7 Ways to Find the Right Accountant

The relationship between you and the person you choose to perform your accounting and taxes is far more important than you may think. For owners of skin care facilities, the right accountant functions almost like a partner, so it’s crucial that the relationship be comfortable and trusting. “Certified public accountants (CPAs) are more than just individuals who do your yearly taxes,” says business consultant and author Maria Marsala. “The right accountant can advise you on a long list of other services, which may include advice on your accounting systems, personal finance, estate planning and retirement. Following are seven tips that should help you to find the person who best fits your needs.

1. Perform a careful search for prospects. The best way to locate a compatible accountant is to ask bankers, insurance agents and even other spa owners around your community. “The information you share with your accountant is confidential,” says CPA and tax advisor Genevia Gee Fulbright. “Licensed accountants are bound to strict nondisclosure requirements.”

2. Verify your prospect’s credentials. “Some individuals working as bookkeepers or accountants have no formal license or education in accounting,” cautions Navin Sethi, CPA. “That’s why you should do a thorough investigation before you hire an accountant. The best way to protect yourself is to hire a CPA.” In order to earn the CPA credential, applicants must meet the requirements of the state or jurisdiction in which they practice.

3. Be sure to check references. Checking an applicant’s references is one of the most important steps in the hiring process. Although it may be rare, even professionals can misrepresent their credentials or simply leave out important information.

4. Find out if you’re comfortable with the person. Fulbright emphasizes the importance of having good chemistry between you and your accountant. “Make sure that you have clear goals, and that your prospective accountant understands them,” she says. “Go to lunch, have a conversation, and then see if you’re both on the same page.”

5. Use the 60% rule. “Look for a CPA who has 60% of her business coming from people like you,” says Marsala. “They’re more apt to keep up with the laws regarding the clients they deal with most often. If your business is incorporated, make sure that the accountant specializes in corporate accounting, including financial statements and audits.”

6. Consider your special needs. If you have—or are anticipating—unusual accounting problems, you should look for an accountant with specialized training or experience. Perhaps you have limited experience in personal financial management and would like to explore the possibility of increasing your investment portfolio. “An accountant who is also a certified financial planner (CFP) would be a good choice when you need investment/portfolio advice,” says Fulbright. According to CPA Carol Katz, “A business owner should consult with her accountant before entering into any significant transaction. Undoing a poorly thought-out transaction can cost much more than the time spent on a planning meeting and document review.”

7. Don’t be afraid to make a change. Despite your best efforts, it’s always possible that you will find yourself working with an accountant who simply isn’t right for you. If you should find yourself in that position, you should not hesitate to look for a replacement. Your accountant is too important to your success for you to compromise.

“Small business owners and self-employed people should continually review where they are in the life cycle of their careers,” says Katz. “They may need to change the form of the entity as their profits grow. They many need tax-savvy ways to bring in family members to whom the business will eventually be transferred, and there should be a structure in place for the eventual sale of the business.” Finding the right accountant for you may take special effort, but the time you spend on that job may well prove to be among your most profitable investments.

William J. Lynott is a veteran freelance writer who specializes in business management, as well as personal and business finance. His work appears regularly in leading trade publications and newspapers, in addition to consumer magazines such as Reader’s Digest, AARP Bulletin and Family Circle. He can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].

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