Many people use the terms accountant and CPA interchangeably, but they are not actually the same thing. While all CPAs are accountants and can do the work that any accountant could do, a CPA (or Certified Public Accountant) is a special type, and not all accountants become CPAs. A general accountant could likely prepare your taxes, for instance, but only a CPA could represent you in front of the IRS if you were audited. If you’re in the market for a CPA, look for these qualities that set the great ones apart.
Has Training and Experience
A CPA is a specialized type of accountant, so they should be well-trained and totally up-to-date on tax code. To be a CPA and accountant has to pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam. If they haven’t passed that, they’re not actually a CPA. Take time to learn when they passed the exam, where they trained, and what sorts of continuing education they do to remain up-to-date. Additionally, while there is no guarantee that a brand new certified public accountant wouldn’t be just as good as a more experienced one, having a few years of experience, especially experience representing someone in an actual audit, is a good thing.
Make sure that the experience they have pertains to your situation as well – an accountant who has only ever represented individuals is likely not a good fit for your larger business grossing over $10 million. Likewise, a certified public accountant who represents multi-national corporations would be overkill for your one-person small business.
Tax codes are confusing, and a great CPA doesn’t just understand the ins and outs of what they do. They can communicate the information to you. Many people want to be able to simply pass all the tax stuff to their CPA and not have to think about it, but you have a responsibility to your company to understand as much of your tax situation as possible. You need an accountant who can communicate the information clearly enough that you understand. In addition to communicating about tax law, they should also be good at communicating expectations so that your working relationship is smooth. Look for a professional who is clear in what they can do, how much it will cost, and what they need you to do to facilitate their work.
Finally, look for a CPA who shows interest in the unique aspects of your business and industry so they can best handle your small business tax situation. If they are unwilling to learn about your company and the work you do, they will likely not have a strong enough understanding to really represent you thoroughly.
Contact Bowman & Company CPA Today
Bowman & Company CPA, PC provides all of our individual and small business customers with experienced, accurate, and affordable financial services. Our financial services aim at decreasing your taxes and increasing your net worth through responsible, timely, and accurate recordkeeping. We offer our services to clients throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area including Maryland and Baltimore County, Columbia, and Howard County. For more information on our offerings, contact us online or call us at (410) 381-8121. You can also find us on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and Youtube.