There are over 13,000 Certified Public Accountants licensed in Massachusetts.
CPAs are not just tax experts they also provide services such as audits, reviews and compilations, personal financial planning, management consulting, business valuation, litigation services as well as tax assistance and planning.
Business owners and managers of various for-profit and nonprofit organizations turn to CPAs for a wide range of services — from traditional auditing to advice on developing effective accounting systems, maximizing operations and resolving management problems. In addition, individuals increasingly rely on CPAs not only for preparing taxes, but also for personal financial planning, such as building college funds, planning for retirement, and creating estate plans. Whatever your reason for needing a CPA’s services, here are a few suggestions for finding one.
Determining Your Compatibility
Like finding the right mate, finding the right CPA requires that you determine the compatibility of your personalities. For example, if you are looking for financial planning assistance and have typically been very conservative and risk adverse, will the CPA help you develop a more balanced investment strategy? What about the frequency with which you want to meet or speak with your CPA? If you are the type of individual who will want to call your CPA once or twice a week, find out whether he or she can provide that kind of access.
Ask your CPA
- How long have you been providing accounting services?
- In what area(s) of these services do you specialize?
- What continuing education courses have you taken to make sure you are up to date on the latest issue affecting these services?
- Do you have any advanced degrees, credentials and a certification in public accounting?
- How often do you perform these services?
- How are you compensated for your services?
- What type of services do you think I need based on my concerns and goals?
- Can you provide the names of clients or colleagues I may contact?
- On average, how long have your clients utilized your services?
- How do you intend to help me implement my financial plan?
Also find out exactly who will be handling your work. Is it the CPA you are meeting with or someone else in the firm? If others in the firm will be involved, take time to meet these individuals and learn about their professional credentials and experience.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask about fees. The rates of CPAs vary widely. The services you need, the complexity of your financial situation, the experience of the CPA, and the area of the country you live in will all impact the CPA’s fees. If you plan to work with a firm that employs CPAs at various levels, find out how much you will have to pay for staff accountants, managers, and partners. You can then compare this to other firms in the area.
If you have specific deadlines for work to be completed by your CPA, make sure the CPA can meet them. However, keep in mind that to get the most value from a CPA, you should be prepared to enter into a relationship that will grow over time and adjust to your changing financial needs.
Be prepared to discuss your plans and objectives. CPAs are in the best position to advise you and serve your interests when they understand your goals. Gather all relevant personal and business financial information so you can give a clear picture and ask specific questions. Be clear and candid about what you expect from the CPA’s services. Save yourself unnecessary fees by keeping good records and not using professional time for routine work. Keep your CPA informed of changes in your personal and professional life. A marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, a career change, an inheritance or an especially generous bonus can all have a significant impact on your tax liability and personal financial goals.