Finding a CPA can be such a pain. I keep saying that an incredible business idea would be to make a CPA firm with CPAs who actually return emails and phone calls. But I’m at the point where I think that it might just be impossible to find CPAs of that caliber!
In the blog about winning the tax crunch every year, I mentioned placing your money team in place to help you with your taxes. A CPA is a part of this indispensable money team and you must find the right one, not just any CPA will do.
So how do you find the right accountant for your taxes?
Ask around for recommendations.
First, you want to do some googling and asking around for recommendations. Get an idea of 3-5 firms that look like they may be the right fit for you.
Test Their Most Common Weakness: Email Correspondence
Just because they come recommended doesn’t mean you accept them blindly, you need to test them. Not during tax season because they are going to be swamped, but any other part of the year.
And the test is simple—email them and see if you get an email back. I’m serious. Communication with your CPA is key and I think that no one is worse than a CPA about emailing back.
If you get an email back, then they have passed the initial test! I think you will find that more than half of the CPA firms which you email will not email you back. That has been my experience and that of my friends and colleagues as well. But if they do, you just might have found a gem!
Set Up a Meeting
Once you get an email back, schedule an in-office meeting with them. I recommend that you meet with them in person, not over the phone. I know that sounds old-fashioned in this modern era, but remember, YOUR MONEY IS IMPORTANT!
Your money is the most important part of your business. You can try to disagree with me, but if you don’t have money, you don’t have a business, you have a hobby. That being said, you need to make sure that the person who is in charge of your money and your business’ integrity is the right fit for you and your needs.
Something to keep in mind though is that when you get to the meeting, you are not there to just talk about you and your needs. You are there to interview the CPA. Here are some questions that you need to ask:
- How fast can I expect email communication back from you?
- If I do not receive an email back in the timeframe you have given me, what should be my next step?
- How can I get documents to you?
- Note that if your CPA won’t use something like Dropbox or Fileshare and insists on uploading documents through email, or worse, requires the documents in hard copy by courier or snail mail, understand that that may end up creating a great deal more work for you than you would likely want to do.
- What is your policy on filing tax extensions? Is it something you do automatically, or do you try to always file on time?
- I personally just want my things over and done with. And even if you get an extension, you don’t get a payment extension, so again, I don’t want to have the IRS as my creditor.
- Will you personally handle my taxes and my business or will it be someone else?
- If it is someone else, then ask if that is the person you can expect to communicate with. If so, then say that you want to speak directly with that person because you want to interview him or her.
- Are there any ways that you think that I could increase my deductions and thus lessen my tax liability?
- This is an important question. You DO NOT want a CPA who says, “Go spend $10,000 on some new equipment that you can expense.”
That simply does not make sense from a financial perspective—you will spend more than what you save in taxes! No sense either in buying things you don’t need.
Instead, you want a CPA who will review your retirement accounts to make sure you are maximizing them. You also want them to make sure you are getting the benefits that you can rightfully write off, such as business overhead, insurance, and more. You want real, tangible things that can be written off and simultaneously help improve your business.
Working With Lawyers:
- Do you have experience working with law firms?
- If so, how many do you work with?
- What are some unique issues you anticipate my business will have from a tax perspective?
- For example, if there was a recent change that affected lawyers they need to be familiar with that.
- What are some areas in which I should consult with you on a regular basis?
- What are some common mistakes that your clients make when working with you?
- Can we meet quarterly to go over my P&L’s and review my business to ensure that my quarterly projections are correct?
- If the answer is no, then I think you could find someone else to help you. You want a CPA who can advise you.
- Are you open year-round?
- Some aren’t. This is an important question to ask, especially in connection with your P&L reviews.
- What services do you provide other than reviewing and preparing taxes?
- Will you be reviewing my P&L’s for accuracy or do you merely report on what I provide you with?
- Will you advise me if you see anything in my P&L’s or taxes that could be improved, or are you dedicated solely to putting together information that I’ve provided?
- What is your fee structure like?
Remember, these questions are just a starting block! Feel free to ask some of your own in every area.
Be sure to keep a record of their answers so you can refer back to those answers in the future. This enables you to hold your CPA accountable for what they expressed in this meeting if you decide to go forward with his or her services.
My CPA is old-fashioned. He does everything by pen and paper. He even takes handwritten notes in our meetings, it drives me crazy! However, I convinced him to share files via Dropbox and he already uses Fileshare. He takes the time to explain things to me and goes over things in a way that I can understand, which is really important to me.
I constantly want to make myself better by furthering my understanding of my taxes, which is a difficult topic for me that I need to learn in bite-sized pieces. So I like the quarterly meetings with my CPA because I continue to learn more about taxes each time, such as the different types of retirement accounts and which are more advantageous from a tax perspective, strategies to consider for charitable contributions, ways to ensure that I am in compliance when expensing meals and mileage, and more!
The tax code is like any other law—you can creatively work within it. I am not a tax professional and I gratefully never will be- however, hiring the right CPA will help you tap into the creativity you need to maximize your tax situation and make it the most beneficial for you and your business.
Find the right CPA! In my next blog post, I’ll discuss the rest of your money team: a CPA, a CFO, and a financial planner can really bring a ton of benefits to your law firm’s financial side.
If you can believe it, I have even more knowledge to share on this topic! If you’d like to learn more about finding the right money team, sign up for my Six Figure Solo program! Six Figure Solo now comes in three tiers – Executive, Solopreneur, and CEO. Sign up here!