Whether you’re an individual with general tax inquiries or a business owner looking to hire a full time accountant, it is very important that you take some to understand the basics of what makes a great accountant. You need to know beforehand what type of person you are looking for and what you need to avoid. Your accountant has an extremely important job – one that is mainly based on trust. Find a good one, and you will be his or her client for life. When you are making your selection, it is important to shop around and figure out which one is the best fit for you and your business.
Don’t obsess over degrees
So you’ve found the perfect candidate, yet they don’t have a degree in accounting? What do you do? Don’t panic and don’t dismiss them immediately! As discussed in this article “5 graduate degrees that are worth it” a lot of people who get accounting degrees can – and often do – go on to find success in a wide range of industries and occupations. But this principle works both ways. Many successful accountants went to school for something else and pursued undergraduate – and even graduate – degrees in a different field altogether.
Consider candidates with degrees in related fields
Evidently, a degree in accounting indicates your prospective hire should be knowledgeable regarding the subject. Still, you should also look for people with degrees in Economics, Marketing and Mathematics. Any degree that either stresses an aptitude for numbers or a knack for organization – or, like marketing, both – could apply to a real-world career as an income tax accountant, a business accountant or any other subcategory.
Determine the best professional for you and/or your business – Accountant or CPA
“Accountant” and “CPA” are not interchangeable terms. Certified Public Accountants are qualified accountants who passed the CPA examination and who met additional requirements regarding education and experience. There are great accountants who are not CPAs, but if you do hire a CPA, you know you’re getting a professional that is regulated and repeatedly tested by the federal government, and who is obligated to continue their professional education in order to keep up with evolving rules and regulations.
Be clear on what is important to you
Do you want an accountant who is self-employed, or one that works for a firm? Is name recognition, backing and guarantees that only a larger business can provide, essential to you? Or would prefer the intimacy and personal touch of a sole proprietor? Accounting firms have more resources than individuals, and they do all of the vetting and background research for you when they hire an accountant. Their work is much more likely to be guaranteed.
On the other hand, self-employed accountants may work harder for less, as each client they gain is a direct boost to the business they’re building. However, they may be more likely to take on any work that comes their way, meaning they could be overburdened. If you choose a sole proprietor, make sure to you evaluate their accessibility by asking them how many clients they are serving simultaneously.
Accountants come from a wide variety of background and a good professional can do everything from answer basic tax questions to finding deductions in areas you never knew existed. Don’t focus solely on the degree they pursued in college. Remember, they don’t necessarily have to be a CPA to be a good accountant. Ultimately, the choice is yours: you can either hire a self-employed hustler or a pro with the backing of an established firm.
Hopefully these tips will simplify your search and help you find the perfect accountant for your needs!
Andrew Lisa is a freelance business writer. He covers tax preparation and accounting.