Do You Need an Accountant If You’re Self-Employed?

Yes, says Cordano. “Maybe it’s not as complex as a small business that has 10 to 15 employees, but if someone is self-employed, there may be specific advantages and expenses you may be able to take advantage of.”

Even if you are a one-man band, consulting with an accountant who understands business taxes and tax planning for small business is useful, because they can identify what deductions your business is eligible for and what to avoid. They can also provide insight and advice to help you save money for retirement, which can be challenging for sole proprietors if they don’t know their options.

How do you find a business accountant?
Once you know what you want from your accountant, you can look for candidates. Joshua Dubrow, of the New York State Society of CPAs’ Small Business Outreach Committee, said that many people’s first instinct when looking for an accountant is to turn to the internet. But he warned against just picking someone you find on Google or an online directory.

“You’re looking for someone that’s going to help you financially, not only with taxes but to help your business grow, so you really need to meet with someone face-to-face,” Dubrow said.

A recognized and reliable source where you can look for an accountant is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), which has a license verification directory of CPAs. Chartered accountants tend to do commercial work within corporations, rather than doing public practice work for other entities. You can also check out the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance if you’d prefer to work with a female accountant.

You can seek recommendations from other small business owners, preferably in an industry like yours. In fact, Dubrow noted that the best way to look for an accountant is by word of mouth. You don’t necessarily need to go to a big firm – some of the best accountants have their own practices.

What qualifications should you look for in an accountant?
The qualifications vary by the type of accountant you need. An accounting clerk must have at least a high school diploma and on-the-job training. An accountant must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting. A CPA must have an accounting degree and additional certifications.

Look for an accountant who has a good understanding of tax laws, accounting software and business management. When interviewing an accountant, pay attention to their communication skills and how they explain information to you. Sometimes an accountant will have to decipher documents and information for you, so it’s important that they’re able to communicate clearly. Crunching numbers is important, but the ability to propose cost-cutting solutions is valuable too.

How do you evaluate an accountant?
Just as you would not hire an employee without an interview and a careful analysis of their resume, practice due diligence in your choice of accountant. Do a background check on the accounting firm and ask for client references, Cordano said. Also, make sure that your candidates are certified. Look them up online to see if there are any regulatory complaints or marks on their record.

If everything checks out, arrange a meeting to discuss who you are, what you want to do, what steps you have already taken and your goals, Cordano said. Ask the CPAs if they have experience and expertise working with a business in your specific field. Also ask how readily available your accountant is going to be, how much time they will dedicate to you, and whether the work will be done at your place of business or the accountant’s.

You want your prospective accountant to be able to offer financial advice and ask you the right questions as well. One way to gauge this is to simply ask the candidate if they have any questions about your business. If they don’t, find another candidate. You need to know how proactive the accountant will be. It is their job to be up in your business (literally and figuratively). The more involved they are, the better value you will get from their services, helping you save money and grow your business.

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