Now that we’ve been talking about our business finances for a while now, let’s talk about the person who helps us stay financially legal in the eyes of Uncle Sam.
1. GET REFERRALS
The first question I get back when telling someone that they need a good CPA is, “How do I find one?” Well, sister friend, it’s time to turn to the old FACEBOOK. Yep. Join your local small business Facebook groups and ask around. Ask specifically who other small business owners use as their CPA / Tax Accountant and why they use them. This question alone should open up several options for you that are well established professionals in the area. Once you have a few candidates, do your research. Check out their websites, any Google reviews, BBB profiles, etc to really see what they’re working with. Then dwindle your list down from there.
2. INTERVIEW A FEW WITH THE SAME LIST OF QUESTIONS
Why the same list of questions? So that you can compare their answers. When you sit down with your list of possible CPAs, you’ll quickly begin to see who is knowledgeable about tax legislation and who is not quite sure. A few of the questions you’ll want to ask are: – What tax issues do you specialize in? – What are your fees? – How long in advance do you need to file my taxes? – Do you offer any tax software training? – What new tax legislation just hit that effects me, as a small business owner? – Are you open year-long? (This is really important to know if you suddenly get a scary letter in the mail and need to work with someone to figure it out.) *Don’t let these be your only questions. These are just to get you started. This person will be handling your TAXES… don’t skimp on this interview.
3. CHECK THE CREDENTIALS
I like to work with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or an Enrolled Agent (EA) as these are the pros that can actually represent you if you have to stand against the IRS. Some states also require licenses from their CPAs so do some internet research and see if you live in one of those states. If you do, ask your CPA for their license just to make sure. You’d be SHOCKED if you know how many “tax accountants” out there aren’t really certified. And when it comes down to it, that can be down right scary. You want someone who is current on tax legislation and who specializes in small business accounts. If they can only handle the basics of tax returns, they are not for you.
4. INVEST IN A REFUND CRITIQUE
When you think you’ve found 2-3 CPAs that you’d like to work with, do yourself the favor of investing in a quick tax refund critique by ALL of them. Yes, this will take a bit of money, but this last step is a MASSIVE one. It can really separate the good from the great… and when it comes down to it, I only want the great. Ask them to sit down and go over last year’s tax return with you. Ask them the following questions: – Do you see anything I should be doing differently? – Do you see anything that could give the IRS red flags about my accounts? – What would YOU do differently to save me money (legally, of course)? – How can I prepare this year for next year’s return? – Did you notice any mistakes on my part? How can I fix them?
5. AVAILABILITY FOR COMMUNICATION
After you’ve officially hired your accountant and are working with them for a while, you’ll already know the answer to this question and it’s a big one: Is your CPA readily available and open to communication? If the answer is NO, run for the freaking hills. You need to have a CPA that you can e-mail or call and they will get back to you within 48 hours. You never know what the IRS could throw at you and if you made a mistake on a return or forgot to send in your quarterly estimated income tax check, you need someone on your side who is ready to handle it immediately. If you have to wait weeks for a response or worse, you don’t get response at all, it’s time to start this whole process over and find a new one.