Finding a good accountant is a critical step for a new business owner. But with little knowledge of accounting, how can you be sure you’re hiring the best out there?
Believe it or not, accountants and bookkeepers love it when our prospective clients ask questions. It shows us you care about your business’ finances. It also gives us a chance to tell you where we shine, which isn’t something most of us do without some prompting.
The following 10 questions will ensure you are not only getting a top quality accountant but also that the accountant/client relationship will be one which is enjoyable for both parties.
Questions to Ask When Vetting an Accountant for Business
1. Do you have experience in my industry?
Each industry has its own idiosyncrasies, and you want to make sure your new accountant is knowledgeable about the issues which will pertain to your business. This is important not only for tax purposes but also for analyzing your business’ performance as compared with that of other businesses in your industry.
2. How often can we meet?
Accountants and bookkeepers have a reputation for being introverted and unapproachable, but this just isn’t true. We want to meet with our clients at least quarterly. Why? 89% of small businesses say they are more successful with an accountant. We want to be a part of your business’ success!
3. Can you help me with tax resolution matters?
This question is especially important if you haven’t filed a tax return for a while, have past tax issues outstanding, or if you owe a lot in back taxes. An accountant who can prepare offers in compromise or who is willing to represent you before the IRS will be your best choice in these cases.
4. What software do you support?
If you are already using an accounting software for your daily bookkeeping, you want to make sure your accountant is familiar with how to use it. This will allow your accountant to thoroughly analyze your financial records and provide more valuable advice.
5. Will you work directly with my bookkeeper?
Accountants love it when they can have direct access to your bookkeeper, whether in-house or outsourced. They will still want to speak with you, of course, but having a collaborative relationship with your bookkeeper will help your accountant help you make better, more timely business decisions.
6. How do you prefer to communicate?
Some accountants prefer phone calls, while others would rather communicate via email so there is a record of their communications with clients. With more accountants embracing cloud technologies and working with clients across the country and around the world, many like using video conferencing technologies like Zoom to retain some of the qualities of in-person meetings. Ask your prospective accountant how he or she prefers to communicate and make sure their communication style jives with yours.
7. How quickly do you respond to voicemail and email?
You want to make sure your questions are answered in a timely manner. At the same time, accountants have to protect their workflow to ensure the highest quality work product for all their clients. In order to avoid wondering if your email has gotten lost in the ether, ask your accountant about their communication policy. Most will reply within 24 business hours or by the end of the following business day, with longer response times during the height of tax season.
8. Can you help me with matters not related to taxes?
It’s a common misconception that accountants only do taxes. Your accountant may also be able to help you acquire a loan, change your business’ entity structure, conduct a formal valuation of your business, write a business plan, and/or manage your cash flow more effectively. Don’t be afraid to ask potential accountants what other services they offer.
9. How do you bill for your services?
Notice the question is not, “How much do you charge?” though that question must eventually be asked, too. Many accountants are moving away from the hourly billing model and adopting flat fee or value pricing instead. This subscription-type model typically also involves an automatic payment structure. Knowing in advance what to expect in regard to billing – both how it is done as well as how much it will cost – will help ensure your expectations align with your accountant’s.
10. What else do I need to know about working with you?
Though this list of questions is thorough, it doesn’t cover every nuance important to every accountant. This question gives the accountant a chance to address anything they deem important in the client relationship. It also gives you a final chance to get a feel for their personality and approachability.
Choosing the right accountant for your small business is a critical step. These 10 questions will make the vetting process a bit easier, both for you as well as for your potential accountant.
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