Small- and medium-sized businesses often turn to CPAs at tax time so that they aren't hit with unexpected interest and penalties from incorrectly filed income and business taxes. Unfortunately, many of these same businesses fail to use certified public accountants in other ways that can help them save money and better prepare their businesses for the future. If you're considering working with a professional accounting firm, be sure to ask the right questions in order to find out which CPA firm is right for your company.
Do You Have Referrals From Other Businesses Like Mine?
Most CPA firms have several industries they're very familiar with. Ask for referrals from these businesses and from companies similar to yours in particular. If you handle light manufacturing and global distribution, talking to someone who does similar work will give you an idea of how the accounting firm handles other clients with issues that you're probably familiar with. If the only referral available is from a street vendor, you may want to look for a better fit.
How Flexible Is Your CPA Firm?
Can they send someone to your facility to learn its inner workings and any financial issues that need to be addressed? Meeting with them at their offices is fine in most circumstances, but seeing how you operate on-site and up close can give them a firmer grasp on what it is you do, what it costs you and ways they can minimize tax liability while improving your profits. Can someone who is familiar with your industry respond quickly if there is an unexpected development?
Are Your CPAs Current In All Areas Of Business Accounting?
The best firms in the city aren't necessarily the largest or the smallest. The best gauge of whether or not they can represent you and prepare your reporting and taxation paperwork is whether or not their accountants continue their education year after year. Tax laws change every year and CPAs have to keep up. Graduating from college with a degree should be only the beginning; ongoing education, whether online or at a university, gives employees valuable tools and resources so that your bookkeeping isn't operating behind the times. If certified public accountants aren't continually learning and expanding their knowledge base, they may make mistakes that can cost you thousands of dollars in penalties and fines. Ask what value added services they can provide beyond those quarterly taxes. Can they perform an internal audit? Educate your managers and bookkeepers on better record-keeping checks and balances?
Who Will Handle My Company's Account?
The size of a CPA firm isn't as important as how they handle each individual client. While a small firm will give you excellent, personalized service, it may not have the same access to resources as a larger one, but you could lose the personal touch if you have to deal with a different representative every time you work with them. The best CPA firms will assign your company a specific contact person who will be your liaison, and you will be able to work with the same certified public accountant every time. This will build trust, help you relax and ask your questions, and give you personal attention and support tailored to your unique business needs.
A combination of personal service, superior support, continuing education and personal service is the hallmark of an outstanding CPA firm. Until you find all of these features under one roof, you won't be getting the financial representation you deserve. So ask the right questions to get the right fit.
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