Involving a great accountant in your books is a true blessing. Whether it’s flagging issues early on, guiding your business through changing tax laws, or showing you exactly where you can keep more cash, a great accountant will work with you in lockstep every step of the way. And most importantly, to grow your business in the most sustainable, cost-effective way.
If you think about it, a great accountant does a whole lot more than just preparing financial statements for you.
Characteristics of a Great Accountant
The difference between a good accountant and a great accountant is to view the great accountant as a tax expert. They don’t just help you with your annual tax preparation. You should realistically be leaning on them and their knowledge of tax laws throughout the year to minimize your deductions.
Now that you know how to view a great accountant versus a good one, here are some ways that you can secure one for your small business:
Tip #1. Know your business needs (then match it to their services)
Most accountants operate within specialties in their industry. For example, some accountants work primarily with small business owners to help them navigate financial decisions year-round. Others, on the other hand, specialize as tax preparers for different companies. Some accountants may even include bookkeeping services and will prepare your individual or business tax return for you, while others specialize in guiding business and real estate transactions only.
As you start browsing for your accountant search, be sure to ask them about their services, their portfolio, and most importantly, the types of clients they prefer to serve. Talk to them about how they work with clients and how much experience they have in your industry. After all, accounting for a social media freelancer just starting out is very different from accounting for large corporations.
Tip #2. Start with referrals and reviews
There’s no better way to source suppliers of any kind than through referrals. Find out from other business owners which accountant they use, and how satisfied they are with the services this great accountant is providing.
You can glean a lot of an accountant’s quality and consistency by speaking to a real-life testimonial—someone who you know and trust.
If no worthy or local referrals are coming up, then you can always search on the good ‘ol internet. Google reviews are a quick and easy way to source great accountants. Alternatively, you could try online forums and communities like LinkedIn, local Facebook groups, or even Yelp.
Tip #3. Consider their qualifications
Choosing an accountant that jives with you and is experienced in your business area is important, yes. But you can also benefit greatly from working with a qualified accountant with strong qualifications, financial background, and experience to work with a small business owner like yourself.
A great accountant will have the credentials to back up their knowledge and experience working with business taxes.
If you’re a US small business owner…
As you are interviewing accountants in these first conversations, ask for a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. The IRS requires a PTIN for anyone getting paid to help file taxes for others. No PTIN? Immediate removal from your list of possibilities.
In addition to a basic PTIN, which is simple to acquire, you want an accountant with additional certifications or licenses. A certified public accountant, an enrolled agent, a licensed attorney, or someone with a certificate from the IRS Annual Filing Season Program will be registered with the IRS and searchable in the IRS directory.
Additionally, a reputable accountant will have membership in professional organizations. These include:
- National Association of Tax Professionals
- National Association of Enrolled Agents
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- American Academy of Attorney CPAs
If you’re a Canadian small business owner…
A reputable accountant in Canada will have membership in professional organizations. These include:
- Association of Certified Forensic Investigators of Canada (ACFI)
- Canadian Academic Accounting Association (CAAA)
- Canadian Bankers Association.
- Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA/ACVM)
- Canadian Tax Foundation (CTF)
- Chartered Professional Accountants – Canada (CPA Canada)
Tip #4. Meet prospective accountants
Say you’re done with your research and you’ve built out a decent shortlist of great accountants. What’s next?
Time to sit down with them!
But before you schedule those meetings, don’t forget to prepare questions beforehand, including:
- Confirm their licenses or professional organizations. Use this time to confirm his or her accounting licenses and designations. Get really specific on this information, including their education, certifications, and memberships to validate what you already know about this person and their qualifications.
- Which accounting software do they use (if any). Is there a specific software this accountant uses? See if their tool lines up with yours, and if not, figure out next steps like whether you can add the accountant to the software that you’re using for viewing access. Pro Tip: Within TrulySmall Accounting, you can easily add your accountant to your business with different privileges and configurations. All you would need is their name, email, and access level (Admin or Business Owner) to review your books.
- Rates. Billing your accountant is an important topic, so don’t be shy to bring it up during this meeting. Ask if they bill per hour, or whether they bundle services priced as a package. Do they bill every time you email or phone them for tax advice? Or, will every question answered be charged each time you reach out? However they structure their pricing, you’ll want to be aware of before signing them on.
Tip #5. Find someone you actually like
What’s the point in building a relationship with an accountant if you don’t enjoy spending time with them? Just like you would be selective of the friends you keep in your circle, you should be just as selective when finding a great accountant. Working with someone you genuinely like will make regular communications with them throughout the year much easier and streamlined. You’ll actually want to reach out and ask them questions, especially before tax season!
How TrulySmall can help streamline your accountant-business relationship
Whether you’re just starting out your business or not, a great accountant can help you save money and grow in a sustainable way. TrulySmall offers multiple products to help you streamline your accountant-business relationship. Our accounting software, Truly Small Accounting, makes it easy to manage users and bring accountants on board to view your books. If you’re looking just to invoice, TrulySmall Invoices houses all your invoices on the cloud so that everything is tracked—even when your accountants ask for them! Try these simple, yet easy-to-use tools today for free.