Dealing with finances is inevitable.

Whether on behalf of a business or your family, at some point you’ll have to wade into the murky waters of taxes, accounting, or investments. Unless you like to memorize tax code for fun, it’s probably a good idea to hire an expert.

So where do you start?

Consider these seven tips when searching for that perfect accountant.

1. Assess your needs.

In the accounting arena, options abound. In order to find the right fit, determine your needs before you start looking.

Do you simply want someone to file your taxes? Or are you looking for bookkeeping help for your business? Knowing your own parameters will automatically limit your search and make you more efficient as you research your options.

2. Identify areas of expertise.

Once you’ve figured out your own needs, you’ll be able to determine which type of accountant is the right fit.

“Accounting” represents a range of accountant types and expertise. For example, graduating with an accounting degree, working as an accountant (non-CPA) at a firm, and earning the title of CPA are three very different things.

To that end, make sure that the accountant you’re choosing excels in the specific area you need, such as tax preparation.

And make sure that accountant is well qualified too. Believe it or not, you don’t have to have any credentials to prepare tax returns.

Your best bet is a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). To earn that title, an accountant must pass the four-part CPA exam, along with additional education and experience requirements.

3. Ask your friends.

Once you know generally what kind of accountant you’re looking for, check in with your friends and colleagues.

Before you start Googling for recommendations, reach out to people you know and trust who have had similar needs. Find out if they can recommend the right person—or steer you away from the wrong one!

4. Check references and reviews.

We live in a time of connection and transparency. Once you’ve identified several candidates, vet them thoroughly.

Ask your potential accountants for references from past and current clients. Although you know they’ll give you the most positive ones, it’s a good test to see if a firm has treated people well, been trustworthy, and been proactive in gathering references.

Also, check to see if they have any online reviews, but remember to take those with a grain of salt. Most people who leave reviews feel very strongly one way or the other.

The majority of past clients will remain silent.

5. Ask about availability.

Your needs will determine what kind of availability you need from a potential accountant.

Big accounting firms often provide more services, but can be less available, personable, and proactive.

Smaller firms or independent contractors typically offer more directed attention and timely communication.

6. Get a quote.

Accounting fees and service costs can vary significantly; professional accountants charge anywhere from $125 to over $400 per hour.

As you match your needs with an accountant, be sure to ask about pricing early on in conversations.

Make sure that you are comfortable with the cost and that you don’t get saddled paying for services that are beyond your scope of need.

7. Talk about tools.

Accountants employ various types of accounting tools and software depending on their personal preferences and area of expertise. Be sure to ask about what kinds your potential accountants use. This will give you a better sense of their processes.

Parting Thoughts

Choosing the right accountant can be intimidating decision. As you wade through these murky waters of financial expertise, we’d be happy to help you find your way, even if that means referring you elsewhere.

Culpepper CPA is a full-service tax, accounting, and business advisory firm. We view our clients as partners. By explaining options and bringing clarity to complex tax situations, we serve as advisors and enable you to make confident, tax-savvy decisions.

At Culpepper CPA, we recognize the value of longevity in relationships and constantly look for ways to serve our clients with more personalized service and better results.

Click here for more information about the Culpepper CPA team. We’d love to connect with you.

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