Before you go looking for an accountant, it is good to think about the type of person you are looking for and how their skill set will be used within your company.
The word “accountant” is often applied to many different kinds of professionals, from bookkeepers to office accountants, to actuaries, to chartered accountants. Knowing what you want from your accountant is the fastest way to whittle down the field.
Depending on what you’re hiring them for, your accountant will also need certain things from you. A little organization and cooperation can take a daunting, difficult task and turn it into something straightforward, potentially saving you both time and money.
What you need from them
Think about your own needs. Are you an individual, looking for assistance when it comes to your tax return and other personal finances? Are you a small business owner, hoping to hand over day-to-day accounting tasks to a friendly professional? Or perhaps you’re comfortable with that side of accounting, but feel you need assistance with annual reports? Assess your own requirements first, and that will help return the most appropriate results from your search.
The tasks you need your accountant to take over should also guide your search when it comes to checking accreditations. A CPA, or certified public accountant, is the gold standard for accountancy, but if you just need a professional to take a look at your personal budget, you might find that a bookkeeper is more cost-effective.
What they need from you
There is the potential to waste a lot of time if you are not prepared to give your newly hired accountant or accountancy firm the information they need when they start working with you. If you are hiring an accountant on a short-term basis to check documents that you prepared yourself, you should hand them all the receipts, books, expenses, invoices, and other financial statements that you used, for their reference.
If you are taking an accountant on for the long-term, or if the job at hand is a little more complex, you may also need to give them access to employee records, contracts, or management systems.
Don’t worry about giving private information to accountants. Much like doctors, they are obliged to keep the information confidential. While this does not, of course, apply to illegal activities, it does mean that your accountant should not share in-house information with outside parties, shareholders, or investors against your wishes.
Accreditation is key
To an outsider, the world of accountancy accreditation can be confusing. The thing to know is that the laws regulating who can act as an accountant can, and do, vary from state to state.
CPA, or certified public accountant, is the term given to those individuals who have passed rigorous exams and who continue their education. The condition of being a CPA depends on the accountant continuing to learn and update their knowledge to reflect current practices.
In most states, CPAs can practice regardless of which state they passed their accreditation in. 49 out of 50 states have passed laws to allow CPAs to work nationwide.
Some states regulate the use of the term ‘accountant’, reserving it for only those individuals who have reached CPA status. You can take a look at your state’s regulations to check if there are any stipulations in place before you hire, or you can also check reviews and references for those accountants you are considering before you give them the contract.
With so many different kinds of jobs falling into the category of accountant, it is important to know just what you’re hiring this person or agency for, as well as if you need them to have CPA status, and what they will need from you.
Thankfully, searching for an accountant is easier than ever before, as you can check reviews and services offered even before making contact with a professional. It has never been easier to find the person you need when you need them.