When you think about the many important relationships that you have or would like to have, you probably don’t include your accountant in your list. But the truth is that finding a CPA who is a good match for your needs and with whom you can establish a solid rapport and understanding can make a real difference in your financial confidence.
Working with a knowledgeable Certified Public Accountant offers numerous significant advantages, whether you are an individual or a business owner. Not only can they prepare your taxes accurately and in a way that leverages every money-saving tool, they will also be there should the IRS question your filing, command an audit, or determine that you owe them additional monies.
Of course, just as is true with every relationship, not just any CPA will do. For help finding the right CPA for you, review the 7 tips below.
1. Identify Areas Where You Need Expertise
Some CPAs specialize in tax preparation for individuals while others have expertise in forensic accounting, small business, or corporate taxes. Identify what your specific needs are and make sure that any CPA you are considering has deep knowledge of that area.
2. Ask for Their Preparer Tax Identification Number
In order to ensure that a CPA has the credentials that you need and is properly registered with the Internal Revenue Service, ask them to provide you with their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). You can verify that the information they provide is legitimate by comparing it to the IRS Return Preparer Office Directory.
3. Check Your State’s CPA Database for Their License
Another way to verify the legitimacy of a specific CPA is to check your state’s CPA database to ensure that they are listed in the board of accountancy’s licensure list. These databases are generally searchable by the public, and will contain valuable information including license status, date of issue of license, date of expiration of license, and any disciplinary actions or suspensions that have been lodged against a specific CPA.
4. Gauge the Experience They Have Against Your Needs
If you have fairly basic tax returns and needs, you probably don’t need a CPA who has decades of experience. But if your tax needs are complex and require a significant level of expertise, you may want to select a CPA who has a long record of success.
Another reason to choose an experienced CPA is that the IRS will only allow tax preparers who file 11 or more tax returns per year to electronically file tax returns on your behalf. A newly credentialed CPA may not have enough clients to qualify for this important benefit, and if that is the case you may want to move on to another who qualifies to provide this service.
5. Ask if They Sign Their Clients’ Tax Returns
When you submit a tax return that has been professionally prepared, you want the assurance that the CPA stands by their work enough to sign their name as your tax preparer. If a CPA is not willing to do this, you should move on and find another.
6. Find Out What Other Services They Provide
Though you may think of a CPA as the person who prepares your taxes, they can also be invaluable sources of advice and information about maximizing tax savings and general tax planning. When considering a specific CPA, ask whether their services include this type of guidance.
7. Find Out What Their Fees Are
It may seem obvious, but many people fail to ask how a CPA charges for their services, and that can be a big mistake. While some charge flat fees, others charge by the hour, which is generally a reflection of how complicated your tax filing turns out to be. If a CPA cites a flat fee make sure that you find out whether that is simply for federal tax returns or also includes state and local returns. Be aware that charging based on the tax refund you are going to receive is not allowed, and any accountant that indicates that this is their practice should probably be avoided.
There are many taxpayers who are searching for qualified CPAs. If you’re an accountant or tax professional interested in attracting the attention of potential clients, you may be able to benefit from services that specialize in marketing for accounting firms. Marketing your practice online is one of the best ways to garner attention from prospects who are looking for your services.