An open line of communication in any situation can make it better. It leaves nothing to chance, and there are no unanswered questions. So why do so many small business owners not have that same level of openness with their accountant and tax professional?
There are a lot of good, inexpensive, accounting tools online - but having a trained professional can save you from making costly mistakes when doing your own books and taxes. In addition, a tax professional’s years of experience can be invaluable when helping you traverse the choppy waters of tax season.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of questions you should ask an accountant or tax professional when you meet them for the first time:
What is the best way to reach out to you, and how often is too often?
With the idea of starting off a relationship with open communication, be sure to set both parties expectations from day one. And with so many ways to contact someone — phone, email, video chat — it’s best to find out what each of you are comfortable with and build the relationship from there. Be sure to set a schedule for how and when you’re going to communicate. Many business owners have weekly, monthly or quarterly contact with their accountant.
What should I expect from you during tax season?
The main reason you go to an accounting professional is the level of service you get during tax season. They can help answer questions about tax deductions, tax credits and make sure you are getting what you’re due without putting you in jeopardy of a visit from the IRS. But don’t wait until the last minute; you want that line of communication to be established well before the tax deadline. Any additional time your information can be in front of your accountant or tax professional, the more beneficial it will be to your business come tax time.
What type of information do I need to keep?
This is one of the most important questions to ask your accountant because, without the correct documentation, your books, and your taxes, would be a guessing game that no one wins. Be sure to get a detailed list of what is needed and try to keep that information as organized as possible throughout the year.
I work from home, how much of my home office can I deduct?
If you run your business out of your home, this is a question that needs to be answered. The guidelines for these types of deductions are very specific, and your tax professional will know how much of a deduction your business is eligible for.
Have you prepared a tax return for a business like mine before?
Every situation is different, as is every business, so a tax professional that has worked with your type of business may know of deductions specific to your industry. Be sure to find someone who is familiar with your business situation, so you get the best assistance possible.
The Internal Revenue Service has a dedicated page for helping a small business owner know how to pick a tax preparer. The site has a number of additional questions that will help you pick the right accountant or tax professional for your business. Be sure to have these questions handy when you are interviewing so that you select the right person to work with.
As we stated earlier, everything is better with open communication and we hope we help you find the right person for this important job.