5 Tips for Hiring an Accountant


Accountants are useful at all times of year, but never so much as in tax season. Whether you own a business or simply have complicated tax filing questions, you may have considered whether you should hire an accountant. If you’re leaning towards making a hire, it’s important to keep the following tips in mind.

  1. Know What Services You Need. There are different kinds of accountants or tax preparers that can suit different needs. Enrolled agents, for example, are those that have been granted unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS. Their expertise is specifically in tax law, which may be the choice you are looking for if you are sorting through tax issues and audits. However, certified public accounts, or CPAs, have a broader knowledge of all accounting-related matters and had to go to great lengths to attain their certification. CPA candidates have to accomplish years of coursework, study for hundreds of hours, and take CPA courses to be qualified in a wide breadth of tax and accounting issues. Both are able to represent clients on their behalf before the IRS, but a CPA may be more qualified in some ways to; for example, create business plans, oversee budgets, and create financial plans for the future.
  2. Understand Your Budget. Before any purchase, whether it be a home, car, or other service, it’s important to assess your budget. A good accountant does not need to break the bank, but they are not necessarily cheap either. It may be tempting to go automatically for the cheapest price, but there are so many other factors to consider. After all, your taxes are in your hands, and you want to make sure you hire someone both competent and ethical to cover all of your financial needs. While hiring a CPA means getting one of the most qualified individuals in the field, rest assured that designation comes with a higher price tag. Don’t think you have to run to your local CPA firm to get accounting help; you can find accountants on freelance websites like Remote.com that can provide you with the assistance you need without the major cost.
  3. Interview Them. When you screen candidates, an in-person interview will tell you much about them. You first consider what you need, and then you need to find which candidate best fits those needs. Perhaps you need assistance in bookkeeping, auditing, estate planning, or tax advice. Any certified public accountant or enrolled agent can be an expert in one or all three of these fields. Maybe you are looking for a CPA who can advise you in loans, or an enrolled agent who can help you negotiate with the IRS after receiving a Notice of Intent to Levy. In addition, you may own a business, and you need an accountant who knows your industry. You must ask them: “what is your experience with small businesses?” If they have proven abilities in this area, they may be better prepared to work with you. Then you must ask them whether they understand your industry. If you work in a niche field, you may want someone who fits that field so they can work with your needs quickly and smoothly.
  4. Find Out Their Personality. His or her personality can serve as a make or break factor. It may seem less important to some, but you are creating a business relationship, and it is possible that you plan to work with them for a long time. It is the same with hiring someone new to your business or renting from a new landlord—you do not want to run into any problems because they exhibit character issues. Remember that you want to find a competent and ethical employee. An ethical employee excels at their job, but also has integrity. These individuals are trustworthy, and you can rest in the peace of mind that they won’t try to swindle you or cut dangerous corners around financial or tax issues.
  5. Ask Them About Fees. If you follow these steps, then you already know your budget from the beginning. However, before you hire them on, you should ask them about their fees. Different firms have different fee requirements, and some charge hourly, while others charge monthly. Remember that you don’t want to cut corners when hiring accounting assistance; make efforts to ensure you’re looking for someone both qualified and reasonable.

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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. CascadeBusNews.com • CBN@CascadeBusNews.com

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