Questions that we often get about consulting with or using a CPA:
Q: Why go to a CPA instead of one of the box stores?
A: When you go to a chain store for tax work, you’re not working with someone that will be there after tax season, available to answer questions throughout the year, and who will get to know you both personally and professionally. Odds are you won’t be working with someone who is an owner of that business. I’m not going anywhere, I’m here year round, and since it’s my business I have a vested interest in making sure you’re well cared for as a valued client this time and every time.
Q: How do your prices compare to the tax prep chain stores?
A: Truthfully, I’m not certain. But I can tell you that the clients that have come to me after going to a chain store generally pay less with me than they paid the year before at the big chain. I believe this is because the pricing at the chain stores is form and formula driven, with little if any discretion based on the client’s situation or the complexity of the work. I don’t aim to be cheaper than anyone or a “low cost provider” but I do feel it’s important for clients to feel like they’re being treated fairly and getting a good value.
Q: Why do you ask so many questions?
A: I find that often the difference between me and the next CPA is the depth and perspective of the questions asked. If I just assume that you know what you need to tell me in order for me to do your project, then I’m not much more valuable than a google search. If, on the other hand, I leverage my 25+ years of business and accounting experience and ask that one last question that opens up new opportunities, then that time is very well spent. Experience tells me that it’s the questions you don’t ask that will be the ones that come back later and have negative consequences. Perhaps some CPAs or other accountants think that because it’s your business, your taxes, or your finances, the impact of an oversight is smaller to them than it is to you. I take the perspective that in order to be your trusted business advisor, I must approach your business like it is my business – because it is. If you as the client ever feel like your CPA doesn’t have your back, then the relationship is on thin ice.
Q: What’s it like to work with a CPA?
A: We talk about what you need to get done, I ask you some questions and make some recommendations, and you decide whether to move forward. Many projects are just an hour or two, but on a longer project I try my best to keep you informed of my progress as we go along. There’s a ton of detail besides that of course, but it is a two way street of information and the better the communication between us the more satisfied you’ll be with the results.
Q: What’s the difference between a CPA and a bookkeeper?
A: In my experience, bookkeepers tend to be focused on transactions – recording things that have already happened, like payments made, creating invoices for work performed, and so on. As a CPA, I’m focused on what those transactions mean to your business. I do work at the transaction level a lot, but spend as much or more of my time on helping you see what all that detail actually means. I have used the phrase “Look at the business, not just the bookkeeping” to encourage business owners to step back from the detail to see the big picture. Sometimes my role is to help them know what to look at in order to make sense of it all.
Q: What’s the difference between a CPA and an Enrolled Agent?
A: The CPA Exam is far more rigorous, plus CPAs are required to take 120 hours of continuing education every 3 years (40 hours a year). Enrolled agents have a less rigorous exam and take much less continuing education. Enrolled Agents tend to be more tax-focused, whereas CPAs are trained to look at the entire business, including the impact of taxes.
Q: Why not just do my own taxes using Turbo Tax?
A: For individuals with little complexity in their tax situation, Turbo Tax is a fine tool. If however, you have any of a number of complex situations, working with a CPA will routinely pay for itself in the form of higher deductions and better tax planning. If you have your own business, own rental property, bought or sold or even refinanced your home this year, just to name a few things, you’re at risk of missing deductions if you rely on any kind of automated tax tool. Often it’s being able to interpret the question the software is asking you, rather than having a human asking you the questions and being to understand and interpret the nuances of your situation.
Q: QuickBooks says I can be up and doing my own accounting in 15 minutes. Why should I call you instead of just doing it myself?
A: It’s true that you can run QuickBooks out of the box. As with most things however, you need to plan with the end in mind. There is no software out of the box that knows your clients and your business as you do, and much of the functionality of QuickBooks isn’t obvious. Working with a ProAdvisor (like me) can make sure your setup is optimized and customized for YOU, provide an introduction to the latest features, and help you to see what not to do as well as how to do the required steps to get where you want to be. After all, you’re not an accountant. As a painter client of mine says “Anyone can paint. It’s hard to paint well.” (Thanks Jeff). Let me help you paint well or even do the painting for you so you can focus your attention on the other parts of your business that need your attention and that you probably enjoy a lot more than the accounting.
Q: How much do your services cost?
A: Your cost varies dramatically depending on the type of service being delivered and the amount of time it takes to do the work. Tax returns for individuals, for example, may even vary depending on whether you have a business, rental property, 10 rental properties, or various other issues that result in additional deductions, income or tax credits. I’m happy to provide an estimate at no cost, based on last year’s return and a brief discussion about what may be different this year. For QuickBooks and other consulting work, jobs are generally billed on an hourly basis. We do offer discounted bundles for new QuickBooks installations, consulting and training packages, and volume discounts for larger or messier projects. Our primary goal is to build a long-lasting relationship, so we always hope that when you do see the bill you’re astonished by it, in the sense that you would have expected it to cost more considering the value you received. Throughout the process of working together, you should have a sense of what the cost is so there are no surprises.