• Cherie Larson

Finding the Right Type of Accountant



We frequently see questions online like, “What accountant do you recommend?” or, “Who is a good accountant?” Answering these questions may not be as straightforward as one would think. Not only are there multiple types of accountants and specialties, but there are also variances in the scope and quality of the work performed.


Here are a few tips to help you navigate this sometimes confusing profession.


TAX PREPARER


A tax preparer is often what people are asking to find, even if they own a small business. There are many to choose from, and it can be hard to pick.

  • Make sure they are a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) - they have additional training requirements that help them keep up with the latest changes in tax and business accounting. They must also be registered with the IRS.

  • Who are their main clients? Individuals? Small business? Large business? Specific industries?

  • What will they do for you – and what do you want them to do for you?

  • Do they just take your figures, ask a basic question or two and spit out a return?

  • Will they offer suggestions for the upcoming year for either your personal or business accounting?

  • Will they submit anything besides the Federal and any state income tax returns? Tennessee has sales tax, Franchise & Excise tax for some entities, business tax (which renews your license), an annual report, and a tangible personal property report. Which of these will they include in their fees or charge extra for?

  • If you have a business, will they look over your accounting records? How carefully will they look? Most CPAs will have you sign a contract for their services that says you are responsible for submitting correct information. They will look for glaring errors or significant changes from the prior year, but often nothing more.

  • Will they correspond or work with you during the year? Are there extra services available?

  • What happens if you are audited? How can/will they help, and what fees will there be?

  • How much do they focus on saving taxes? Some firms are much more aggressive than others with their suggestions. Are you comfortable with what they suggest? Note that there are a lot of options with tax deductions, so make sure you understand what they are suggesting or doing for you. Also, consider whether it is wise to spend money to save money. Read our previous post about this here.


BOOKKEEPER


Most small business owners need a bookkeeper soon after they need a tax preparer. While they may begin keeping the records on their own, they usually find it takes time that could be better spent elsewhere, and the ins and outs of the accounting software may frustrate them. So, what exactly does a bookkeeper do?


Like other accounting specialties, the scope of work done by a bookkeeper varies. In general, their job is to record the transactions of the business correctly. While some bookkeepers might have a certification, it is not required, and many good bookkeepers don’t have any certifications. If they do, it is often in a particular software. Bookkeepers do NOT usually look over your financials and provide guidance or analysis. They should know how to troubleshoot and find errors in their entries, but not all of them do.


ACCOUNTANT


As your business grows, it’s helpful to have an accountant on board. An accountant will oversee what the bookkeeper does to ensure accuracy. They will also make sure all accounts are reconciled and discrepancies accounted for. Accountants can present financial statements to the owners or shareholders. They will usually have a college degree but do not need to be a CPA. The accountant can interface with your financial institutions and assist with other relationships like payroll providers, HR, and legal issues.


CFO


While typically only needed as an employee in larger companies, even smaller businesses can benefit from a CFO consultant. A CFO (Chief Financial Officer) can provide more oversight, analysis, and strategic planning. They will seek to understand your business inside and out and partner with you to develop strategies for your success. A CFO is often a CPA. At the very least, they are someone who has extensive training and experience to be able to understand the multiple factors that go into this role.


CPA


A CPA is not actually a “role” but can be a very important designation. A CPA is a person who has completed specific requirements and passed extensive testing. They’re also required to have many hours of updated training each year in order to keep up with changes in the financial and tax world. An accountant or CFO with a CPA designation is an invaluable asset to your company.


At Larson SMB Consulting, PLLC, we provide bookkeeping, accounting, and CFO services. We can also refer you to a tax provider that meets your needs. Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation to see if we can help you!