Hiring an accountant may be the single best decision any business owner can make. It is tempting for small business owners to try and handle the details of accounting by themselves, but this could be a huge mistake.
Accountants can do much more than simply track expenses and prepare taxes. A good accountant is a valuable business partner. Accountants can offer insight and perspective to your business that you might not be able to see yourself.
Accountants can definitely prepare your taxes, but a good accountant can also help with tax planning. You need an accountant to help you comply with the law, but you will want an accountant to help you plan so your tax burden is as low as possible.
Accountants can also provide valuable auditing services to help you look good to banks when you need to borrow money. In short, a good accountant should pay for themselves by helping you avoid potential problems, and by pointing out ways for you to save and make more money.
When hiring an accountant, here are a few things you should know:
Accountants often Specialize
As with many professions, there are different niches within the world of accounting. Whether you are a doctor, a writer, or you own a landscape company, you should seek an accountant with relevant experience. That knowledge and experience will provide you with insights you may have never considered.
Accountants work for Many Clients
Unless you are a big company with the means to hire an in-house accountant, you will be sharing your accountant’s services with other clients. This does not mean they will share your secrets, as they are bound by accountant-client privilege and cannot disclose private information to 3rd parties.
It does mean, however that you may not always get the undivided attention you feel you need. This is not cause for alarm, but is simply important to be aware of.
Not all Accountants are Certified
To understand what it means for an accountant to be certified, you must first understand the meaning of the term Certified Public Accountant (CPA). CPA is the title of a qualified accountant who has passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and is officially licensed to provide accounting services to the public.
An accountant does not necessarily need to be certified to look after your books and balance your checkbook, but he or she does need to be certified in order to legally perform many of the most valuable duties of an accountant.
If you are going to hire an accountant, don’t just hire a bookkeeper, hire a CPA.
Accountants often Outsource
Don’t be surprised to find out that your accountant outsources many tasks. These tasks can be delegated to another firm, individual freelancers, or to other workers within your accountants own firm. Those enlisted to help can often be located overseas as well.
Outsourcing is not necessarily cause for alarm, as your accountant is ultimately responsible for the quality of the work performed, but it is important to be aware of.
Different Accountants have Different Styles
There are many stereotypes about accountants. Comedians would have us believe they are all robotic drones with no personality. Obviously, this is not true, although there may be many shared personality traits among accountants.
The important thing to know is that each accountant is a unique individual. When choosing an accountant, choose one you feel you could get along with. Choose an accountant whose approach to his craft will mesh well with your business.
Charges can be Hourly or Flat Rate
Accountants charge for their services in different ways. Some accountants have a flat rate for a list of included services, others have a menu of a-la-carte services, and others simply charge by the hour.
It is best to take a close look at what services you will require and pick an accountant who can meet your needs effectively and economically, based on their fee structure.
Communication Methods and Availability can vary
One last consideration when hiring an accountant is communication. If you require constant contanct via telephone, you will want to avoid accountants who only respond via email at a certain time each day.
As with other aspects of accounting, every accountant has their own style. Pick one whose style closely matches yours, and you will be more likely to have a successful partnership.
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