Accounting 101: What is a CPA & What to Look For When Hiring One

You’ve heard the term “accountant” before, I’m sure. It’s a pretty common job title; but what does an accountant actually do? By definition, an accountant is a trained professional who likely handles bookkeeping and prepares financial documents like profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets for individuals, small, or larger businesses and organizations. A Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, is a licensed professional who has completed at least 150 credit hours, has at least a Bachelor’s Degree, has passed the 4-part CPA exam and has at least one year of experience working under a CPA. Whew! So if you ever wondered why CPA fees are higher than an unlicensed accountant’s fees...now you know why. A CPA, accountant and bookkeeper are often mistaken as having the same responsibilities, however there is a distinct difference between the professions.



So, all CPAs (like us at ASE Group) are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs.


Now that we’ve clarified what an accountant does, you’re ready to go and hire a firm, right? Not yet! Finding the right accountant/accounting firm is not a decision taken lightly by many professionals and businesses. Choosing an accountant that you are comfortable with and confident in is very significant - I mean they will be handling your time-sensitive and important documents, tax information, and finances that can have a huge impact on your business if done erroneously or past deadline. And if they’re really good, they make you and your business better by taking over a task that they’re more proficient in, and they help you make stronger decisions for your business’ future. Don’t get nervous! This post is meant to offer guidance and insight into the proper questions to ask a potential CPA or firm before entering a contract for their services to not only ensure you are both confident in their abilities to help you strategize and maximize your business's finances, and comfortable with their communication and overall work style.,.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN HIRING A CPA


SOCIAL PROOF -

What’s the first thing most people do when someone recommends a product or service? They Google them or perform an internet search to look at their website and reviews. Do they have a professional looking website? Are there testimonials, reviews, and success stories? Don’t stop with their website because in reality, what business is voluntarily going to list bad reviews? Check out their Google reviews (which will usually pop up to the left of your search results on Google) and Facebook recommendations (if they have a business page.)



  • How many reviews do they have?

  • What are clients saying about their services and communication?

  • Are their reviews recent?

  • Are there any red flags?

This will help give you an idea of what kind of service you can expect from them.


FLAWS -

Let’s be honest, no one is perfect, and your accountant or CPA isn’t either. Everyone possesses weaknesses. Ask them what theirs are. A good accountant will admit to their weaknesses and explain how their team shines in those areas and compliment one another.


COMMUNICATION -

This is probably one of the most important characteristics to look for in your accountant or CPA. From the moment you call or email their office for a consultation, take notice to how quickly they get back to you and how accommodating and friendly their staff is (an efficient and friendly staff means they have a boss who cares and puts emphasis on customer service.) When you meet with your potential accountant, do they speak at a level you comprehend? Numbers and tax laws can be complex, and if you leave a meeting confused and with a million questions, they are most likely not the firm for you. They should be able to answer your most basic accounting questions without squirming in their chair or breaking a sweat. If you ever get to a point where you dread meeting with or speaking to your accountant, or worse, can’t reach your accountant until two days before a tax filing deadline, it might be time to move on.


RED FLAGS -

Be cautious if an accountant or CPA makes promises of large refunds or can deduct an excessive amount of expenses before analyzing your finances and really speaking with you. After all, you are paying them to provide an important service. Don’t settle for the first accountant you meet unless you are certain. If you are nervous because the tax deadline is approaching, you can file for an extension by submitting the proper forms to the tax authorities.


QUESTIONS TO ASK DURING AN INTERVIEW

WITH A POTENTIAL ACCOUNTANT OR CPA


  1. What services do you provide?

  2. What licenses do you have?

  3. Who will do the work?

  4. Do you have any experience with my industry? If so, what common problems have you solved for other businesses in my industry?

  5. How do you work?

  6. How accessible are you?

  7. Can you represent me if I get audited by the IRS?

  8. How can you help me grow my business?

  9. How can you help me get control over my cash flow?

  10. What are some considerations I should consult with you about on an ongoing basis?

  11. What are your fees?



Choosing an accountant for yourself or your business is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Accountants are privy to sensitive financial information, which makes it all the more vital that you trust and respect them. Do your research and prepare a list of questions to ask them. Start (and potentially end) your journey to finding your next CPA by meeting with the trained professionals at ASE Group! You’re not just a number here. Our business model is to service fewer clients in more areas of their business. We only work in areas that we’re experts in, and we work very well with new and growing business owners, and individuals with passive income from rental property. We take our time and explain things to you like a business professional speaks to another business professional (not CPA to non-CPA). And we always start with you in mind -- how can we make your business better? How can we solve your tax problem? How can we help you sleep better with more peace of mind that your accounting and tax matters are in good hands?


Want to discuss how we can help you?



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