Advice from Shauna A. Wekherlien, CPA, MTax, CTC, CTS, the Tax Goddess
When it comes to hiring a tax accountant or a tax strategist, far too many people simply don’t know what questions to ask, what things to consider, and how to use that information to choose the right person to help them manage their personal and/or business finances.
I understand just how challenging it can be to navigate the complicated and complex waters of Accounting and Taxation. With that said, my goal is to make it easier for ordinary people to begin working with a tax accountant or tax strategist. All you have to do is keep these six questions in mind before hiring these important professionals.
What do you need to ask?
How many times have you worked with the IRS on behalf of a client, and how many times have you won the battle?
This is one of the most critical questions to ask your potential tax accountant or tax strategist simply because a “situation” with the IRS is what every person and business owner wants to avoid. No one wants to deal with an audit, with all of the complex rules from the IRS, and everything that makes tax returns & running a business even more difficult than they already are! In the event that the IRS does actually get involved with your tax filing, you want to know that you have a capable, experienced, and successful tax accountant or tax strategist representing your best interests.
Don’t be afraid to ask this question, and certainly don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials. You need to be absolutely certain that your chosen tax accountant is going to fight on your behalf and ensure a successful outcome when dealing with the IRS.
What are your areas of specialty?
With over 660,000 CPA’s in the entire USA (according to Google) it is important to consider the areas of expertise when choosing the right tax accountant or strategist for you. For instance, if you’re a small business owner or a sole proprietor seeking a tax strategist but the one you’ve selected has never worked with a small business before, then they might not be your best option. Additionally, some CPAs are ‘auditing CPAs’, others are bookkeepers, and some are even CFOs of large-scale companies. Every CPA is different, and they’ll all bring something new and unique to the table to help their clients with their tax needs. Go with someone who understands your needs and has clear and proven experience in supporting clients similar to you.
How do you communicate?
One of the most pressing issues that comes up between CPAs / tax professionals and their clients is communication. We live in a mobile-first world where digital technology often drives our communication, and that might work well for some, but others might prefer to meet their CPA or tax professional in person. Talk to your potential tax strategist and find out how they prefer to communicate. If you have a question, can you simply call their office and speak with them? Is there an 800 number to call? Do they offer virtual support? Do they have a team that might support you if they are “on vacation”? These are all critical questions that you should ask during your interview to determine if this is the right professional for you.
Who actually does the work with your firm?
This is an important question to ask because it gives you a bit more insight into who will actually be reviewing your information and processing your taxes on the fundamental level. Sure, the person whose name is on the logo might be the one representing the firm, but that doesn’t exactly mean that they’re the person who inputs the data, reviews the strategies, and does the final “signoff” that all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.
Connecting with not only your CPA, but also their team, makes a difference. Having a larger team means that your files would have multiple professionals onboard to assist with different aspects of taxations, ensuring they find every penny of savings for you via multiple levels of technical review. For instance, they might have a business CPA who works exclusively with business owners. Additionally, they might have a CPA who specializes in audits, real estate, personal taxes, and so much more. Having a team also means that you have bookkeepers, assistants, even customer service teams that are there to help you with any needs you have (without having to wait to speak with your one CPA who is slammed and can’t call you back until after April 15th!) Having a wide range of resources at their disposal might allow them to better serve their clients – and that is certainly something that you’d want to be aware of.
Do you work with multiple entities/businesses?
Finally, the last, and one of the most important questions is – do you know how to deal with complex / multi-business situations? For many taxpayers they have personal taxes, but also have a rental property (earning some great side cash flow) AND they have a small business they run. At this point, you have three different entities, and you’ll want to make sure that your CPA is comfortable working in a multiple entity environment. This will ensure that your taxes are filed appropriately for the IRS to prevent the risk of an audit, a mis-file, and worst case missed tax deductions and opportunities!
What is your tax professional’s Aggression Level?
Every tax professional and CPA has their own level of aggression – most importantly you want your professional level of aggression to match your level of aggression. So, for example, if we use a scale of 0 to 10 (0 meaning the IRS never calls you never ever and you’re leaving money on the table — to — 10 meaning that everyone’s going to jail) you need to determine where you are on that scale (are you an 8? Take all the write ups that are legal, cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s – but no going to jail for you!) And you need to determine where your tax professional is on that scale (if they are a 2, never heard of an ‘accountable plan’, and won’t let you deduct your home office & car miles) maybe it’s time to find a better match! Make sure that you’re checking with your professional where they are and where you are so that you know that you’re a perfect fit for each other.
And with that, you can now begin interviewing your CPAs and determining which tax accountant or tax strategist is right for you.
About Shauna A. Wekherlien, CPA, MTax, CTC, CTS, the Tax Goddess:
Shauna A. Wekherlien, CPA, the “Tax Goddess” is an author, speaker, investor, and a highly sought-after tax strategist whose reputation has been built on 20-plus years of experience and implementing innovative tax solutions for individuals and businesses. Shauna has been featured on many news and radio stations (CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, Sonoran Living, The List, KFNX, KFYI, etc.), as well as in many written publications (CNNMoney, The Arizona Republic, Phoenix Women, AZBiz, etc.). She has won multiple awards for her ingenuity, leadership, and strength as a female leader in Arizona. Learn more about her program here: https://strategictaxcoachingprogram.com/.