At its most basic definition, a CPA is simply a certified public accountant. It means that they have not only gone to school, but they have worked out in the field long enough to have a firm grasp of what’s necessary to not only prepare taxes, but legally vouch for their tax preparation work. It’s a very serious job because the work is equally serious — one mistake can have the IRS on top of their clients faster than the world-record holder in track & field events. Now, we’re a bit tongue and cheek here, but that’s just to lighten the mood. The truth is that it really does matter when you start talking about getting a CPA for your business. Once you find the right CPA, you can have them do your taxes for a long time to come — at least that’s what you hope for when you run a business, right?
First and foremost, you will want to make sure that you look at other business owners in your network. Taxes are a pretty necessary and universal evil across the board. So if you have a business friend that does nothing but rave about how wonderful their CPA is, you might want to see what they can do for you. While it’s true that price matters, you shouldn’t use price only as the only indicator of a good CPA. The truth is that preparing business taxes are going to be a little longer than handling an individual’s taxes. You should make sure that you keep this in mind when you’re trying to find a CPA. Another thing that you will want to ask your referrals is how thorough their CPA is. While everyone has to pay taxes, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take advantage of the numerous ways to shelter part of your business income from tax inclusion. That’s not unethical or illegal — it’s just part of life.
Another thing that you will need to do is you will want to sit down and actually talk to the CPAs that you’re interested in yourself. You can get a lot of information online and through people in your network, but there’s no real substitute for getting the advice yourself. You don’t want to just end up going with anyone that sounds good or has a nice website.
If the CPA has a free consultation period, then you should take advantage of it. You want to bring in some highlights about your business so they have a fair idea of what’s going on. While all businesses have similarities, the industry you’re in matters. It can make the difference when the CPA actually sits down to do your taxes. Make sure that you get all of your questions answered. If you find that the CPA doesn’t want to answer your question or doesn’t think that it’s very important, then you know that you haven’t found the right one.
Now, these steps can seem a bit complex when it’s just so much easier to pick a CPA randomly, but you’ll thank yourself when you don’t have to explain the inner workings of your business, or hope and pray that they know how to handle your unique tax situation. Not all CPAs are created equal, and there are some shady CPAs out there. Make sure that you get a clear picture of the price that you’re paying, and what it’s based on. You might get with a CPA that does hourly billing, or some will do it on a fee if your taxes are straightforward enough. There is some good news — getting your taxes prepared by a CPA is actually a business expense, so make sure that you don’t forget to get a receipt! Happy hunting!