Questions You Should Ask When Hiring an Accountant
When searching for an accountant, it is important you hire someone who take the time to really understand your personal goals or your business goals. Here are the most important questions to ask when interviewing your new accountant:
• What licenses do you hold? Enrolled Agent, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), etc.?
• What is your schedule of fees? Will I receive a written quote for tax prep services?
• What are your hourly rates if I need other advice?
• When (for what services) might I expect additional fees?
• What are my responsibilities and liabilities as your client?
• (QuickBooks users) – Is there a QuickBooks Pro Advisor on staff? What certifications have they received? What percentage of their time is dedicated to supporting / training your QuickBooks clients?
• What deadlines must I meet to avoid an extension?
• What deadlines must I meet if an extension is required?
• (Parents of college students) – Can you assist me with questions on the FAFSA form? Can you meet the early filing deadline so that I can file FAFSA by the FAFSA filing deadline? What tax advantages are there for a the parents of a college student?
• What is your procedure when a client receives an audit notice?
• What is your typical response time when I have a questions?
• How do you protect my sensitive financial information?
• Can help me understand my tax return? (Bring your previous years' tax return with you to the first meeting)
• Who is responsible for corrections, penalties, and interest if my tax return has errors?
Questions/Information Your Accountant Should Discuss with You
• If you do not want to file an extension you must have your forms and information to my by….
• When I have questions, I will direct them to you by (fax, phone, e-mail)
• Payment is due (when service is rendered, within thirty days, before release of forms, etc.)
• Are you a business owner? (Sole Proprietor, (Limited) Partnership, LLC, Corporation?)
How do you do your business accounting? (QuickBooks, Peachtree, Spreadsheet, etc.)
• Do you own real estate / investment property?
• Do you have any children attending college this year?
• Do you have daycare expenses?
• Are you or any of your dependents disabled?
• Do you or your spouse receive retirement income?
• Do you pay health insurance premiums?
• Did you receive workers comp or unemployment benefits?
• Are you or your spouse in the military?
• Are you or your spouse school teachers?
• Did you purchase a vehicle? Was it a low emission vehicle?
Your accountant will require full documentation of your business and personal finances to prepare an accurate tax return. Following your answers to the above questions, your accountant will be able to provide a checklist of documents needed, a summary of return(s) that will need to be filed, and a reasonable estimate of charges to prepare your tax return. As your return is completed, your accountant may request additional information, not mentioned above.
Be sure to discuss any concerns about your tax return with your accountant. When you're not sure, ask questions. Remember: Ultimately YOU will be held responsible for the truthfulness & accuracy of any information submitted to the IRS.