So you have reached the point where you are ready to hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to assist you with certain financial aspects of your life. The first thing you need to realize when you start searching is that not all CPAs are equal. CPAs often have expertise in differing areas of accounting, and some are better than others in specific areas. There are certain steps that you can take and various traits to look for to make sure that you find a CPA that is good at what they do, and also one that is a good fit for you and your specific situation.
Ask family, friends and other professionals you work with if they have a CPA and if they would recommend them to you. Find out what types of experiences they have had with them and if they would be able to help you with your specific needs. It’s also wise to conduct an internet search for CPAs in your area. Check out various firms’ websites, and also check for complaints online or with the Better Business Bureau.
Once you have narrowed your search down to two or three, make sure that you take the time to meet each potential CPA in person, or at least talk on the phone with each individual before making any decisions.
Ask the CPA about their personal experience in dealing with the specific services that you are seeking. Also, ask if they specialize in any specific areas. If they are young, ask about their education and experience but also ask about the level of experience of the firm’s staff in general. Depending on the services that you are looking for the CPA to provide, a younger CPA may be able to provide them to you at a fraction of the cost of a more senior member.
Make sure that you are comfortable communicating personal financial details to the CPA; you don’t want to withhold any details that they may need to effectively help you. Also, make sure they communicate with you in a way that you understand and feel comfortable with rather than speaking in technical industry jargon.
Ask what their fees are and how much the services you are seeking typically cost. Compare the costs of each CPA you meet, but don’t make a decision based soley on cost.
The first CPA you meet with may seem to be a good fit for you and your situation, but if you don’t have anyone to compare that person to it is difficult to conclude that you are choosing the best one for you. Check with multiple CPAs so that you can get a sense of which one is truly best for your particular situation.
In a way it might feel good to know that you are paying a couple hundred dollars less to one CPA over another to have your tax return prepared, but what if the higher priced CPA could get you more tax breaks than the low cost CPA? If you make your decision based only on cost, then you may be possibly choosing a CPA that has inferior technical skills, or less of a support network around them to keep up on current tax laws. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you go with one of the higher priced CPAs, you might be paying for a lot of extra fluff that you don’t really need.
Make sure the CPA will represent you if the IRS comes knocking at your door. You hired and paid the CPA to assist in certain tax/accounting functions of your life, so they should be confident enough in their work to back it up.
Even if a friend of yours tells you that their CPA is the best that they have ever worked with, you still need to do your own due diligence and interview a handful of them to make sure that you find someone who is a good fit. Everyone’s financial situation is not the same, and just because one CPA is a perfect fit for one person doesn’t mean that CPA will be the perfect fit for you.
There could possibly be details that you are embarrassed or ashamed to share with a CPA, but this could lead to big problems later on in the relationship. If you keep details from them early on, then you may be surprised later when they come asking for much more in fees than originally expected, or tells you that they can’t help you with your particular situation and that you need to find a new CPA.
CPAs are typically one of the most trusted advisors an individual will work with in their lives. Even though the process of hiring one may be a bit time consuming, performing a little due diligence up front can pay off greatly in the long run.
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