Q What are the rules of thumb or guidelines one should follow when choosing the right certified public accountant (CPA) for a small business?
MISATO TINA ALEXANDRE
A The first step is to determine what types of services are needed. Would the CPA prepare the tax returns and year-end financial statements? Or would more extensive services be required, such as tax planning, succession planning or computer system installation? The answers will help the business narrow its search for CPAs who have the required expertise.
The size of the accounting firm is an important issue. Some businesses may want the personal attention of a sole practitioner or small firm, while others may like the broad areas of expertise available in a medium or large firm. Specialization is also important. CPAs may develop specialties, such as personal or business tax, auditing, forensic accounting or small business consulting.
The reputation of the firm should be considered. Other small-business owners, or others in the particular industry, will likely know or be familiar with CPAs through personal experience or word of mouth. What do they think? And finally, consider the fit of personalities. Does the CPA show a genuine interest in the business? Is he or she proactive, aware of current and future developments in the industry? Could the parties involved have a good working relationship?
Various resources are available to help a business find a CPA. For example, in Minnesota, the Minnesota Society of CPAs provides two free resources on its website (www.mncpa.org). "Find a CPA" allows a search based on location, size, specialty and industry. The Yellow Pages has an extensive list of CPA firms in Minnesota and neighboring states.
DIANE MATSON, CPA
DEPARTMENT OF ACCOUNTING
UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS