How to Choose a CPA

Are you interested in hiring a certified public accountant (CPA)? As an individual, a CPA can help you file taxes while answering any financial questions that are on your mind. At the same time, many CPA’s specialize in working with business owners as well. Some people immediately reject the idea of hiring a CPA for their taxes beacuse of the upfront costs above and beyond a service like TurboTax. But, often these professionals can ultimately save you a ton of money with their expertise by using techniques and strategies that a computer program (or yourself) would not even know about.

If you’re thinking about hiring any service professional, you need to know what to look for and which steps to take. Below are several details to consider when hiring a CPA:

1. Experience. Above all else, you need to hire a CPA that is experienced in the area in which you need assistance. Somebody who specializes in individual tax returns, for example, is not the right choice if you need help for your business. There is a big difference between the way a CPA treats an individual and how they approach a small business.

How can I find out if a particular CPA has any experience suitable for my needs? The best way is to ask. Let them explain their professional experience, and how it pertains to what you are trying to accomplish. Along with this, receiving a referral is a great way to know that you are getting involved with an experienced and dependable CPA with a good reputation.

2. Are you comfortable communicating with the person on a regular basis? The last thing you want is to hire a CPA that you do not enjoy communicating with. You don’t have to be friends with the people you hire, but you need to feel comfortable asking questions and requesting help when necessary. If you don’t feel that you can strike up a good working relationship with a particular person, move on to somebody else.

3. Size of the firm. Are you going to hire a single CPA or are you looking for a huge accounting firm with an entire team dedicated to you and your business? Your wants and needs should determine the answer to this question. If you only need help from a CPA once per year, such as for a tax return, a lone individual is the right choice. On the other hand, if you have a growing business in need of regular assistance, a large accounting firm could be the right decision. If the business is still in its infancy stages, an individual may still suffice (and save you a lot of money).

4. Are you really hiring a CPA? These professionals must meet a minimum level of education, while taking tests to prove their knowledge. There is nothing wrong with hiring a general accountant, just make sure you know the difference as well as what you are getting in return.

5. Money, money, money. CPA’s are experienced with numbers. This includes their hourly rate or fee. Make sure you compare the cost of several professionals before you make a hiring decision. You will usually find that a “one person company” costs much less than a large accounting firm.

Before you make a final selection, interview at least three CPA’s. Along with this, do not be afraid to ask for references. This is a good way to learn more about a professional, before hiring them to work for you.

Do you have any additional points or firsthand experiences that can help someone out in their search for a CPA? We’d love to hear from you!

(photo credit: Andres Rueda)

  • Evan

    I would emphasize the referral part. It is the best way to at least get a sense of the professional.