Looking for a CPA? Whether you need someone to help organize your business or your personal finances, a Certified Public Accountant can offer the knowledge to manage your finances and make tax time a lot easier.
A good CPA will uncover areas to improve your numbers and put you and your business on the path to financial success. The best way to find a CPA? Ask your family and friends who they use. Finding a trusted professional through referrals from loved ones can point you toward a CPA that’s right for you. But when it comes to making that final decision, the answer may not be so clear.
We’ve compiled a list of ten questions to ask any CPA candidate so that you can determine the right professional for you.
- Who is your main clientele?
Many CPAs will focus on a specific area or client type. This could refer to a type of business or industry, government agencies, or an individual looking to file their taxes. Your situation, whether it be your business or personal finances, may be different from the type of client they are more familiar with, so it’s important to find out where they’re most comfortable. If they mostly work in a niche sector that isn’t similar to your situation, you may want to find someone else.
- What is your tax background and/or speciality?
Similar to the types of clients a CPA may work with, some firms focus on specific types of taxations. If you need a simple W-2 specialist, then you’ll have many options. But if you’re looking for something that requires more specialized knowledge, like international and foreign taxes or corporate laws, you’ll need to be more assiduous in your search for a CPA.
- How many years of experience do you have?
For business related taxes, ask if the CPA has experience doing returns for your type of business and how extensive that experience is. Being their first tax return for your type of business may result in missed opportunities to maximize your savings, so make sure the CPA you choose is well-versed with previous knowledge in your industry.
- Who will actually be doing the work on my tax returns?
Unfortunately, some CPAs outsource their client’s returns to third-party contractors in order to lighten their workload. A necessity when finding a CPA is to choose someone who will actually be working on your taxes personally. Find a firm that you can build a relationship with and can formalize themselves with your financial situation for years to come. At Brilliant Accounting, our team led by Stephen G Brilliant, CPA, acts as your trusted partner dedicated to understanding your needs and providing exceptional services to save you as much on your taxes as possible.
- How much do you value client privacy?
Character traits are hard to gauge, but not all CPAs value their client’s privacy equally, so it never hurts to be upfront about your concerns. If you hear the CPA talking about another client’s business or personal affairs in the office, chances are they’ll talk about yours too. Even if a friend or loved one swears by this CPA, it’s important to be mindful of their efforts to protect your privacy and value it as much as you do.
- Will I be able to contact you with questions?
Accounting is not an easy subject to grasp and very few can fully understand it. And your CPA should be able to translate it for you in a way you can understand. Look for a CPA who’s committed to open communication and willing to explain things on your return to you. At the end of the day, these are your finances — a CPA can help you prepare your finances, but you are making the decisions.
- What is your turnaround time?
The industry standard is 2-3 weeks for a small firm to return your documents. It’s important to ask this question when evaluating your own personal goals and tax situation. Turnaround policies will help you decide if you can wait or if you need to find a tax preparer that can complete your documents by deadline or within the time frame you need.
- Do you offer tax services beyond tax planning and preparation?
While most CPAs will offer minimal advice throughout the year, it’s important to understand what your tax preparation fee includes. If you’re looking for additional guidance beyond preparing your tax return, ask if this is something the CPA can provide. At Brilliant Accounting, we start with a no cost initial consultation where we take the time to learn about your needs and challenges. After your tax return is filed, we are available all year for tax related issues, budgeting, cost analysis, and more.
- What do you expect from me each year?
Different CPA’s have different expectations for their clients, and it’s important to be on the same page. Asking this question initially will help you understand what you need to prepare in order to get the most accurate, efficient services. This question can also give you an idea into how your CPA interacts with their clients, so make sure you do your due diligence before the relationship begins.
- Tell me about your team?
You want a CPA that not only values formal education and field experience, but also comes with a great support team. While your CPA is the one who is certified to file your return, they typically have an advisory team and others working with them. It’s important to get to know everyone who may be involved in your tax planning, so that you can feel confident in moving forward.
These questions can play an important role in finding the right CPA for you. If you’re in need of an experienced CPA, consider Brilliant Accounting. For almost 25 years, Brilliant Accounting has provided premier accounting and tax services to businesses and families throughout New Jersey, and we’d love to help you too.