Wednesday, April 3, 2019

How to Find a Good Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Considering the proximity to the dreaded April 15th date you may be on the lookout for a Certified Public Accountant for yourself or your business. Choosing a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a difficult decision. Along with your stock broker, banker, and tax preparer, who you choose as the CPA for your individual or business needs can have a strong financial impact upon you. You are placing a great deal of faith in this individual, and you should take steps to ensure you're picking a good apple. 

Here are some steps you can take to make sure you locate a reputable, competent, knowledgeable CPA: 

1 - It's all about the letters. Make sure that you select a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). A CPA has an undergraduate college degree that includes a large amount of accounting courses, passed a grueling 17 hour test, completed 2 years of selected experience under the supervision of another CPA, and attends 40 hours of training per year (known as Continuing Professional Education - CPE). Each state has different rules for CPA's regarding education, experience, and CPE hours. 

Do a Google search to find your local State Board of Accountancy and check the website for more information. Does the individual have any ongoing litigation against them? Have they been censured before? Are they in good standing with the State Board? These are all questions that the website should be able to answer. 

2 - Ask for references and call them. Ask for positive as well as negative references. If an accounting professional hesitates to give you references, you should hesitate to give them your business. Honest people and honest firms tend to be transparent about their business practice and should be more than willing to provide references. 

3 - Discover their reputation in the community. Research your local Better Business Bureau, ask friends who are in the business or accounting community, and find out how long they've been in the community. Is it their first year of operations and their "office" is a RV with the motor running? Not a good sign. 

4 - Phone a friend. Find out who your friends, neighbors, and family members use to prepare their tax return. But unless you trust someone's opinion completely, don't use this as an exclusive basis for selecting a CPA. Someone telling you "My Uncle Louies' got a guy that gets him money back every year" shouldn't be enough to place your financial well being into their hands, you still have to do you due diligence. 

You may also ask yourself if a CPA is necessary. Yes, tax forms and IRS regulations are near impossible to comprehend, but new online filing websites like H&R Block, TaxAct, and TurboTax make tax filing a logical and manageable process. Unless you have your own business, multiple rental properties, or extensive/complicated investments, you may be able to save some money by preparing your tax returns yourself. Good luck with filing your tax returns this tax year! 

Also see Five Things Your Tax Accountant Won't Tell You

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