Accountants can help businesses with everything from day-to-day bookkeeping to representing you in a tax audit. It’s a good idea to think long-term when hiring an accountant. Look for someone with whom you can build a relationship that will grow with your business.
A certified public accountant (CPA) is an accounting professional who has a college degree, has passed a professional exam, and has met state licensing requirements. CPAs are authorized to take on more responsibilities than other accountants, most notably representing taxpayers in IRS audits. If you think your business might need any of the special services CPAs can perform, or if you feel more comfortable hiring a certified professional, a CPA might be a good choice for you. If your budget is tight and your needs are fairly straightforward, an accountant who is not a CPA (and who likely costs less) might meet your needs.
It’s a good idea to talk to at least three accountants or staffing firms like NetworkeSC, before choosing one. Remember that professionals work for you; don’t be afraid to ask questions and thoroughly vet accountants who might handle a vital aspect of your business. Ask potential accountants for client references, particularly from clients in your industry. If you are considering CPAs, AICPA has links to all the state CPA registries. There is also an online lookup tool provided by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
There is nothing worse than placing your finances in someone else’s hands only to find that he or she doesn’t return calls quickly or doesn’t provide adequate information when you’re under the gun. Ask potential candidates about their turnaround time for filings and reports. Find out from their references how responsive they are to requests. The last thing you want from an accountant is a surprise when the bill arrives. Make sure you understand their fee structure and get estimates for the monthly costs for the services you need.
Go over your budget and work out a contract that meets your needs without breaking the bank. Handing over your books to an accounting professional is not the same as handing over full responsibility for the financial health of your business. Make sure you understand your cash situation so you understand what you are asking your accountant to do.