Before hiring an accountant for your business, get to know the person you will be working with. Sit down face to face and have a discussion to learn if you can trust him to give you good tax advice. To ask the right questions is to give you lots of good information about this professional.
Q: What services can you provide?
Ask about the services the accountant provides to be sure they are capable to handle the different tasks you need to be done. What’s the point of hiring someone who is only trained, experienced, and willing to work on limited areas.
A bookkeeper assists with tasks like processing payroll, recording transactions, invoicing customers, and balancing your books. Accountants and CPAs do more advanced tasks, like analysing costs, generating statements, filing small business taxes, and giving advice.
List down what you need and tick off each item as you proceed. Annual tax documents, auditing services, online accounting, business reporting, or to provide certain types of business advice are some work you could require an accountant’s assistance.
Q: What clients have you worked with?
What clients have you worked with? Which one of your clients is like our company and what challenges have they faced?
Find out if the accountant has enough experience working with your type of business. There are certain elements which are specialised even if a lot of the fundamentals are the same in varying industries or niche. It helps that the accountant is up to date.
A professional services company may have to follow certain criteria related to how wages are calculated or how income is reported. An individual consultant or writer may be able to claim different expenses to that of a legal firm.
Q: How do you bill for your services?
Ask about their fee structure to learn if there are any additional fees to be aware of. This could be additional charges for getting work done in a short time — costs for working with an accounting software, fees for postage or photocopying, among others.
On average, the cost of accounting services for small business differs for each specific situation. Bookkeepers and accountants usually charge an hourly fee for their service. Since bookkeepers do less-involved tasks, their rates are often cheaper than accountants.
Most firms bill on an hourly basis, others have a monthly rate. Ask what’s included in a monthly rate. The average monthly accounting fees for a small business will increase as more services are added and tasks get harder.
Note: Take care of some financial tasks to keep accounting costs down. You can process payroll and record transactions yourself using an online accounting software.
Q: How do you communicate?
It helps to develop a solid working relationship with your accountant to get the best possible results out of accountancy services — this comes down to communication.
The fit isn’t going to be right if you want an occasional email correspondence but they prefer to have regular face-to-face meetings.
Ask how often they want to get in touch and inform the accountant you’re interested to adapt their communication style.
Q: Will you deal with me alone?
If you wish to only deal with one person at an accountancy firm, you need to find out about this arrangement. The question can also signal any scalability issues in the future based on the answer.
Accountants who work by themselves will cover everything, while most large firms have numerous people who spend time on a project. You have to decide on whether you want to work with a firm or not. Someone who works alone may not be able to handle all your demands.
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If your business is growing and getting more complex in its operations, you will need the services of an accountant. For small businesses on a budget, hiring a quality accountant is a significant investment with very real implications for the company’s bottom line.
Before you hire your accountant, to make the cost worth your while, he or she should be able to explain how their expertise can save you money in the long run.
Keep in mind all of the above questions to ensure you get the maximum return on investment.