A certified public accountant (CPA) can provide a wealth of services to your company, including business advice and technical assistance. And, with the right CPA, you can also save money and become more profitable.
The key is selecting the right CPA for your needs. Start by making a list of prospective CPAs in your area and contact them. Talk to colleagues at similarly sized businesses. You can also contact your state’s CPA society or the local Chamber of Commerce.
When screening potential candidates, make sure to ask about:
• Level of experience and number of years in practice;
• Educational background and any additional training attained;
• Areas of expertise and specialization — especially any that pertain to a business like yours;
• Names of current clients for references.
These questions are necessary to help determine the competence level of each CPA under consideration.
It’s also important to determine which firm is the right size for you. You might be most comfortable with a sole practitioner. If your company is a little larger with diverse operations, a bigger firm with many CPAs might be more appropriate.
A CPA should have sufficient staff to allow work to be done without demanding all of his or her attention, although a large staff adds up to higher fees.
Once you’ve decided on an accountant, establish what services you can expect to receive. The options may include:
• Audit of financial statements or inventory;
• Tax compilation, preparation and review for individuals, corporations, partnerships and other business entities;
• Bookkeeping services;
• Cash flow and tax planning;
• General business advice and consulting;
• Estate planning;
• Insurance services;
• Portfolio assistance;
• Establishing relationships with financing resources; and
• Small-business retirement plans.
Keeping your budget in mind, evaluate which services are essential to your shop’s growth.
The fee will be contingent upon what services are provided, what your business requires and how sophisticated the service. Get clear information on whether or not the CPA charges by the hour (and at what rate), the frequency of the billing and what you will be charged for specific services (preparing tax forms, management reports, etc.).
When working with a CPA, that person or firm can become a valuable advisor for your business, so communication and trust are key. If these things are missing, you’ve got some more shopping to do.