If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’re about to embark on a new venture and need some help auditing your books. The best way to find a trustworthy accountant in Houston, TX is to know what to look for when hiring one. To get the most out of your relationship with an accountant, it pays to do your homework in advance. Houston’s leading CPA firms will be upfront about their services and billing structure, so don’t be shy about asking these questions during the initial vetting process:
What are your credentials and experience?
First and foremost, you want to make sure your CPA firm is reputable. If they have a long history in the industry and excellent reviews, you can be confident they’ll provide high-quality service. You can also ask the firm to provide references—preferably from businesses like yours. If you’re hiring a big firm, these references might not be so relevant, but you can still ask for them. Be wary of any company that refuses to provide references or doesn’t have any to give. Another important credential to consider is whether the CPA is a certified public accountant (CPA) or a certified public accounting assistant (CPAA). As the name suggests, CPAs have higher educational and licensing requirements than their administrative assistants.
How much do your services cost?
This is a big question and one you should ask early on in the process. Accountants typically charge by the hour or project. You can expect to pay a higher hourly rate for a CPA who specializes in your industry. Ask how the firm handles any upfront costs that may be associated with your project (such as fees paid to third-party software providers or subscriptions) and mark down how long they think the project will take. Make sure your accountant is flexible if you run into problems unanticipated by the initial estimate. It’s also a good idea to ask about monthly or quarterly payment plans if the costs will be substantial.
Are you willing to become an expert in my business?
Accountants don’t need to become experts in your industry, but they do need to understand your business model. If your accountant isn’t willing to put in the time to get up to speed on your industry and company, you likely won’t get useful advice. This is where the references you collect from potential firms come in handy. If you can find someone who has worked for your prospective firm in a similar industry, call them up and ask them about their experience. The best accountants will happily spend the time to understand your business and find ways to help you maximize profits.
Why should I hire your firm, instead of another?
This is a great question, but it’s one you should be prepared to answer as well. You may want to interview several firms and ask them each a few questions to get a feel for their approach. You can start by asking how the firm bills its clients. Do they use a retainer or an hourly rate? What sort of experience do they have in your industry? What online reviews do they have? That last part is important. It’s easy to fake positive endorsements, so don’t just look at the number of positive reviews a company has. Rather, look at what those reviews say. If they are full of fluff or vague comments like “great” or “excellent,” be skeptical. Reviews that are specific about the good and bad things about a firm’s services can be trusted far more.
How will you communicate with me?
Accountants are responsible for relaying important information, so it’s understandable that you might want to be in touch with them frequently. If a firm tells you they’re only available during certain times of the year or they only respond to emails on Fridays, be wary. If you need to ask a follow-up question or get an important detail clarified, you don’t want to have to wait until Friday to do it. Ideally, you should be able to communicate with your accountant whenever you need to. If a firm isn’t comfortable with this type of communication, find a new firm. The best accountants are accessible to their clients whenever needed.
When you hire a CPA, you’re not just getting someone to do your taxes. These professionals are knowledgeable about the financial aspects of running a business and can help you keep your books in order. To find a leading CPA firm in Houston, start by looking for a company that has experience working with businesses like yours. A good accountant will be willing to learn about your business and help you maximize your profits. Don’t be shy about asking questions when interviewing prospective firms; you need to find the right fit.