With the federal tax deadline closing in, many people are considering which tax preparer is best suited to help them put together their tax return. When you’re making this decision, you should keep in mind that certified public accountants offer a high level of business expertise and integrity. In order to become a CPA, they must pass the demanding Uniform CPA Examination, a four-part test with a total duration of 14 hours that ensures CPAs have a deep and thorough range of business knowledge. In addition, these professionals must also meet education, ethics and work experience requirements in order to maintain their licenses.
But which CPA is the right one for you? To answer that question, it’s a good idea to consider exactly what you will be seeking from a CPA. Do you want someone who will handle your annual tax return or do you need advice about a wide range of financial issues? Remember that because CPAs have extensive business knowledge, they can offer far more services than many other tax preparers. If you worry about paying for retirement or college, for instance, a CPA can help you construct a realistic savings plan. If you own a business or dream of starting one, a CPA can provide the financial know-how you need to achieve success. So give some thought to your top financial goals before you begin looking for a CPA because it will help you to narrow your search.
The next step is to begin interviewing practitioners. CPAs usually develop deep and trusting relationships with their clients over a long period of years, so you’ll want to be sure you’re choosing someone with whom you’ll enjoy working. At the meeting, don’t hesitate to ask questions to help you understand whether the CPA is the right fit for your needs. Questions to ask include:
- What kinds of clients do you serve?
- What services do you perform for your clients?
- Do specialize in areas that match my needs?
How can you help me save money or lower my taxes?
A CPA will not be able to give you detailed answers to this question without having specific information about your finances. However, he or she should be able to discuss possible options to help you improve your financial situation.
Can I call you for advice during the year?
One of the many advantages of working with a CPA is the fact that you can tap into their extensive knowledge for questions about any number of financial issues. If you believe you will need advice in the future, ask your CPA about his or her policies and availability.
Are there clients I can contact for references?
CPAs should be happy to put you in touch with long-time clients who can discuss what it’s like to work with them.
These questions can serve as a starting point for evaluating CPAs, but you may have many others based on your unique financial situation. You’ll find that the information you gather will be very helpful in your efforts to find the right CPA for your needs.