You’ll be working as a team to meet financial goals, so be sure you work well together when choosing your CPA. Here are some questions to ask to ensure she/he is a good fit and solid partner in accounting crime for you:
- What business entity types have you worked with? It’s important that your potential CPA has a solid understanding of your business entity to help you decide which entity type is best for you. For example, corporations are structured and taxed differently than partnerships, and you want to make sure the CPA you hire has at least some working knowledge with the business structure that works best for you. If the CPA has worked with a variety of entity types, this is a big plus. It indicates he/she can grow with you and adapt with your changing business needs.
- Do you have other clients in my industry? For example, it’s ok if your CPA doesn’t have a client who might own a clothing boutique, but it’s helpful if he/she has some retail experience. Ask what industries your CPA works with most, and which they most enjoy working with. You want them to be knowledgeable and help you and don’t need to spend time educating he/she on your industry. They should know a bit about it or have done the research to be familiar with it already.
- Are you available after tax season? This is the “how are you different than H&R Block?” question. You want to make sure your CPA is available to help you year round, not just during tax season. Ask what types of business guidance he/she offers. Verify whether there are any limitations to what you can ask. Listen to the space between the question and answer on this one – how do they respond? You’ll be able to tell if they truly enjoy helping or if they’re hesitant and it’s an inconvenience (it’s their job – it should never be an inconvenience!). Make sure you understand how easy it is to schedule time with your chosen CPA.
- What do you charge, and what is the price breakdown? This is the golden ticket of questions to ask. If the answer is hourly, get a good idea of how long the task might be likely to take, and ask if there’s a cap on the cost. If he/she bills has a flat cost, dig to determine the specifics of what’s covered in the fee. Specifics such as whether phone support is included (and how much support), if there is an error on the return and about miscellaneous guidance throughout the year are all good topics to cover. Be sure you understand this question; it would suck to think you’re getting a bargain, then get a bill for a 15-minute email.
- What are the security precautions in place? In this day and age, identity and sensitive information can be easily stolen – and there can be no tolerance for a CPA who is careless with personal information. Ensure that she/he has a secure system in place for transmitting all sensitive documents. Ask if paper copies are kept – and if so, how are they are secured? Who has access to these files and how will they ensure they don’t get lost?
- Do I like my CPA enough to hug them? Make sure your potential CPA doesn’t just look good on paper, but is someone you can relate to and feel comfortable with. Do you like them enough to give ‘em a big ol’ hug when you reach financial goals together? Sharing your finances is just about as personal as sitting in your underwear with your CPA. They shouldn’t make you feel ashamed, judged or that you have to lie. Make sure she or he is a person you can bare your finances to!