10 Things to Find Out While Selecting a Small Business CPA Firm

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Looking to hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm for your small business? Going the CPA way might actually make sense over hiring just any accountant. The problem is, how do you know which is the right CPA firm for you? Here are some of the factors to consider while selecting a small business CPA firm.

1. Does the firm specialize in serving small businesses like yours?

A CPA firm specialized in serving small businesses is likely to understand and address the challenges unique to small businesses more effectively than one that is not. Also, it is likely to be efficient and agile in serving your needs as its services, processes and operations are built to cater to small businesses.

2. Does the firm have any client(s) in your industry?

A CPA firm specializing in serving small businesses in your industry is likely to be more familiar with the accounting principles and tax laws specific to your industry than a CPA that serves clients in any and all industries. This industry experience makes it an effective and informed business advisor for better business decision-making.

3. Does the firm offer all the CPA services you currently need or will need in the near future?

As your business grows, you will need a CPA firm that provides more than just accounting, tax, payroll and bookkeeping services. You will need a firm that can also be your business consultant, part-time CFO and a personal financial planner. Hire one that is a good fit for your present needs but also has the capacity to serve you as you expand.

4. Does the firm have expertise in areas relevant to your needs?

Understand your needs first before seeking a solution. For example, if your internal staff handles your accounting and bookkeeping but you need an outside help for certain types of taxes, then hire a CPA firm that is an expert in those types of taxes, preferably in your industry. If you want to setup a retirement plan for yourself and/or for your employees, hire a CPA firm that also provides financial advisory services.

5. What credentials and licenses in accounting and finance do the firm employees have?

Most highly-recognized professional credentials in accounting and finance, such as CPA, CFP, CFA, PFS, EA, etc., have requirements for continuing education and compliance with their standards to ensure that the professional is not only knowledgeable about the subject matter but also that his/her knowledge is up-to-date. It’s always wise to hire professionals with the highest professional credentials in the field of your needs.

6. Who will actually serve your account?

A typical CPA firm has accounting staff ranging from the most junior staff accountant to the most senior firm partner. Their ranks are largely determined based on their level of expertise and experience. Ask your CPA firm who will be your single point of contact for your account and who else will work on your engagement.

7. What is the firm’s client callback policy?

One of the main reasons to hire a small local CPA firm is the ease of access. Ask whether they have a written policy of returning client’s calls within 24 hours and addressing their queries and getting them resolved within 72 hours. Also, find out whether they will be available over the weekend for an occasional urgent situation.

8. What fees will the firm charge?

Depending on the nature and scope of your engagement, a CPA firm may quote you either an hourly rate or a flat fee. Ask them to explain why their quote type (hourly or flat) is appropriate for your situation. Also, ask whether there is anything you can do on your side to help lower the fees.

9. Is the firm also skilled in preparing personal tax returns and providing other personal finance services, if needed?

Most small businesses are flow-through business entities whereby their business profits and losses flow through their personal tax returns at the year-end. Therefore, as a small business owner, you need a CPA firm that has experts in not only accounting and taxes but also in personal finances.Such a CPA firm applies a holistic view to your finances in devising optimal tax strategies.

10. Does the firm have a strong referral network for your other professional service needs?

For many small businesses, their CPA is their most trusted source for many great referrals. You should be able to count on your CPA for reliable referrals for your other professional service needs such as legal, financing, banking, investment and insurance. Once you hire the right CPA firm, it should become your primary source for other reliable professionals.

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