Finding a Great Accountant

How do you go about finding a great accountant?

Hiring an accountant for your business is not just about finding someone good at number crunching and getting the maximum returns when you file your taxes.

A great accountant is interested in you and your business. They have a strong desire to help you grow your business and be successful.
When just starting out, business owners may be included to use a buddy from school or a family friend who does some bookkeeping, but that strategy just won’t do as the business grows and becomes more complex.

Here are 10 tips when looking for a great accountant:

  1. Get referrals. Ask other business people who they use as an accountant and why
  2. Determine your business needs. Do you want an accountant to just handle the books and file your taxes or someone who can give advice, and who will be there as your business grows?
  3. Hire a professional accountant. There are a lot of bookkeepers in the market place that say they provide accounting expertise but don’t have a designation. There used to be Chartered Accountants (CA) , Certified Management Accountants (CMA) and Certified General Accountants (CGA) but they are now under one body Certified Professional Accountants (CPA). You have to have a certain amount of education and experience before you get these designations and there are ethical rules that have to be met.
  4. Determine accessibility. If you are just starting out, you may need to be in touch with your accountant more often at first. While some accountants are sole proprietors, who are pretty much available to their clients around the clock, many work in forms and have someone covering for them when you are away.
  5. Ask what they charge for services. Most charge by the hour (usually anywhere from $150 to $400 an hour, depending on their duties. Ask what that fee includes for instance do they charge for every phone call. Bring a copy of your financial statements and income tax return when you are interviewing accountants to see if they can give you a more accurate quote.
  6. Get names of other clients and references. Accountants who handle other companies are more likely to have insight into the relevant business law. References and professional associations can tell you if there have ever been any issues, complaints or disciplinary action taken against an accountant.
  7. Ask if they have ever owned a business. It is not vital that an accountant has been a business owner, but it can be a plus. Is this accountant giving advice learned from a book or did the accountant actually get their own hands dirty and have their own failures and successes?
  8. Talk about technology. Is your accountant paperless and use new technology. That could save your time and money. Does the accountant have a webpage, Facebook page or use twitter or LinkedIn?
  9. Ask to be kept in the loop. Some accountants have newsletters, blogs or Facebook pages that keep their clients informed on accounting and tax issues.
  10. Gauge risk tolerance. Look for an accountant that is not overly aggressive yet can be creative while working within the rules. One that will explain what Canada Revenue allows and explains what really happens in real life.