When you’re starting a business, there is going to be a lot on your plate at all times. You probably know you’ll need some outside help. Relying on professional consultants, accountants, and lawyers, is going to be a part of the process. Even if you have experience in the accounting field yourself, you’ll want a separate accountant for your business. This is because only a professional accountant can provide the expert services you need and personalize those services to your business. If you are wondering how to choose an accountant for your business here are some questions you can ask any accountants you are considering.
Whether you are a small business or not, these questions will guide you in choosing an accountant for business.
1. Can You Handle the Jobs I Need?
Ask if they understand what it is you need, and make sure they have the experience to accommodate you.
You’ll likely need more than just once-a-year tax advice.
It is very likely you’ll need them for ongoing, year-long financial guidance and advice.
If the accountant you’re talking to doesn’t offer these services, it is time to walk away.
2. Can I Get a List of References?
A good accountant will never hesitate to give you some references.
Previous and current clients can give you a better, more honest opinion on their services.
When you receive these names, make sure you give them a call.
Although three is a good number for references, if you can get more than three, that is even better.
Ask the references what they like and don’t like about that accountant, and share what you need in an accounting professional.
Ask them to share stories with you.
After speaking to them a bit, you should be able to get a good picture of what working with the accountant is really like.
3. What Are Your Prices Like?
This is a very important question because as a business owner, you have a responsibility to keep your costs reasonable.
Ask if their fees are by the hour or if you can get some type of retainer arrangement that allows you to contact them whenever it is needed.
All accountants have their own pricing schedule, but you’ll need to know up front what that schedule is so that you can budget for it.
Ask for specifics, and make sure you understand exactly what they’re going to charge.
Price is one of the important questions to ask when choosing an accountant for business.
4. What “Language” Do You Speak?
This may sound like an odd question, but you have to make sure the accountants use a language that is easy to understand when you’re talking to them.
If they try to impress you during the interview by using big words that you don’t understand, this might be a sign that they’re more interested in their status than they are in giving you excellent customer service.
Have a few questions ready before you enter their office.
Concentrate on the replies you get, so that you’ll know that this person is never going to talk down to you in the future.
5. Are You Worth What I Am Going to Pay You?
When discussing fees, the amount of money you’ll be paying shouldn’t be your only consideration.
You also have to know if they are going to give you assistance throughout the year so that you can stay compliant.
The more services they offer, the better off you’ll be, so when thinking about accounting fees, think value.
Value for your money is priceless.
Make sure the accountant offers more than just basic services that keep your business compliant year after year.
They also need to help you with the advice you need so that your business continues to grow and thrive.
Value is one of the things to consider when choosing an accountant for your business.
6. Who Will I Be Talking to When I Call the Accounting Firm?
This is important because you don’t want to speak to a clerical worker every time you call your accountant; you want to talk to the accountant.
If the accountant has other accountants as staff, make sure they are well qualified.
It is unacceptable to interview the accountant and then never again speak to that person after you sign on the dotted line.
The best-case scenario is to speak to the accountant every single time you call.
If there are one or two accounting professionals on the team that can help you, that can work as well.
Make sure everything is spelled out so that there are no surprises once you start to work with them.
Furthermore, if you insist on talking to the accountant every time, and that person won’t agree to those terms, it is likely time to interview another accountant.
7. What Type of Technology Do You use?
Many companies haven’t updated their software in years, which is never good when it comes to technology.
Ask them questions about their technology and their computer system and make sure they are using the latest ones.
Cloud technology and mobile apps are significant for running a successful business, at the very least.
Make sure they have a good website and social media pages and make sure they are progressive enough to keep up with the latest software and technological advances.
Although it may seem insignificant, the truth is, every business should be up-to-date on their technology, and this includes accounting firms.
8. What Are Your Most Successful Clients Doing?
Most accountants work with hundreds of clients, all with different levels of success.
Ask the accountant what his top 10 clients are doing to make themselves successful, and how these accounting services are helping those clients grow.
You’ll not only get an idea of how closely the accountant is paying attention to the clients, but you might also pick up some ideas that you can implement in your own business.
Most business owners list the accountant as the most trusted consultant for their business.
Therefore, utilize your accountant’s expertise whenever you get the chance.
Make sure that person answers your questions to your satisfaction and see what you can pick up that may help your own business.
9. Will You Represent Me If I Get in Trouble with the Government?
Even if your intentions are good, you could be the victim of an audit with the Federal Government.
When this happens, you’re going to need professional representation from someone who knows just what to do in these instances.
Experienced accountants can be involved in the process from start to finish so that you can relax and concentrate on other things.
Once you start using an accountant regularly, the chances of getting in trouble with the government become a lot less likely, but if it does happen, you’ll be covered.
The right accountant can ease your stress a bit, should this ever happen to you, and you’ll never regret hiring them for this reason.
10. Can You Represent Me Wherever I Do Business?
Some businesses have several locations, and because many local towns and cities have their own statutes related to certain businesses, it is crucial that your accountant is able to work with all of these locations.
Your business may even be an international company, in which case they’ll have to be familiar with the laws of each of those countries.
This is an important question to ask even if you aren’t planning to expand into other areas or countries for a lot of years.
The accountant you choose will have to know the laws of each of these areas, whether you’re a new business looking forward to the future or you already have companies in other locations.
11. What Is Your Philosophy Regarding My Taxes?
Naturally, you don’t want an accountant who is so aggressive that they bend the law, but they should be assertive enough to make sure they take advantage of all of the deductions offered by the tax experts for your particular business.
Things such as home office deductions and travel expenses are good things to ask of a prospective accountant.
This person’s philosophy and style need to match yours. When it comes to taking deductions, is the accountant assertive, aggressive, or more cautious?
Whatever the answer is, if this person doesn’t have the same approach to doing taxes as you do, it’s time to move onto the next accountant.
12. Can You Help Me with Reviewing and Negotiating Contracts?
If you’re going to be a business owner, get used to having a lot of paperwork in your life.
Contracts are a large part of that paperwork.
Since contracts have to be very thorough and properly worded, you likely will need an accounting professional to review financial contracts.
A good accountant will help you write the document and make sure all “i’s” are dotted and all “t’s” are crossed.
In order to avoid problems in the future, these things are important.
Every detail and every page of a contract needs professional review, and this is but one of the many tasks a good accountant can provide to you.
13. How Can You Help Me Grow My Business?
Accountants can help grow your business in numerous ways, including assistance on:
- Obtaining financing
- Creating or improving a business plan
- Recommending the right bookkeeping software for your business
- Creating financial forecasts for your business
- Creating ways to avoid getting in trouble with the government
Accountants can help in more ways than you are likely aware of.
The ability to help with the growth of your business is one of the things to consider when choosing an accountant.
14. How Can I Contact You When I Need to?
Communicating with your accountant is crucial, and there are going to be many times when you are experiencing an emergency and need to talk to them right away.
Ideally, you should be able to call, email, and maybe even text or Skype this person whenever you need them.
If they don’t respond back to you within 24 hours, this is not a good sign.
Except for rare circumstances, your accountant should get back to you immediately.
You can even ask the accountant in your initial interview how long it takes for them to get back to you.
15. How Will You Help Me Prepare for Tax Season?
Tax season is a special time of the year because you’ll need your accountant more at that time than you do at other times of the year.
Ask your accountant how they’ll prepare you for each year’s tax season and how they can make sure you save money year after year on the taxes you pay.
Most accounting professionals have a specific plan to organize and work on your taxes, and most of these plans involve meeting with you regularly throughout the year so that you don’t have to do everything at the last minute.
As your business grows, paying your taxes every year will likely be complex.
If you have the right accountant by your side, the task becomes a lot simpler and you’ll have fewer things to worry about year after year.
16. Can You Estimate the Value of My Business When the Time Comes?
At different times, you may wish to get a value for your business so that you can determine how much it’s worth.
At those times, your accountant can help you by going over your financial and tax documents so that an accurate amount will result.
This involves them getting to know your business from top to bottom, evaluating every document that describes every aspect of your business and making sure nothing is overlooked or forgotten.
It is a complicated process, but with the right accountant, the task is made much easier.
17. What about the Special Considerations for My Particular Business?
Each business is a little different than the next.
You’ll definitely want an accountant who knows the ins and outs of every aspect of your business.
Maybe you want to start a retail store, a small diner, a new pub or even a corporate office.
Whatever type of business you are considering starting, you need an accountant with the knowledge and expertise to handle each and every aspect of your business.
They need to know the business all the way through, and they need to use that knowledge to help you make the most of that business.
Even if the accountant doesn’t have experience specifically related to your type of business, they may have a lot of similar experience which will count.
Either way, it is good to know this up front before you make the final decision on which accountant to use.
You Need To Ask Yourself If You Can Work with This Accountant on a Regular Basis
Like any other relationship, you and your accountant have to get along.
There has to be a certain rapport between the two of you.
Even the initial interview can give you some idea of what it would be like to work with this person.
You should ask yourself questions such as:
- What is this person’s disposition?
- Does this person “get” me?
- Is this person as excited as I am about growing my business?
- Do they offer all of the services I need?
After all, you and your accountant are going to get to know one another quite well in the first year alone, so you’ll need to feel comfortable with them from day one.
This is easier to do than you think.
If you speak to them long enough and ask the right questions, you’ll be able to get a good “feel” for whether or not you can work with them from now on.
Working with an accountant is a must when you have a business.
It can keep you on track both financially and in other ways.
Choosing the right accountant doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you know what to ask each of them in the interview and which personalized services you need for your particular type of business.
Doing some research ahead of time always helps.
Furthermore, you should choose an accountant with both excellent experience and a personality you can work with.
This is always the best scenario.
Work through the questions above, these will guide you on how to choose an accountant for your business.
Having the right accountant and other professional consultants may not guarantee your business will be a success, but it will greatly increase the chances of that happening.
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