An accountant can be your business’s best friend (and not just during tax season). Your accountant is your star player when it comes to tax preparation, but they can also serve as a valuable resource throughout the year. By asking the right questions and having some serious ongoing conversations with your accountant, you can get a better understanding of the current health of your business as well as plan for future successes.
Create a short list
The relationship between business owner and accountant is crucial to the success of an enterprise, so it’s important to find someone who is not only knowledgeable, trustworthy and competent, but also someone who understands your business. If you’re unsure where to start your accountant search, Forbes contributing writer and CEO of Fundera Jared Hecht suggests asking your friends and trusted colleagues for referrals. Once you have a few you’re interested in, Hecht recommends doing a reference check for everyone on your list.
Start with the basics
When interviewing potential accountants, you can start with basic inquiries about their fee structure and what services they can offer you, reports The Balance writer Jean Murray. You need to be clear about what you want your accountant to do for you, stresses Hecht. Is it just tax prep you need? Or do you want help with budgeting and financial planning? Determining your financial goals first will help you choose the right accountant for your business.
Inquire about potential threats
An IRS audit is something you’d rather not think about, but it’s a real possibility, and you don’t want to be blindsided when it happens. Murray recommends asking your accountant interviewees if they have the qualifications and the experience to support you if or when the IRS comes calling. While IRS audit protection and instruction may never be needed for your business, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Establish a game plan
Clarify how you often you will meet with your accountant throughout the year, advises Murray. You can also talk about the best ways to communicate, whether that be in person, online, via email or through teleconferences.
Compare financial strategies
It’s important that the two of you are on the same page, especially regarding taxes.
“Is this person cautious, assertive or aggressive about taking deductions?” asks Murray. “Your CPA’s style and philosophy should match yours. If you don’t feel comfortable with this person’s philosophy, keep looking.”
Cover every base
If your business has expanded across state lines or you hope to achieve a wide geographical reach, Murray suggests asking your potential accountants if they can cover you wherever you operate your business — close to or far from home.
“Many states have reciprocal agreements but check anyway,” she advises.
Asking the right questions will lead you to the right accountant and help you establish a strong, working relationship with a colleague you can trust to help your business succeed.