Small business owners need experts to keep the books straight while they make money. Small Business Trends spoke with the founder of Phlexable, Chad D Cummings, about the best approach for finding an accountant if you don’t have one.
Find a Small Business Accountant
Take a Look at Your Needs and Comfort Level
He began our conversation by saying small businesses need to make a big initial choice when they’re looking for an accountant.
“There are about 650,000 licensed CPAs in the United States alone and about half of those are engaged in private practice,” he says. “Those are local Mom and Pop type CPA firms you can find with a Google search.”
Use Online Portals
The other option still revolves around the internet, but it approaches selecting an accountant a little differently. Portals give you a wider swath to choose from. Cummings says the small businesses that do well with this option need to be comfortable transacting business online.
Everything from posting the project, to requesting a proposal, to paying is done in cyberspace.
Cummings explains an important caveat for small businesses to consider.
“This is more about a one off ad hoc type project solution. A small business owner looking for something more ongoing without a fixed time limit, should probably still go the old school route,” he says.
As an example, if your small restaurant needs an income tax preparer because their regular accountant is on maternity leave, a portal could be your best choice. On the other hand, if you’re a plumbing shop that needs someone to keep your books in order at tax time and beyond, you might want to look for something more permanent.
Watch Out for The One Stop Shop
There’s a large degree of specialization in accounting. Small business owners need to be on guard for the places that tell them they can do it all. It’s often better to have several experts on board so you’ve got all the tax bases covered.
“They shouldn’t shy away from having multiple points of contact,” Cummings says. “Maybe one guy that does the taxes and somebody else to handle the day-to-day bookkeeping.”
The advantage goes to the portal here because it’s easier to hire several different people at once at least for year end tax projects.
Regardless of the route you decide to take, it’s important to make sure the CPA you’re considering has the right credentials. You can find all the information you need to be sure the accountant you’re considering has the right background for your state here.
It can be as easy as looking for the license on a wall in a brick and mortar office. A good portal like Phlexable will actually check the credentials for you.
Look for Experience
Even after you decide between a portal or brick and mortar store, you need to narrow down your choices. Make sure you wind up with a firm or individual CPA who has experience in your industry and understands what your specific needs are.
“Not only do I want to make sure this person has experience with tax but also with textile’s tax if I am a textiles manufacturer,” Cummings says adding this extra filter can help smaller enterprises take advantage of all the credits available to their specific businesses.
“You might very well be leaving money on the table by not going with someone who has previous experience in your industry.”
Get Clear Work Arrangements
Finally, it’s important that everyone’s on the same page as far as work arrangements. Make sure you and your accountant understand whether you’ll be using the telephone, emails or texts for communications. It’s also a good idea to decide on information formats to use when you’re transferring files.
If you rely on the Internet, it’s a good idea to be clear on working hours for you and the CPA you choose.
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