Hiring a Business Accountant: What You Need To Know

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Tax time is fast approaching, and hopefully you have your financial records in order, but in case you don’t here’s some advice on how to hire an accountant. While there are many aspects of your business that you can handle on your own, accounting is one worth turning over to a professional. Accounting goes far beyond simply sending invoices and tracking expenses; a good accountant can also help you with your taxes, as well as find ways to keep cash flowing.



First: Understand Your Needs

In addition to accountants, there are also bookkeepers and Certified Public Accountants that provide slightly different services from one another. A bookkeeper will set up your accounting software and enter receipts and invoices into the system weekly or monthly. She can also handle payroll data and quarterly taxes, as well as create monthly financial statements like balance sheets and cash flow statements. If your needs are simple and you don’t need help preparing your tax return, a bookkeeper may fit the bill.

An accountant, on the other hand, takes on more of the day-to-day bookkeeping needs of your company. An accountant can do everything that a bookkeeper can, with the addition of being able to prepare business taxes. Accountants are typically trained to interpret and analyze financial data, and you’ll pay more for the privilege.

And finally, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is an accountant who has passed a rigorous state exam. They’re the only ones of the bunch that can certify an audit. They also provide tax planning, and are highly qualified experts. Naturally, they’re the most expensive option.

Narrow Down the Selection

Ideally, the accountant or bookkeeper you end up working with will have experience with both small businesses and your industry. If you are unfamiliar with accounting terms like depreciation, chart of accounts, and cost of goods sold, you’ll want an accountant who will be patient at explaining it all to you. Remember: even if you hand your finances over to a professional, you still need to understand them. A good accounting partner will be communicative about her process, and will be willing to teach you.

You can hire an individual that works for several companies as a consultant, a smaller accounting firm, or a larger practice. I tend to go with one of the first two options, since they’re more affordable and service tends to be more one-on-one with smaller practices and solo practitioners.

Getting a referral from a colleague or contact can help you find someone faster. Check with others in your industry to find out who they use. Take into consideration your needs, your budget, and their offerings, then whittle your list down to your top three choices.

What to Ask

Interview each provider or firm, just like you would if you were hiring a full-time employee. Some of the questions you should ask include:

  • What accounting software do you use?
  • Do you provide software setup?
  • Do you provide monthly bookkeeping?
  • What is your hourly rate?
  • Can you provide three small business references?
  • Do you work onsite at the client location?
  • What industries do you specialize in?
  • Do you also prepare business taxes?

You want to find an accountant who you can trust with your finances, and who will be with you for years to come. Don’t overlook how important the selection process is, and spend enough time on it to find the best fit for your company.


Hiring a Business Accountant Photo via Shutterstock

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Melinda Emerson


Melinda Emerson Melinda Emerson, known to many as "SmallBizLady," is a Veteran Entrepreneur, Small Business Coach and Social Media Strategist who hosts #Smallbizchat for emerging entrepreneurs on Twitter. She is also the author of, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months.

27 Reactions

  1. I would add that you don’t want to give them singular check-signing rights. Make sure a 2nd signature is required from someone in another part of the company. Reduces the chances of embezzlement.

  2. Aira Bongco

    Oooh thank you for this. An accountant is one of those people that you really need on your team. The problem is getting one. Thanks for giving us those questions. It will definitely come in handy.

    • Not that difficult to find a good accountant to work with. As one with over 30 years of experience the difficulty comes into play when the clients don’t realize our value and always want to get off cheap vs accurate financials. To those clients I say bye and good luck….

  3. Accountants are really a great help in each company that is why I am so thankful to Austral Accountants and Bookkeepers Brisbane in helping us to achieve our main goal which is to have a growth within our first year in business. By the way thank you for these understandable tips that you shared.

  4. This is great, when I first got the need to look for an accountant, I had no idea what to ask! Balancing Books in my hometown Melbourne really helped me and answered pretty much every question you listed.

  5. I am looking to hire an accountant for my personal accounts. I like how you mentioned questions to specifically ask when interviewing a potential accountant. I will definitely ask these question so I can find the best accountant for my situation. Thanks for the great questions!

  6. If doing your books off-site make sure you give the accountant only authorization to view/download your bank and credit card transactions.

  7. Accountants have a greater understanding of Math as compared to other people. Due to this, they are less likely to create common blunders and errors in the process. An accountant also knows how to prepare your tax return properly. You might know about the filling process but an accountant knows all that and more. With their deep awareness of all the economic changes, they are able to predict and fill in tax forms in such a manner as to reduce the costs to its bare minimum charges.

  8. This is great information about finding an accounting firm. I agree that you want to find an accountant who can patiently explain financial terms you don’t understand. I would never want an accountant who didn’t work with me and try to help me understand everything.

  9. I have a buddy who has a small business and he really values his accounting department. I can see why this would be important especially because tracking money is super important for you and your business. It has helped him make a lot of decisions with his business as well. I will definitely hire a small business accountant if I ever start a business.

  10. That’s a good tip to find an accountant with experience with both small businesses and your industry. That way they’ll be able to service your needs better. It’s important to find the right

  11. That’s a great point you make about how, ideally, the accountant or bookkeeper you end up working with will have experience with both small businesses and also your industry. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to take your potential CPA out for lunch to be able to just chat with him or her to see how she is on a personal level. You want a CPA that is personable, too, and not just good with the numbers. I’ll have to keep this information in mind if I ever need to hire a CPA to help me out with tasks.

  12. Thanks for writing this helpful article. The best hires always start with me taking the time to consider what I really need. You are right to include that first in your article. After careful consideration and review of my business, a bookkeeper was the financial professional I needed. If I had not taken the time to look inwards first I would have perhaps hired a CPA and it would have been a bad match. Love your blog it is filled with so much good information for entrepreneurs like myself.

  13. Getting a business loan sounds like it would be a bit difficult. I wouldn’t want to have a professional help me fill out all of the paperwork and get the backing. I like that you talked about asking if the professional accountant you hire also helps with business taxes.

  14. I agree that it is important to choose an accountant based on when you need done. It makes sense that doing this can help you avoid paying for services you will not use and get your document in order. I would want to find someone that has experience with my type of business and knows how to walk me through the process.

  15. These are some great tips for hiring a business accountant. It makes sense that you should at least know your own situation. If I were to hire one, I would need to find someone who is willing to walk through everything very slowly. I don’t know much about finances!

  16. Finding out what accounting software the accountant uses would be a great thing to do before hiring. I also like what was said about finding if they provide software setup. Something else to consider would be to speak with past clients to ensure that the accountant offers quality work for the money you will be paying.

  17. It is so great that you mention asking questions about accounting software and if monthly bookkeeping is available. These are questions I should keep in mind if I ever decided to take my business idea further. My sister- in-law inspired me to think about starting a business and I wanted to see what it would entail if I ever did.

  18. It’s good to know that you can hold interviews with an accountant before deciding to hire them. I’d like to hire an accountant to help with tax preparation, but I’d be very particular about who I decide to hire. I’d feel a lot more comfortable about things if given the chance to interview an accountant and ask them about their qualifications prior to hiring them.

  19. Accountants are really a great help in a small business that is why I am so thankful to MAQCPA Accountants and Bookkeepers Toronto in helping me to achieve our main goal which is to have a growth within our first year in business. By the way, thank you for these necessary tips that you shared here.

  20. I like that you mention narrowing down the selection. My dad is looking to hire financial data bookkeeping services but needs tips. I’ll be sure to talk to him about narrowing his options to find the best one.

  21. I do like that your first suggestion is to figure out what you are going to need from the accountant. After all, there are many different kinds of business accountants out there and, depending on your kind of business, one might be more helpful than the other. That is why it is so important to make sure that you thoroughly interview any potential accountants to make sure that they are a right fit for your business.

  22. I was looking for some information regarding this and finally got one. Thanks for sharing the information with us. This article definitely will help people hire the right accountant for their company.

  23. This is perfect. The questions to ask when hiring the accountant are really helpful. I will be sure to ask these questions when hiring an accountant.

  24. I wanted to thank you for these tips for hiring a business accountant. I’m glad you mentioned that you should find someone that has experience in your industry. I’m interested to learn if the accountant could be trained to work in particular industries, so they have that experience under the belt.

  25. Thank you for pointing out that I need to hire an accountant that is experienced in the industry that I am working in order to make sure that everything turns out okay. I will also follow your tip about choosing one who can patiently explain the process for me. That is good because aside from wanting someone to handle my tax representation, I would also like to learn a few things in case I am alone and need to do the processing myself.

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