November 2005    Vol. 14, No. 10  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
REAP Rural Business Roundtable

Topic: An Accountant for Your Business

Most businesses can benefit from hiring the right accountant. A good accountant can help you navigate tax laws and provide sound advice to help you better manage and grow your business. Here are some tips that may help you find the best accountant to meet your needs.

  1. Determine your needs. Are you looking for someone to help with bookkeeping and financial records, payroll, or tax planning and preparation?

    To save money, you may want to handle many tasks yourself, such as payroll, but an accounting firm may be able to do it faster. Hiring a firm to do some accounting and payroll tasks may free you up to do more marketing and build your business.

  2. An accountant may serve as a valuable business advisor and can be involved in every stage of your business. Think of your accountant as your trusted business advisor. You may be using your own accounting software. Your accountant should be your best resource for helping set up your books based on the software features.

    They can help you with business structure issues and help you understand your business structure such as sole-proprietorship versus LLC and the effects on your tax management. Accountants can also advise you on issues such as cash flow, new product development, buying or leasing equipment, health insurance, your retirement plan, and selling your business when that time comes.

  3. You’ll probably want to use an accountant who has an interest in small businesses and has the necessary experience. You’ll probably be happier with someone whose client base is similar to your own business profile.

  4. Once you know what you need from an accountant, you’ll want to talk to other small business owners to find out who would be good to work with. Comparing notes about professionals who can help your business is a great reason to participate in business networking such as your REAP association. You can ask other business owners what they like about their accountant and what services they receive.

  5. Once you have a list of accountants you can interview them and ask them for references
    you may call.

    Make sure that you are comfortable with the person and that he or she has a working style compatible with your own. The person or firm you hire should take a genuine interest in your business and understand what you do.

    Questions to ask your prospective accountant:
    >> What services do you provide?
    >> What are your credentials?
    >> Do you work with similar businesses in my field?
    >> How do you help your small business clients resolve problems?
    >> How frequently should we meet?
    >> What materials and information do you provide your clients?
    >> What systems do you use to get information from clients?
    >> Can you accept information electronically?
    >> How much and how will my business be billed?

Reference: “Choose the Right Accountant”, SAM’S Club Source, Kevin Orfield.

Roundtable Discussion Questions

1. Open your roundtable discussion with additional tips from members who have experience in finding an accountant. Ask the group for other tips on hiring an accountant or questions that could be asked of a prospective accountant.

2. Share how you handle your records or accounting in your business. Do you use paper ledgers or accounting software? Who helped you get your books set up and what was their advice?

3. Share your favorite story on how your accountant has helped you through issues pertaining to your business or something significant that helped you save on taxes.

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