So you have reached the point where you are ready to hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to assist you with certain financial aspects of your life. The first thing you need to realize when you start searching for a CPA is that not all CPAs are equal. CPAs often have expertise in differing areas of accounting, and some are better than others in specific areas. There are certain steps that you can take and various traits to look for to make sure that you find a CPA that is good at what they do and also one that is a good fit for you and your specific situation.
1. Do your research
Ask family, friends and other professionals you work with if they work with a CPA and if they would recommend that CPA to you. Find out what types of experiences they have had with this CPA and if they would be able to help you with your specific needs. It’s also wise to conduct an internet search for CPAs in your area. Check out various firms’ websites and also check for complaints online or with the Better Business Bureau.
2. Meet with more than one CPA
Once you have narrowed your search down to two or three, make sure that you take the time to meet each potential CPA in person or at least talk on the phone with each individual before making any decisions.
Ask the CPA about their personal experience in dealing with the specific services that you are seeking. Also ask if they specialize in any specific areas. If they are young, ask about their education and experience but also ask about the level of experience of the firm’s staff in general. Depending on the services that you are looking for the CPA to provide, a younger CPA may be able to provide them to you at a fraction of the cost of a more senior member.
4. Comfort level
Make sure that you are comfortable communicating personal financial details to the CPA; you don’t want to withhold any details that the CPA may need to effectively help you. Also make sure that the CPA communicates with you in a way that you understand and feel comfortable with rather than speaking in technical industry jargon.
Ask what their fees are and how much the services you are seeking typically cost. Compare the costs of each CPA you meet and but don’t make a decision solely based on cost.
6. IRS assistance
Ask if the CPA will be willing to work with you if the IRS comes knocking at your door (the answer should be yes!).
7. Company capabilities
Ask how large the firm is and what their research and continuing education capabilities are. You want to make sure you are selecting a CPA who has the proper support structure to keep the CPA current on all changes in the laws and planning ideas.
CPAs are typically one of the most trusted advisors an individual will work with in their lives. Even though the process of hiring one may be a bit time consuming, performing a little due diligence up front can pay off greatly in the long run.