How to Find a Good Accountant by Sandy Botkin, CPA, Esq. The most frequently asked question in our seminars is, “How do I find a good Accountant?” Sadly, it is very tough finding the right, knowledgeable Accountant. First, not all Accountants specialize in taxes. Many Accountants perform audits, computer studies, and the like. Second, many Accountant’s are timid! They would love for you to send in 100% of your income (less their accounting fees). Accordingly, there are some questions that you can ask in order to see if an Accountant is right for you. Some suggested questions are: 1. What designations or credentials do you have? Look for Enrolled Agents, Certified Public Accountants, ex-IRS Agents, Attorneys, etc. We like preparers with legal backgrounds because they tend to be more aggressive. 2. Are you in practice full time? Hopefully, yes. 3. How many years experience do you have in tax practice? You don’t want a rookie experimenting on you! 4. Do you prepare all returns by computer? Handwritten returns ended with the 80’s. 5. What are your fees and do you have a schedule that can be seen? Surprisingly, cheaper is not necessarily better. You may get what you paid for! 6. Can you provide references from other businesses similar to mine? Many Accountants, rightly, don’t give out names of clients. However, all firms should have some happy clients who would be willing to speak to you. When you call them, ask: “What do you like about the Accountant?” and “What would you improve with his/her services?” 7. Do you use any checklists to maximize my deductions? A checklist would ensure that none of your deductions are missed. 8. Test the Accountant: Tell the prospective Accountant that our Tax Reduction workbook and seminar says, “Hire your spouse and make them the primary insured so you can deduct medical insurance premiums by setting up a Self Insured Medical Reimbursement Plan.” Ask the Accountant what he/she thinks of this strategy. 9. Do you teach any tax courses or have you written any tax publications? The more, the better. 10. Are you conservative, aggressive, or somewhat in the middle? 11. What review process do you use in order to ensure a quality product? 12. May I look at your tax library or what resource services do you subscribe to? Accountant’s need to look things up. They should have at least two separate tax research sources. The more sources, the better. 13. Do you specialize in taxes? They should say YES! 14. What percentage of your practice relates to taxes? What other accounting services do you personally perform? 15. What is your attitude toward audits? Unfortunately, many tax preparers recommend not taking legitimate tax breaks at all if it could possibly trigger an audit. These Accountants are a “hazard to your wealth.” 16. How do you treat “gray” areas? The best advisors will tell you that the area is “gray” and give you your options. Stay away from advisors that say, “That area is not clear, so don’t take the deduction.” 17. What do you do after tax season? You want to hear that he/she does other accounting work and also does marketing for new clients. 18. How often do you take tax courses? 19. Have you ever been disciplined by the RIS or by any accounting society? If they refuse to answer this question or act insulted, forget this Accountant! 20. How many other clients like myself do you have? You don’t need hundreds, but more than 10 would be helpful. 21. Do you offer pre-year-end tax planning as part of your tax service? If so, is there an extra fee for this? 22. Do you offer any tax planning during the year? 23. How soon do you return calls from clients? 24. Give me a recent tax-planning tip or tax change that may benefit me. Conclusion: These questions may not be all inclusive. However, they will certainly weed out the “wheat from the chaff” and enable you to make much better decisions as to whether an Accountant is right for you!