|Can I Even Afford a CPA? Like all small business owners who are looking to save money, you may think you can’t afford an accounting firm. But look at how long it would take you to do certain tasks (such as taxes), and ask yourself, is that a good use of your time? For example, let’s say it takes you 10 hours to do your taxes, and your time is worth $100 an hour. That’s a cost of $1000 to do your taxes yourself. And there’s always the risk you’ve made errors – especially if you’re multi-tasking like most business owners. However, if you get an accountant to take care of time-consuming tasks like taxes, it’s quite likely they will cost less per hour than you would pay yourself. You’ll not only have extra time to free you up to generate revenue, but you’ll have peace of mind that an expert is taking care of the details. Why do you need a CPA? Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) act as advisers to individuals, businesses, financial institutions, nonprofit organizations and government agencies on a wide range of financial matters. Today, many individuals and businesses turn to CPAs for help with tax preparation, personal financial planning, auditing services, and advice on developing effective accounting systems.
What can a CPA do for you? CPAs are no longer just number crunchers and tax preparers. They are business and financial strategists who help chart the paths of businesses and individuals. Individuals turn to their CPAs for tax and financial planning services, investment advice, estate planning, and more. Businesses are tapping CPAs to not only manage finances and taxes, but also to determine profitable new product lines, help diversify investments, and provide a variety of other consulting and business services. CPA vs. non-CPA. Many people do not know how a CPA is different from an accountant, bookkeeper or tax preparer. Anyone can be an accountant—certified or public—but the qualifications, education, and scope of work is drastically different between the two. Bookkeepers, or Public accountants, or people who work in the “accounting department” don’t necessarily have to have a college degree, be licensed, take any exams, or adhere to continuing education requirements. Nor, for the most part, do they have to meet legislated standards. The CPA designation is one of the most widely recognized and highly trusted professional designations in the business world. CPAs are distinguished from other finance professionals by stringent qualification and licensing requirements.
Many states/jurisdictions now require or will require 150 semester hours of education for obtaining the CPA certification.
Individuals have worked hard to obtain the CPA designation, and they are committed to working even harder to deliver the value that it conveys.
What qualifications should you look for when choosing a CPA? Before you select a CPA, make sure you consider the following questions:
- Does the individual hold an active CPA license?
- Are your needs compatible with the CPA’s personality and communication style?
- Does the CPA have the experience you need?
It’s important to establish a practitioner’s credentials before you retain his or her services. You need to feel that this person has integrity and honesty before you will trust him or her with your financial information. Be aware that fee structures vary and that different types of practitioners have different levels of training and experience.
Keep in mind that you are looking to establish a long-term relationship. You want someone who will learn your business inside and out, and who will become a trusted advisor on major business and financial decisions and transactions. Look not only for technical competence but also for interpersonal and communication skills.
Membership in a professional association is also an important qualification. Members of the Florida Institute of CPAs are governed by a stringent code of professional ethics. Also, all licensed CPAs in Florida must complete 80 hours of continuing education including 8 hours of ethics training every two years.
Defining your objectives and expectations will help you ask the kind of specific questions necessary for finding the CPA best suited to your needs. Think about the services you will need not just today but further down the road.
How do I choose a CPA? When looking for a CPA, consider the following:
- Ask your lawyer, banker, insurance agent, or investment advisor for recommendations. Speak with colleagues in your field of business about CPAs they know and trust.
- Develop some of your own plans and objectives before you talk with a CPA. Gather information about business and personal financial decisions under consideration so you can ask specific questions.
- Make sure the CPA is licensed to practice in Florida.
- Ask what professional organizations the CPA belongs to and how active he or she is in those organizations. Many of these organizations require adherence to technical and professional standards, thereby helping to ensure the quality of a CPA’s services.
How can you get the most value from a CPA’s services? When it comes to working with a CPA, you are in control. There are a variety of things you can do to get the most value out of your time and money spent with a CPA.
Before you even contact a CPA, be prepared with your goals and objectives of what you want the CPA to do for you. Have a list of questions and a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.
Before you meet with a CPA, gather all the documents and information you think you may need – past tax returns, financial statements, investment documents, business plans – and take this information with you to the first meeting.
Keep your CPA up-to-date on what’s happening in your life. Are you getting married, divorced, having children, needing to plan for your child’s college education, expanding a business, or giving the business to an heir? You’d be surprised what life experiences can have a significant impact on your tax liability and personal financial goals. Back to Home Page