Whitepapers: Top 10 Questions to Ask your Prospective AccountantDate: July, 2015
Finding the right accountant for your business is a critical endeavor for your organization’s financial success. Your accountant will be a necessary resource for many aspects of conducting your business activities, from complying with taxation regulations, to meeting financing needs, to obtaining assurance opinions. Different accountants will offer a wide range of perspectives regarding the appropriate measures in approaching the challenges that your business will encounter. You will need to hire the accountant that is the right fit for your company’s vision, who will offer the appropriate amount of experience and expertise, so that you can smoothly build the path towards achieving your business goals.
Undoubtedly, you will be interviewing various firms or individuals to assist you in your business’ accounting functions. This white paper will suggest the top ten questions to ask your prospective accountants, and how to assess their answers.
What designations do you hold?
A designated accountant is the mark of a highly qualified expert who can offer the best standard of service in the accounting field. The Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) is the title given to those professionals who have achieved their accounting designation in Canada.
Accountants who have attained further specialization in the field will have additional designations to their names. Examples of these can include: CA-designated Investigative and Forensic Accountants (CA-IFA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Master of Laws in Taxation (LL.M. Tax), Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP), and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
Assessing the designations that your prospective accountant holds will depend on the types of services that your company requires. For example, only a designated CPA, CA is allowed to give an audit opinion in Canada. Accountants with a designation are also regarded in their advisory role, meaning you will receive from them information that is both relevant and credible. Specialty certifications are indicators that an accountant will be able to provide in-depth expertise in certain complex circumstances that your business may encounter. Ultimately, you will need to ensure that your accountant has the appropriate knowledge and credentials in order to fulfill the necessary functions that are essential to your business.
What are the industries in which you specialize?
Different industries have varying needs and demands that can only be met by someone with experience in those areas. Of course, not all accountants have the same familiarity with each industry. You will first and foremost want to ensure that your accountant has a deep understanding of your industry’s unique conditions, so that you will receive specialized advice given the specific trends and regulations under which your business operates. Generally, accountants will cite their industries of expertise on their website.
In assessing different accountants’ capabilities in handling issues pertaining to industry-specific concerns, you will need to evaluate whether they have the appropriate resources to provide you with timely solutions. For example, a firm of accountants is more likely than a sole practitioner to have a diverse range of personnel with a variety of specialties in all areas that will be relevant to your business. Be mindful that the scope of your accounting needs can span across many domains such as taxation, business development, financial services, and others. Naturally, the scale of your business activities will be a factor in which accountant is the right fit for you.
What is the added value that you will bring to my business?
Some accountants may provide a limited number of services, whereas others will offer an array. An accountant with a narrow range of services may, for example, only be involved in tax compliance (that is, filing corporate tax returns). It would be relevant for you to gain an understanding of the other areas in which your accountant can provide an added value for you and your business. These services include corporate reorganizations, business valuations, and financial turnaround, among many others.
When hiring your accountant, evaluate whether you are receiving the most value for your business. An accountant that is adept in advisory and consulting can benefit a business in a more meaningful way than one who offers only limited accounting functions.
Who will be my regular contact person?
In a firm of accountants, you will be looking to develop a mutually trusting and honest relationship with one of the partners of the firm. This partner will be your go-to contact for any and all of your accounting concerns; therefore, you will be considering someone not only with whom you sense a mutual respect, but who is also most fit to meet your specific business needs.
Granted, the personnel in a firm have specializations in different fields, and therefore it is possible that you will be introduced to someone who will be the best fit for your particular file. (This of course is an advantage of working with a firm of accountants.) The main takeaway should be to ensure that you will be treated in a personable and professional manner by your accountant. You should always feel that your accountant considers your business to come first.
What other kinds of professionals can you refer me to?
Today’s complex business environment can require advisors from various disciplines. You will be interested as to whether your accountant has a solid network of contacts in order to be aided with other professional needs. Assess that your accountant can guide you towards a reputable lawyer, insurance broker, banker, IT specialist, and so on. The longer your accountant’s reach, the better you will be able to find the services that you need.
How do you maintain your ongoing professional development?
The professional and technological landscapes are growing rapidly and becoming more complex. Accounting standards are ever-evolving, and the use of technology in the workplace is developing exponentially. You will want to inquire of your accountant precisely what kind of ongoing training is undertaken in order to keep up with these changes. Furthermore, ask specifically about the recent innovations that have been utilized by your prospective accountants, in order to assess whether they are continually striving to keep up-to-date with the current technological environment. After all, a crucial factor in achieving business success is the ability to embrace change.
What are your professional fees?
Fees can be established using different variables as benchmarks. They may be based on an hourly billing rate, which is usually determined by the accountant’s seniority. Alternatively, some fees are a flat amount, depending on the type of project being performed. Another example could be a value-added based fee, calculated as an estimate of the value the accountant’s work added to your business.
Discuss with your prospective accountant the types of projects that apply to your business, and which billing method you can expect to be used for each. Assess that your accountant can give a clear explanation as to how a final billing price is determined.
Who are your references?
Contacting other clients of a prospective accountant could be a very useful tool in assessing whether the accountant is the right fit for you. Note that in many circumstances, however, providing a list of clients is against the professional and ethical code by which accountants must abide. Still, it is possible that some clients do wish to volunteer their insight regarding their experiences with their accountant. It is a worthy endeavor to inquire if there is someone you can confer with as a reference.
What is the response time I can expect after contacting you?
It is important to have confidence in your accountant in that you will be able to obtain professional services in a timely manner. Of course, time is money, and certain urgent matters require prompt attention. Discuss with your prospective accountants what their availabilities are, and how long it normally takes them to reply to their messages. Assess whether you receive a firm commitment from your prospective accountant to serve you within a proper timeframe, or whether they reply in a vague and evasive fashion.
Why should I choose you, or your firm, as my accountant?
Ultimately, the best accountants should easily be able to discuss at length specifically what the advantages are for hiring them. Assess whether you feel assured that your accountant is confident in their abilities and in their services. Compare your business needs with the services offered by prospective candidates in order to evaluate which accountant is the right fit for you and your business.
This white paper is courtesy of Crowe BGK LLP, a member of Crowe Global
Founded in 1950, Crowe BGK offers a full range of accounting and consulting services that includes auditing, accounting, taxation, management consulting, government incentives, source financing, investment counseling and counter-fraud related services. With 2 offices and more than 100 professionals and staff, Crowe BGK is well-positioned to deliver impeccable service and value to clients throughout Québec and area of Ottawa.
In addition to local and regional services, as a member of Crowe Global, Crowe BGK LLP can draw on a worldwide network of independent professionals and their know-how. The Crowe Global network consists of more than 200 independent accounting and advisory services firms in over 120 countries around the world.
As a member firm of Crowe Global, Crowe BGK offers comprehensive, international expertise in a broad range of business consulting practices. The unique combination of local and regional talent coupled with the global reach of its network provides Crowe BGK with the local expertise and global worldwide capabilities that clients expect and deserve.
As the Managing Partner of Crowe BGK, Brian Kreisman, has stated, “We remain our clients’ most trusted advisors through superior service and insightful solutions.”
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