Working with an account is a business relationship. With 1.39 million accountants and auditors in the United States, it’s challenging to find the right fit for you without going through a list of questions to ask your new accounting firm.
Whether working with a traditional or virtual accountant, you need to clarify a few things before feeling comfortable with the new firm.
9 Questions to Ask Your New Accounting Firm
1. Who Are Your Clients?
The firm you choose should have experience working with clients like you. For example, if you’re a new startup, you might benefit from working with an accounting firm that has worked with other clients that are startups.
Ask your potential accounting firm the following questions:
- Who are your clients?
- What areas do you specialize in?
- Have you worked in my industry before?
If your business has very specific tax requirements that need to be met, working with an experienced firm will provide you peace of mind.
2. Who Will I Be Working With Primarily?
You must have a good working relationship with the person in the firm that you work with regularly. Meet this professional, talk to them about your needs, and even ask how long they’ve been working with the firm.
It’s very frustrating to work with one person the first month and then be pushed to a new person each subsequent month.
3. How Big is Your Firm?
The size of the firm may matter for a few reasons.
- Smaller firms may provide the communication and close relationship that’s perfect for your business growth.
- Larger firms may have specialists that can help with everything from tax planning to audits to specialized services, like cost segregation studies.
You may find that a firm with just one or two accountants works fine for your tax filing needs. However, you may outgrow these smaller firms or discover that they don’t provide the additional services you already need.
4. What Licenses Do Your Accountants Hold?
Certified Public Accountants receive their CPA designation after going through intensive years of study and stringent testing. If the firm’s accountants have a designation other than a CPA, be sure that you know:
- What these licenses are
- What specialties these professionals are trained in
If you know the licenses that the firm’s accountants maintain, you’ll have a way to verify their education and skills.
5. What Value Can You Add to My Business?
How will the accounting firm add value to your business? If you are using a firm to improve cash flow, how will the firm do this? You should know the value that the firm brings to your business. Answers may include:
- Guiding your company to reach growth milestones
- Saving your firm money on taxes
- Freeing up cash flow to help you plan for growth
Accounting firms can add a lot of value to your business. Perhaps the value is freeing up 10 hours of internal resources each week, and this can allow you to take on more clients or make more sales.
6. What Are Your Rates?
Unfortunately, some service professionals will surprise you with unexpected costs that add up quickly. You need to know what rates are going to be, and what any packages may cost. For example, perhaps the firm estimates $1,500 in services each month.
- What will these services include?
- How many times can you expect to communicate each month?
- What hours of services will be available?
- What are the rates for out-of-hour advice or calls?
For example, if you need to ask a question about a statement that you need to send to the firm and speak to the accountant for 15 minutes, what will this call cost you? Some accountants operate on fixed-fee arrangements, so you never have to worry about additional fees adding up for calling.
The important thing is that you understand the rate and what is and isn’t included. You never want unexpected fees to sneak up on you and sour your working relationship.
7. What is Your Firm’s Communication Policy?
You want to stay in close contact with the firm during your business relationship. When you have questions, you need to know how to get in contact with the firm. Ask the firm if they communicate using:
- A portal
Additionally, you’ll want to know when to expect a response. Will the firm respond during certain business hours and on certain days only?
Finally, what is the firm’s communication policy on submitting information? For example, if you’re using a firm’s bookkeeping services, when:
- Do you need to submit documents to the firm?
- Will the services be complete?
Clients must meet deadlines and communicate with accounting firms in a timely manner to allow enough time for services to be rendered.
8. What Software Does Your Firm Use?
If an accounting firm is helping your business with accounting or bookkeeping, it’s important to know what software they use. You and your team need to be able to access the files generated by the firm, or the firm will need to be well-versed in the software you have in place for a seamless experience.
Since nearly 80% of small businesses use cloud accounting software, you may want to ensure that the firm works with the cloud technology you prefer.
9. What Service(s) Do You Provide?
Accounting firms state that 82% of clients are more demanding, and many firms are meeting these demands by offering a variety of services. You may need bookkeeping initially, but when you need additional services, can the company grow with your needs?
A few services that may be available include:
- Tax planning
Some firms may even offer outsourced CFOs and controllers. Ask the firm what services they offer because you never know when you’ll need them.
Once you know what questions to ask your new accounting firm, it will help make your relationship better. Both you and the firm have expectations, and these questions will ensure that they’re properly met.
Are you looking for someone to help with accounting, bookkeeping, advisory, consulting, tax compliance and planning, or technology setup? We can help.