It’s a new year and you might be looking to make a change in your business or personal “team” for this year. That team might include your CPA, life coach, attorney or financial planner.
Today, let’s look at the CPA. A CPA is distinguished from other accountants by stringent state licensing requirements which include required hours of college credit earned, the successful completion of a standardized uniform national examination, an experience requirement and mandatory minimum education classes each year.
You might be quite comfortable with your CPA, but it’s still a good idea to take stock of your situation and see if that person is still a good fit for you. If circumstances have changed, or you have never used the services of a CPA in the past, you might want to look for someone new.
Review your CPA’s professional experience
For instance, your past choice of a CPA may have been based on the business you owned at the time. However, if the nature of your business has changed, you may require additional knowledge or experience from your CPA. Other changes such as pending retirement, a sale of a business, a divorce, estate planning or the death of a family member may require a CPA who has experience in those areas and can prepare the required tax returns.
Does your CPA communicate well?
Do they call you back or respond to your e-mails within 24 hours? Do they talk to you using technical language such as the IRS tax code sections or do they use plain English and simple terms? They should take the time with you to answer your questions without continually looking at their watch to see the time or talk about their next appointment arriving.
Are you looking for a large or small firm?
Large firms might have the experience and expertise you need for your particular situation. If you have an unusual issue that comes up, they probably have someone else in the firm that can help with that particular area. For some people, a small firm is more comfortable where they know all of the staff and are greeted by name when they walk into the office. A small firm might not be able to meet every one of your needs, but they probably know other CPA specialists that they can refer you to easily.
Do you really need a CPA?
If you need an audit of your financial statements, then you do need a CPA. Only a CPA can report on financial statements prepared by AICPA standards. If you are looking for someone to do your bookkeeping, maybe there is an internal bookkeeper that you can hire, or a bookkeeping service that would fit your need instead of hiring a CPA. For tax purposes, you can find enrolled agents, registered tax preparers and even tax programs such as Turbo Tax to do simple tax returns. With the new tax law, it is projected that an increased number of people will be doing their own tax returns this year instead of using a CPA.
How much does a CPA cost?
Large firms usually charge more. Small firms have lower overhead costs, and, therefore, less costs to pass on to you for their services. Both large and small firms charge for the experience level of their staff or partners. Also, if the individuals have special expertise in special fields, they will charge more for those services. Make sure that you find a CPA that will meet your needs and then make sure that you are comfortable with the fees they will charge you for their services.
What services does the CPA offer?
For businesses, they can help you set up your accounting systems, and accumulate, analyze and report financial and operations information for management decision-making. They can prepare audits, reviews and compilations required by the people you do business with, and provide management consulting services for your individual business.
For individuals, they can help with financial plans, budgets and retirement planning, developing an estate plan, and assessing insurance needs. They can also work with seniors, act as a trustee and prepare court/trust accountings.
There are many other services a CPA can offer for a business or for individuals that are not listed here.
Before you make a selection, interview at least three CPAs. Ask the same questions of each one, and be sure to request references.
Next week we will be looking at another team member for your business or personal team.
Marcia L. Campbell, has worked as a CPA for over 25 years specializing in seniors, trusts, estates, court and trust accountings and probate litigation support. You can reach her via email at Marcia@MCampbellCPA.com.
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