Taxes are an inevitable part of making money and having a career. If you’ve ever tried to do your own taxes, you know it’s a stressful and complicated project that can easily eat up hours of your time. Like many things in life, this area is best left to the professionals. Not only will they make sure all the rules are followed, but they will also likely be able to help you save money or even get you a refund. Whether you are choosing your very first CPA to handle your personal tax needs or you are ready to switch professionals, knowing what to look for will help you make a solid decision. Here are some tips.
Ask Family, Friends, and Co-Workers
Reaching out to your network is one of the best ways to get the names of CPAs or firms that provide good service. Ask those close to you who work with CPAs who they use and why they would recommend them. You can also ask which CPAs they have used in the past and why they decided to stop working with them. Keep in mind that your needs may not be the same as others, especially if they make a significant amount more or less money, or if they have a different employment situation than you do. Asking for recommendations from those you trust is a good place to start if you’re not sure who to add to your list of CPA possibilities.
Make a Decision on Size Preference
Do you feel more comfortable working with a large or small CPA firm? There are pluses and minuses to both and it usually comes down to personal preference. While you may get personalized attention from the owner when you work with a small firm, a larger firm will have more resources and may be able to get to your taxes quicker than their smaller counterparts. If you’re not sure which you prefer, make plans to visit the offices of both a small and large firm to see which you are more comfortable in.
Look at Experience
When interviewing potential CPAs, look for a person or company that has prepared financial tax returns for those who are in similar financial situations as you. For example, if you are an independent contractor, make sure the CPA you choose has experience helping those with 1099s minimize their tax consequences. If you have a high net worth, multiple investments, and several homes, you will also have different tax needs than those who have more modest lifestyles. When interviewing potential candidates, ask for examples of how they have helped others in your position so you can get a good picture of their past experience.
Find Someone Who is Proactive at Saving You Money
If you have a simple tax situation and just want to file your taxes and get it over with, you likely won’t benefit from using a CPA. However, if you want to minimize your tax bill or get guidance on how to navigate more complicated situations, you will need a CPA who is proactive about saving you money. When you interview possible fits, ask them for examples of how they’ve helped other clients save money and what suggestions they would have for you if you decide to work with them. Remember that you want a CPA who is proactive about saving you money, not one who will help you evade taxes. If you think a CPA you interview isn’t obeying the law, move on as you will be the one who has to pay the price if any laws are broken.
Do Some Interviews
Once you’ve narrowed your list down to two or three possible CPAs, take the time to interview each firm as well as the actual CPA who will be handling your taxes. Ask them how they plan to save you money, any relevant experience they have, and how long they anticipate your taxes will take. Also pay attention to how you feel around them. Do they make you feel comfortable? Answer all your questions? Does the culture seem to be a good fit and do they share the same values as you? You can also check references during the interview process for more background.
The CPA you choose for your personal taxes is a highly individualized decision. When you understand what you are looking for in a tax professional and you do a thorough interview, you can choose a partner who will help you minimize stress and maximize savings during tax time. Interested in seeing if Hayes & Associates is a fit for your needs? Reach out to schedule a time to talk.