Tips and Ideas

Critical Questions to Ask When Hiring a CPA

Whether you need some help with your personal income tax filing or you’re running a business and you could use some help when it comes to keeping the books, filing quarterly estimated taxes, and getting all the deductions you’re due, a certified public accountant (or CPA) is the professional that can deliver the services you’re seeking. But before you hire the first CPA you come across, there are a few pertinent questions you’ll want to ask to make sure the person you select can meet your needs. Here are a few relevant queries to bring up during the consultation process.

1. Can you provide references?
Unless you are referred to a CPA by a trusted family member, friend, or colleague, it’s best to ask for references before you hire anyone. You want to speak to others who have been satisfied with the service they received, and a good CPA should have a list of references to provide you with. As a last resort, you could always check out profiles on directories that allow for consumer reviews (Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.) to get an idea of how a given CPA operates and how satisfied his/her customers are.

2. Can you provide qualifications?
You want to believe that every practicing CPA is properly certified, but it’s always best to ask rather than assuming. This is especially important if you go to an accounting firm. Many companies hire graduate students that are working toward receiving certification and let them work on accounts. You want to make sure whoever is doing your accounting is properly certified already and has the knowledge and experience needed to provide you with the best possible service.

3. Do you have experience with my situation?
Some CPAs specialize in personal income tax filings while others work with small businesses or sole proprietorships. Some have experience with certain industries. Some have a background in dealing with additional sources of income like stocks, bonds, pensions, SSI, retirement accounts, inheritances, and so on. You need to find a CPA that has experience working with people in your situation, whether it’s personal, professional, or both.

4. How do you charge for services?
It’s always a good idea to square away costs up front, but there are a couple of different ways CPAs might charge for their services. Some charge by the hour while others charge by the task (filing taxes versus bookkeeping, for example). They could charge for phone calls and emails, or they might not bill you for this. And if you want ongoing services, you may also be able to work out a flat monthly rate for specific services. You simply need to ask about pricing before you hire an accountant.

5. Do you offer any guarantees?
Any CPA worth his or her salt will offer some kind of guarantee for work. For example, many accountants will pay for mistakes they make on your taxes (thereby virtually guaranteeing that they won’t make mistakes). Generally speaking, a reputable CPA firm like Bowman & Company CPA,PC will have a lot to recommend it. But asking pertinent questions will help to put your mind at ease and ensure there is no confusion about the services being offered.

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