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Selecting an Accountant for Your Small Business

Finding the right accountant or CPA is one of the most important things you can do for your business. Your success may depend on it. A good accountant will be a trusted business advisor and consultant who can help you establish your business, manage your finances, set goals and stay on track.

Today, the right accountants don't just prepare tax returns. They can assist you with tax planning that could save your company a lot of money. They act as a business advisor to help you set goals and evaluate your business plan to see if they make financial and operational sense. When establishing a business, they will help you set up the right entity structure for your new business, get incorporated, choose the right technology systems to support your business, negotiate contracts and a lot more. The list of services a good CPA or accountant can provide include retirement planning, business succession planning, management of your personal financial needs, and more.

Choosing the right accountant involves evaluating your needs and preferences. There are a few key areas to help you narrow your focus and find the best fit for your company.

Firm Size - Choosing an accountant with experience helping small business owners is a lot different than choosing a firm that deals with large corporations. Do you prefer working directly with the owner or are you more comfortable dealing with a team dedicated to your account? Mid-sized and larger firms may assign your account to a junior staffer. Know what you are getting and what you are paying for. And most importantly find an accountant who fits the needs and size of your business.

Experience What type of work do you need done? Do you only need tax returns or financial statements prepared? Then maybe you could find a tax accountant. However, if you need help establishing your business, writing a business plan, tax planning, retirement planning or ongoing consultation and advice, you might want to consider a firm with more experience in those areas.

Industry Experience In most cases it is advisable to choose an accountant that has direct experience in working with your particular industry. The reporting requirements, tax implications and operational issues of certain industries require that you have a skilled professional representing your company.

Trust This is a very important element in choosing the right firm. Do you feel comfortable with the person? Do you trust the person?

CPA vs. non-CPA Many people do not understand the difference between an accountant and an accountant who is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). A CPA must have a minimum level of education and experience, and has to pass a rigorous test to prove competency. Many tasks a small business will need an accountant to handle can be handled by a general accountant. However, there are certain situations, like an audit, that require a CPA's involvement. The most important thing is to evaluate your needs and determine who the best fit is for your company.

It's best not to wait until you have a deadline to meet to choose the right accountant or CPA. Allow yourself the time to seek referrals from people you trust, do your research and check references before making a final decision. Remember a CPA or accountant can bring value to your company. As a trusted business advisor and business consultant their advice could mean the difference between success and failure, growth and stagnation.

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