Are you a small business owner? Do you file your own business tax returns and handle your own IRS notices? Have you ever thought about hiring a CPA to help? Perhaps you have always filed your own business tax returns and handle your own payroll and 1099’s. This is true for many small business owners. Soon your business may grow, and you may find yourself blessed with the need for help because you no longer know how to proceed in the most advantageous way. In that case, do you know how to choose a small business CPA? Maybe you ask yourself, “what exactly is a CPA, and why would I need one?” Here are few criteria to consider when selecting a small business CPA. Please note, while we can discuss personal taxes at length, for this article we will focus on small business CPA’s.
Let’s start at the beginning. If you’re reading this, you likely already know what a CPA is. However, let’s presume you need a refresh. CPAs, Certified Public Accountants, are licensed through the state in which they practice. Each state requires its own licensing. CPAs must take continuing education courses to maintain their elevated level of knowledge and skills to be the best at their profession. To obtain a CPA license they must pass a rigorous exam which, on average, only about 50% of those who take the exam will pass." They are considered a credible expert in their field by the state and federal government and can represent you with the Internal Revenue Service and various state or local tax situations. These are professionals who can be an extreme ally and trusted advisor to individuals and small businesses. Their knowledge of tax law and accounting standards is beneficial in evaluating the past, present, and future of one's small business. But how do you choose a CPA?
First, it is less beneficial to choose a CPA firm when one is under deadlines, stress, and duress. Just as it is optimal to be proactive with your health by visiting your primary care physician before you have an issue, it is also highly recommended to be proactive with your small business affairs. If you wait until you are behind in filing your taxes, are receiving IRS notices, or find you need an audit, you will be in a reactive position where perhaps the stakes and challenges are higher, and the options available to you may be fewer. Of course, if you find this is where you are, a CPA can help you. However, it is not the most advantageous way to start the relationship. Optimally, you want to have your first meeting with your small business CPA in between deadlines, where you can discuss your industry, the nature of your business, the past, the present, and the future of where you see your business heading. In this way, your small business CPA can take time with you to fully understand how to help you reach your goals.
Next, it is good to know why you are seeking the help of small business CPA. Are you seeking purely tax advice? Is your business growing or shrinking? Do you plan to sell your business? Are you bringing on a partner or dissolving a partnership? Many CPAs specialize in different fields and can offer specialized services. Full-service accounting firms, such as ours, offer a suite of services and numerous CPAs that offer nearly any specialty desired, such as:
- Succession Planning for future generations
- Employee Benefit Planning
- How to start and run a successful business
- Proactive business planning
- Tax Savings Strategies
- International and multi-state issues
- Nexus evaluation
Once you’ve decided you need a CPA and you know why you need their help, how do you find one? You can Google CPAs in your geographical area and read their reviews. If you live in San Antonio, TX, you can visit The San Antonio Small Business Office Home page for guidance. You can talk to family and friends who own small businesses to find out who they trust. Referrals are an excellent way to find a CPA you can trust. No matter how you find one, it is important to meet with the CPA to discover if they can help you and if you feel you can have a long-term relationship. It is extremely beneficial to form a trusting and enjoyable relationship with your CPA. As advisors, CPA’s can help you with numerous challenges with your small business and even personal finances. They will be a confidant, a proactive planner, and builder of your dreams. They can help you design the business and life you want, with the best tax consequences available. Life is full of surprises, but with a trusted CPA at your side, and proactive action and collaboration, you can navigate the chartered and unchartered waters smoothly and successfully. For this reason, trust is crucial.
Before your first meetings, research the CPA firms. Read about their history, their specialties, and learn about their partners on their website. At your first meeting, remember, you will be interviewing them for a long-term advisor position. Asking questions to help you decide if this is the best small business CPA for you, is important. While there are hundreds of questions you could ask, here a few to get you started:
- What percentage of your business is (your business type)?
- How available are you to your clients?
- If I message/email you, when can I expect a reply?
- Do you provide proactive yearly planning?
- Do you have clients I can contact for references?
One last piece of advice, if you have the flexibility, try to book your appointments during off-peak times of the year. Tax and audit deadlines can make it challenging to set appointments from February through April, and September through November. It is advantageous to plan your visit in summer. This way, you can plan for the coming year and have the focus and attention of your small business CPA advisor.
Once you choose your CPA, you will find relief and assurance in having a trusted advisor by your side. We would love to be that advisor.