8 Things To Look For In A CPA

It's Important To Hire A CPA You Can Trust And Who Understands Your Needs


Tax season is officially upon us.  If you are still in need of tax preparer or CPA, then the time to start looking is now.  While you may feel that your time is limited, try to avoid making a hasty decision that can cause big problems down the road.  It’s critical to find a CPA or tax preparer that you can trust, and that requires doing your due diligence and research.  If you’re not sure where to begin, start by reviewing this list of eight things that are highly important to look for in a CPA:   

1.  Make sure you find a CPA that fits your needs.  Be sure to define your objectives before selecting a CPA.  Are you looking for a CPA for your individual needs or the needs of your company?  Will you need additional services such as retirement or financial planning down the road? 

2.  Make sure you are comfortable with the CPA’s level of communication and that they respond to your requests.  Remember that good communication is key.  You will want a CPA that both communicates in an effective and timely manner, as well as one who can explain complex ideas to you in simple terms that you can understand. 

3.  Be certain that you are looking for a CPA, and not just someone who prepares taxes.  CPAs will have more knowledge than tax preprarers.  CPAs will be able to better advise and help with more complicated situations.

4.  Beware of preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.  There are some tax preparers that charge contingent fees which are fees based on a percentage of your return.

  While such fees may not be unethical in all circumstances, it is best to engage a CPA that has a structured fee.

5.  Find a reputable tax professional who signs the tax return and provides a copy.  A paid tax preparer must sign your tax return by law.  Be sure to review the tax preparer’s work for accuracy prior to signing yourself as the responsibility ultimately ends with you.


6.  Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of the tax return months, or even years, after the return has been filed.  Take some time to look carefully into the history of the firm including how long they have been in existence.  Take into consideration also if there is someone there that can step in should your specific tax professional.  Also be sure that you chose a tax professional that is available to answer your questions all year round and not just during tax season.

7.  Check credentials.  Only attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs) and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collection and appeals.  Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared. Therefore, it’s critical to check any prospective CPA’s credentials first.  Membership in a professional association is also an important qualification.  To be sure that the firm you select is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, you can look them up at www.BBB.org.  

8.  Ask around.  When looking for someone that you need to trust implicitly with your finances, it’s always best to first check with friends and family to see if they know of a CPA who is reputable and might be a good option for you to consider.

 Referrals are highly valuable.

Do you have a trusted CPA or tax preparer?  If you are just starting to look for trusted advisor, be sure that you cover all of these important bases. If you are seeking additional information on how to select the right CPA, or trying to make a decision on whether to hire a CPA or file online yourself,   please download this free e-book full of important information, Tax Software or CPA?

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Disclosure:  This information is provided to you as a resource for informational purposes only.  It is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors.

  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.  This information is not intended to, and should not, form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax or investment advisor before making any investment/tax/estate/financial planning considerations or decisions. 

Wes Moss is the Chief Investment Strategist at the financial planning firms Capital Investment Advisors and Wela. He is also the host of the Money Matters radio show on WSB Radio.  In 2014, Moss was named one of America’s top 1,200 financial advisors by Barron’s Magazine. He is the author of several books including his most recent, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think  - The 5 Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees, which has been one of Amazon’s best-selling retirement books in 2014.