Before you determine what questions you should ask your prospective accountant you should ask yourself a few questions first. Please read my blog post on questions to ask yourself for a few examples.
1. Do you have a public accounting license? In order to have a public accounting license an accountant is required to:
- take professional development courses each year to ensure his knowledge is up to date,
- spend a set amount of time working in public accounting in the preceding 5 years which ensures her practical experience is up to date,
- have a practice inspection to ensure work is being performed to a suitable standard
2. Who will be working on my assignment? Will I interact with them? What are their qualifications?
Some accountants have a large number of staff that can include students or young accountants, by using one of these firms it might be possible to lower your annual accounting costs as the accountant himself does not spend as much time on your file. The down side is that the staff can turn-over fairly regularly resulting in you spending time “training” the “new guy” or having to constantly build a new relationship with your accountant as your contact from the prior year has moved to a different roll or changed companies.
3. How do you bill for your services? What is the fee range for jobs similar to mine?
Some accountants quote a fixed fee for work performed while others quote an hourly rate. Certain firms even quote a different hourly rate depending on who is doing the work and the type of work being performed. It is generally a good idea to get a range up front. It is difficult for an accountant to give an exact figure before the work begins as issues can come up causing the bill to increase, or the work could be completed faster and thus cost less than estimated.
4. Are you actively involved in the community?
An accountant activity involved with the community will have reliable contacts to assist you with other specialists such as lawyers, marketing specialists etc. An added benefit to an accountant active in the business community is that he can see opportunities for you and introduce you to prospective clients.
5. Determine if you will be an important client to your Accountant.
If you are an important client to your Accountant he is more likely to go above and beyond to assist you and ensure that you are being properly serviced.
6. Find an accountant who is focused on building a long-term relationship with you.
An accountant with a long-term perspective will naturally take the job more seriously.
7. Does your accountant use the most up-to date software and technology to ensure his business is running as efficiently as possible?
This will mean he is more efficient with his time when working on your engagement and also be able to advise you on technologies to help your business increase in efficiency.
8. Will you be there when I need you throughout the year?
Some accountants only work certain times of the year which means that if you have an issue and need guidance during the year it might be hard to get an answer if your accountant is away.
9. Why should I pick your firm?
This is a good question to ask to see how well he can put himself in your shoes as a client.