Every small business needs a small-business accountant for two main reasons. One, accountants help you keep your finances both in order and on track, and two, the financial advice they give stops you from making financial mistakes that can ruin your business.
However, knowing that you need an accountant is easier than hiring one. For that, you must know the right questions to ask, and most entrepreneurs do not. And the chances are that neither do you. So, to help you with this important task, here are some important questions you should ask before you hire a business accountant.
1) Are You a Certified Public Accountant?
Before you begin on anything relating to accounting, make sure the accountants you will be working with have proper qualifications. In particular, ask whether they are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Having a CPA means that an accountant has passed all the necessary professional examinations, and is therefore fit to serve you. This blog post highlights 43 of the most commonly asked questions about CPAs, including who needs one.
2) Is Everyone Working on My Account a CPA?
If you enlist the services of a large accounting firm, some individuals who will work on your account will not be CPAs but non-certified bookkeepers. However, this should not worry you. Large firms usually assign a team to manage your account.
Although it comprises of non-certified bookkeepers, who do all the legwork, it is always headed by a qualified CPA. On the other hand, small business CPA consultants rarely use team setups. But when they do, they first inform you of it.
3) What Accounting Services Do You Provide?
Once you are satisfied with the credentials of your CPA or accounting firm, ask them about the services they provide. Keep in mind that accountancy is a wide discipline. It includes everything from payroll processing to tax representation. As such, most CPAs and accounting firms specialize in an area or two. So, enlist a specialist depending only on your accounting needs.
4) How Much Accounting Experience Do You Have?
In accounting, work experience is just as important as having the right qualifications and specializing in the right area. Experience imparts practical skills that cannot be learned in an accounting class. So, be keen and specific about it before hiring, and always ask accountants how long they have been a CPA. Also, ask whether they have experience in your area of business and whether they can represent you across different states.
In addition to experience, inquire about the number of clients and size of the accounts they work with. This question helps you to gauge not only their experience and expertise but also their priorities. Accountants with too many clients or accounts larger than yours may not give you the attention you deserve.
5) How Do You Bill Your Clients?
Different accounting firms have different billing options. While some charge an hourly rate, others charge a monthly rate. It is up to you to decide which one you are comfortable paying. Also, ask what these rates include. Is the firm charging you for posting receipts, preparing entries, or printing a loss on profit report?
Before you hire a small business CPA, it’s vital to ask them some detailed questions.