they determine what qualifies as a write off or a business expense? How will they know if there's an issue with your internal accounting if they don't understand what the going rate for your most critical components are?
You want to find an accountant who understands your company and what it does. Whether they have learned it by working with others in your field or by working in-house for other companies, finding someone who understands your industry can help a lot.
Make Sure You Trust Their Credentials
Most schools have similar programs, so the graduate of a state school should have a similar level of ability to someone who attended an Ivy League college for accountancy. Graduating and passing the state test matter more than the school. The right accountant should have a degree, as well as state certification, and insurance.
A CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, should have attended school for a four-year degree prior to passing an intensive state exam. They may have other certifications as well, such as Personal Financial Specialist (PFS), Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA), Business Valuation (ABV), and plenty of others.
Get Referrals From People You Trust
While online reviews can do a lot to help people make personal choices about what businesses to use, online reviews aren't the best option for a business seeking help in an area as critical as their accounting. It makes sense to call others in your area who are in your industry or who operate a business and have earned your respect and trust.
Find out who they are working for their accounting needs, and then use those referrals from trusted sources to create a list of potential accountants and accountancy firms that you may consider hiring for this upcoming fiscal year.
Do Interviews Like You Would For an Internal Hire
While you may not be offering them a salary, you will still be hiring this accountant and paying them with your business' funds to perform a critical task for your company. It's important that you trust their ability to do the job.
Schedule individual meetings with the accountants or firms you are considering hiring and let them sell themselves to you. Ask for references from local clients who are willing to confirm that they have performed their accounting tasks well and on time. Just like with an internal hire, reference checks are critical to ensuring you make the right choice. Make sure you or your management team can communicate effectively with the person being considered, and ensure his or her expertise overlaps with your business' needs.