How to Find a Good Accountant for Small Business
Every business owner needs a super team. There are multiple professionals on this team which may include lawyers, accountants, consultants, marketing experts and others. When aggregating this team, it is important to find the right professional for your business to avoid as many mistakes as possible and maximize the effectiveness of your business. Since this is Accounting Month on the Mirex Marketing blog, it is only appropriate to have a post that explains how to find a good accountant for your super team.
As the author of this article, my most honest and upfront answer to how to find a good accountant is . . . . I don’t know for sure because I’m not an accountant myself. What I can do is share the best advice I’ve received so far and add some additional advice that just makes sense:
When looking for an accountant, you want to find one that runs their own business which is similar to yours. If you have a small business, then find an accountant that owns his or her own small business. These types of accountants are recommended over large accounting firm employees. The accountants who work as employees will have an employee mentality and they might miss stuff that a self-employed small business accountant would never miss, because they own their own business and they keep track of that kind of stuff to make their own business better and more efficient. You’re an entrepreneur; so you should have other successful entrepreneurs advising you, not employees.
Most accountants will offer a free consultation to let you determine risk-free whether they’d be a good fit for your business. There is no harm in interviewing multiple accountants until you find the one that you think is right. During this consultation, you could ask them how many of their clients have businesses like yours and how long has the accountant had those clients.
Since the tax benefits are one of the best reasons for owning a business, it just makes sense to get an accountant that specializes in tax planning and the tax code. This point is one of the reasons for the previous post: CPAs vs Enrolled Agents. Does that mean you should hire an Enrolled Agent instead of a CPA? Not necessarily. There are many CPAs who are indeed tax experts. Yet there are also many different types of CPAs. That’s why I also used the free consultation as an opportunity to indirectly quiz the accountants on their knowledge of tax deductions for small business owners.
Further posts on this blog will explain tax deductions for small business owners. My education in this matter started with a mini seminar hosted by a representative from Bradford and Company, Inc., which is owned by W. Murray Bradford. Murray Bradford used to write books on tax reduction and tax deductions and he currently has an entire tax deduction info-product package and a weekly tax-deduction letter. He does not practice accounting; he and his staff work full time on the tax deduction newsletter with frequent updates and constant research. I’ve been doing work related to affiliate marketing for over seven years, I’ve seen tons and tons of info products, and his is by far one of the best and highest quality that I’ve ever seen. It’s an absolute shame that he doesn’t have an affiliate program to promote it, which is what I tried to explain to the representative but he just couldn’t grasp the potential of it (sorry that soapbox is a bit off topic). What happened in this mini-seminar that I attended is I learned a handful of tax deductions that most accountants would not know are allowed. So I used this information when I interviewed accountants during free consultations (I purposely asked questions I knew the answer to). Sometimes the accountant didn’t exactly give me the answer I was looking for, but they could justify their answer with reasoning as sound as I could decipher and they could back it up with sources. To me that was important because one of the things you’re actually looking for is an accountant that can advise you in such a way that you’d pass an IRS audit. (Heaven forbid it ever happens).
When I started my list of candidates to interview, one of the best resources I had was the Bradford Tax Institute Directory of Tax Advisers. I thought that if they were on that list, they at least had access to a reliable source of information which would help reduce my taxes. As I understand from some of the interviews I had with accountants, getting listed in that directory is not simply a matter of subscribing to the newsletter. The Bradford Institute does some checking before they’ll recommend anyone (however, I have not confirmed that with anyone involved in creating that directory).
Do not start your search by using Google. As a marketing expert I can tell you that starting there will only show you the accountants with the best optimized websites. Just because they have a website that is search engine optimized does not mean that they’re a good accountant or even good for you. Searching for “tax adviser” instead of simply “accountants” may get you further down the road if you’re using Google. However, something else I can say without a doubt is that even though they may have “tax experts”, “tax adviser” or some other variation of that in the name of their business, does not actually make them tax experts.
Beyond the Bradford Institute Directory, other sources you can look to are recommendations from business associations, like your local chamber of commerce or an association related to your industry. Your local SCORE mentor may or may not provide a list of business to business service providers. If your SCORE adviser has such a list, then it should include accountants that other businesses recommend.
One of the personality traits that won me over during my interviews with accountants was when the accountant was good at teaching. If you have not organized your business yet, then the accountant can explain why it’s usually best to start with an LLC from a tax perspective. Some buisinesses may be better off if they’re organized as a corporation
If at any time you discover that your accountant missed something that resulted higher taxes for you, there is no shame in firing that accountant and hiring another one. Business owners must adapt and continue to improve. It’s not enough to just stay with that which is comfortable. It could be kind of mean if you’ve worked with your accountant for a while and you know that person, but this is business.
Once you select someone, you can check their credentials to be sure they’re current in their knowledge and up to date on their continuing education. If they’re a CPA then you can go to the website for your State’s board of accountancy and request verification. If they’re an Enrolled Agent, you can use the information on the IRS website.
Again, this article is not written by an accountant. Another strategy you could try is surveying multiple accountants and asking them how they would go about finding an accountant if they weren’t accountants themselves.
Do you have any advice for finding a good small business accountant? If so, leave a comment below.