How to Pick a CPA: (Questions to Consider and Ask)

If your personal finances are growing or your business is in need of a CPA then there are some things you should know when picking a CPA. Learning how to pick a CPA is crucial before you pick one. It’s not the best practice to just hire any CPA.

Once you are armed with the best questions on your end to ask and an understanding of what a CPA does, you’ll be ready to hire one.

questions to ask when choosing a CPA

What Services Does a CPA Offer?

It is important to understand who a CPA works with and why. They offer their services to individuals and businesses mainly for taxation, audit and personal accounting.

Individual CPAs may specialize in just tax while larger firms focus on audits or more complex taxes. Audit firms generally offer reviews and compilations as well for services.

While some individuals may find that a program like Turbo Tax works for them, others with more complex financial situations may need to hire a CPA. 

A CPA can take care of both business and personal taxes, while setting up a plan to minimize tax exposure for future years. Since it is most common to hire a CPA for taxes, let’s look at that first.

How to Pick a CPA for Taxes

While any CPA can do your personal taxes, you are probably going to want one aligned with your best interests.  Some CPAs specialize in types of returns like partnerships or corporations. 

It’s best to get an understanding if the potential CPA is focused on individual returns or something else. That being said, before picking a CPA, you should almost conduct a casual interview with some questions.

It will show that you have an understanding of why you need to hire a CPA and if they can meet your scope of services.

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Questions to Ask a CPA Before Hiring them for Your Taxes

So what should you ask a CPA before picking them? Try questions like these-

  • What type of tax returns do you specialize in? (Individual, partnership, corporations)
  • Can you complete both an individual return and my business return?
  • What information is needed from me?
  • When do I need to provide the information for the upcoming tax year?
  • What is the estimated time to complete my tax returns?
  • Do you offer tax planning?

Is this exhaustive? No, but it will get you well underway with asking questions to put you in the best position. It is still worth speaking to more than one CPA or firm and seeing how they differentiate themselves from one another.

Picking a CPA for Personal Accounting

picking a CPA for personal accounting

A CPA that is great at taxes might not be the one you want for your personal accounting although they can generally do both. That said, if they are compiling your personal financial statements then they are often in a good spot to complete your tax return as well.

Most firms, unless they are on the smaller side, don’t deal with personal accounting or personal financial statements. They generally leave it to individual CPAs. That’s why you are going to want to find a CPA that you can worth with long-term, establish a rapport and get along with.

You don’t want to be switching CPAs every few years.

Things to Ask a CPA Before Choosing Them

While similar questions apply to hiring a CPA that would work on personal financial statements, there might be some different things to ask as well:

  • Do you handle personal financial statements?
  • Can you do my personal financial statements and my taxes?
  • How much do you estimate it to cost?
  • What are your rates?
  • How can you help me as a client?

It helps to know why you need personal financial statements and then you can ask great questions. Owning rental properties is one of the most common reasons that individuals get personal financial statements from their CPA.

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How to Pick a CPA as a Business

picking a CPA for business accounting

It can be a bit trickier to pick a CPA as a business. Many small business owners go for a small firm or individual CPA. Generally, a solo CPA can handle plenty of small businesses.

As a business gets larger, it may need to move to a regional CPA firm and if it is huge then generally it will go with a big 4 accounting firm.

One thing that helps is if the CPA firm specializes or at least has other clients in the same business line as yours. Then you know the CPA is competent in the sector and can add value. 

Questions to Ask Before Picking a CPA for Your Business

Before any business hires a CPA or CPA firm, there is usually an intro meeting so both parties can get familiar with each other. Here are some questions you should ask the CPA or CPA firm if you are a business owner:

  • Do you have other clients that are similar to my/our business?
  • How long have you been working with clients in this sector?
  • What are some trends you are seeing in this sector?
  • What would an estimated audit/ tax quote look like?
  • What information do you need from us?
  • Are there any other services you can offer us or help us with?

Where to Look to Find a CPA

Is Google the best place to find a CPA? It’s certainly not a bad start. Another great way to find a potential CPA is word of mouth. Imagine your friend is using one for his taxes or small business, get in touch if they have a good review.

Word of mouth is an excellent starting point aside from searching online for a CPA.

Once you have found a few CPAs or CPA firms, give them a call or set up a time so you can meet. You’ll want to discuss some of the problems you are facing and some of the services you are interested in like tax or audits.

The CPA should be able to guide you and give you some expectations if you were to start a business relationship with them.

Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions or even questions that you might think are silly, it’s worth getting them out of the way and having a full understanding of the CPA or firm before getting into a formal engagement.

How to Pick a CPA: Final Thoughts

There is an art in learning how to pick a CPA. It’s not just going on Google and taking the first one you see. As mentioned, word of mouth is a great referral source to find a CPA. Often you can already consider the CPA vetted.

Prepare your questions, ask a lot and you’ll surely be able to find a CPA that will fit your business or personal needs.

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