Hiring a CPA firm is the financial equivalent to finding a new doctor. It can be intimidating and it is hard to tell if you are asking the right questions. What if you miss an important detail?
At Mark Robertson CPA, we’re committed to educating our clients about our work. We put together a list of questions to ask when interviewing a CPA firm, even if it is ours.
Any relationship can be difficult but the one with your CPA should not be on that list. The key to making it a beneficial relationship is good communication. Unlike a personal relationship, you get to ask the difficult questions first.
Main contact: Since many firms have more than one person working on one account, ask if the person you are speaking with will be your main contact. You want to build a rapport with your main contact as well as know they will be available to answer your questions.
Response turnaround rate: Nothing is worse than waiting for an answer on an important financial issue. Ask what the firm’s policy is on returning phone calls and emails. This way, you can manage your expectations and not continually hit refresh on your email.
Hours of operation: While it seems like obvious information, you do not want to discover the firm takes off every Wednesday and Friday afternoon when those are the best times for you to handle your financial business. This information can often be found on the firm’s website or any marketing collateral.
Education and Experience
Credentials: Make sure you are clear on what certification the accountant has (CPA, enrolled agent, or unenrolled agent.) and how long they’ve been in the position. If you’re dealing with a large firm, find out if the person servicing your account is a partner or junior accountant. After all, you don’t want to pay for partner level pricing when a junior accountant is the one handling your account.
Annual education: CPAs are required to attend several classes each year to stay up-to-date on the latest tax laws and other related information. In the state of Nevada, CPAs are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education to maintain their licensure. You can make sure their license is current at the Nevada State Board of Accountancy.
Experience: Ask about their other clients. You want a firm who is familiar with your type of account (self-employed, small business, etc.). This question will also give you an idea about their availability to service your account.
How can you make me more money? Go ahead. Ask the question. It is a good barometer to feel out the firm’s level of interest. Did they carefully review your files before your meeting? Do they already have an idea of how they’ll handle your account? Is their explanation full of industry jargon or do they explain complex concepts in language you understand? Remember, a CPA’s success is tied to your success. You want them to be committed to you.
Am I paying too much money in taxes? We all want the answer to be yes. However, this is a good question to assess if they plan a quarterly review of your financials. At this time, a proficient CPA identifies if you are in the right situation or need to make adjustments so you pay the least amount possible.
Conflicts of interest: While you want the CPA firm to be familiar with your business, you don’t want the same accountant handling your competitor as well. Find out if they perceive any conflicts of interest and ask how they handle these situations.
Fees: Ever received a bill that was much higher than you anticipated? It’s no fun and figuring out what went wrong takes a considerable amount of time. Ask about the firm’s fee structure. If they charge an hourly rate, find out how much a three minute phone call costs versus an email. Will a fax cost you? At the end of your initial meeting, you should be provided a good faith estimate.
Above all, listen to your intuition. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t be afraid to ask more questions and keep looking. Have questions about Mark Robertson CPA firm and our services? Feel free to grill us. We don’t mind!