Finding the right accountant for your business is crucial to getting the financial services you need and ensuring you’re compliant with tax and filing requirements. An accountant who specializes in business accounting will have different priorities, skills, and approaches than those who focus only on personal accounting.
We believe that one of the best ways to find a business accountant is to ask the right questions. With that in mind, here are ten inquiries you can make to find an accountant who’s best suited for your business.
What Are Your Accounting Qualifications and Training?
Training and formal qualifications will determine the type of accountant you can hire and the services they can provide. Not all accountants are “Certified Public Accountants” or CPAs—some may only have an accounting degree and not the extensive additional qualifications required to be a CPA. Other accountants may have additional skills, like being qualified as an “Enrolled Agent” or EA—someone specially trained to represent you to the IRS.
Aside from understanding accountant qualifications, it’s also important to understand what ongoing training your accountant is committed to. Tax and accounting laws change from time to time, so staying up-to-date and getting further education is essential. Ask your accountant how they stay abreast of the latest news, and if they get ongoing, formal training.
What Types of Accounting Services Do You Provide?
Accounting firms offer a range of services—it’s important to know how they can help you. Typical accounting services include:
- Bookkeeping: Reconciling your bank accounts against your transactions and accounting software.
- Payroll preparation and filing: Establishing and running payroll for your salaried employees, including filing the relevant payroll forms and assisting you in paying payroll taxes.
- Business tax returns: Preparing any relevant business tax forms and filing them with the IRS and your state Department of Revenue.
- Sales and use tax returns: Calculating and paying sales and use taxes to your local state.
- Personal tax returns: Preparing any relevant personal tax forms and filing them with the IRS and your state Department of Revenue.
- Financial statements: Preparing statements like balance sheets, profit and loss reports, cash flow statements, and other necessary reports.
- Estimated taxes: Calculating what your estimated federal and state taxes are likely to be and assisting you with filing and paying them.
Retirement planning: Advice on setting up a small business retirement plan like a 401(K).
What Are Your Fees and How Do You Charge?
Fees for business accounting services will vary quite a bit between practices. Some will charge by the hour, while others may charge a fixed fee for predefined services. Some areas to bear in mind:
- The fees you’re charged may vary depending on who is doing the actual work. CPAs will charge more than payroll administrators or bookkeepers, for example.
- Fees may also vary between different cities or regions. Accountants in San Francisco are likely to be more expensive than those in rural Indiana.
- Prices per hour may vary between $130 to $400 an hour or more for a CPA, depending on their seniority, background, specializations, and experience.
- Most small business owners can expect to spend at least $1,000 a year on accounting services.
What Is Your Availability and Responsiveness Like?
Accountants can be very busy, and sometimes you need an answer quickly. Talk to your accountant and ask them about their hours of operation and how quickly they respond to phone calls and emails. Establish a routine for staying in touch.
Do You Provide Advice and Business Planning Services?
A good accountant won’t just check your figures and fill in forms—they’ll offer you practical advice on how to enhance your business and its finances, for example:
- What assets and liabilities does your business hold?
- Can they identify areas where you can manage your profit, loss, or cash flow more effectively?
- Do you, or are you projected to have issues with your cash flow and paying for what you need?
- Are you likely to require business financing to meet operational needs or to fund expansion plans?
- What are the benefits and issues of expanding your business into another state?
- Can you get assistance with the valuation and due diligence of another business that you want to buy?
Do You Have Experience With My Type of Business?
Some businesses have specialist needs, licensing requirements, and other areas that might require specific expertise. Ask your accountant if they have worked with businesses like yours in the past, and the experience they can offer you as a result.
Can You Help Me to Start Up a Business?
Company formation can be a complex area, from deciding on the best business structure to completing the necessary filings and understanding ongoing compliance requirements. Find out if your accountant has experience in starting businesses, and how they can help you legally form your company. They might even be able to help you understand if your business idea is viable and will work with you on creating a business plan.
Can You Represent Me Across Different States?
Every state has slightly different forms and filing requirements for both business and personal tax returns. Find out if your accountant is qualified to practice solely in your business’s home state, or if they’re able to assist you across state lines.
How Often Should We Meet?
It’s useful to discuss any financial or tax concerns face-to-face. Ask your accountant how often they recommend you meet, and the particular topics they think would be useful to discuss.
What Can I Do to Keep Fees to a Minimum?
Ask your accountant about the steps you can take to reduce the amount of work they need to do and the fees they charge. Some areas where you might be able to ease the burden include:
- Completing payroll yourself using an online payroll service.
- Reconciling all of your own bank accounts and transactions within your accounting software.
- Keeping on top of your bills and expenses.
- Providing high-quality information to assist with the preparation of financial statements, forms, and tax returns.
Get Ready to Find the Right Accountant
When you’re trying to select the right accountant or CPA, these questions can help you narrow the list down. Arrange to meet with the accountants on your shortlist, ask each of these questions, and take careful notes. That way, you can compare like-with-like to find the right accounting firm for you.
As a lending platform focused on small business growth and development, Connect2Capital partners with lenders and organizations that can help you on your small business journey—including finding an accountant for your unique business needs. Just another way you can connect to confidence with Connect2Capital.