Original Post By: Justin & Mary
I know that filing taxes doesn’t seem like something to really celebrate, but it is! Just the fact that you had to file taxes at all means that you have a business and that you’re making money with it. People are paying you money to do what you love….and that’s pretty cool! Right? So if this year’s taxes haven’t been the walk in the park, easy breezy Pantene commercial that you hoped they would be…I wanted to give you some good advice that we’ve learned the long way in finding an accountant that will really go to work for you so that next year can be different! 🙂 Because what we’ve found, is that the kind of accountant you have makes all the difference in the world! And that’s especially true come tax time!
So here they are, 8 Things Every Creative Small Business Owner Should Look For in Their Accountant!
For years, we were using what I’m going to call a “reactive” accountant, in that it felt like we would do all the work and he would just react to whatever we put right in front of him. No more, no less. There was no proactive effort from him on our behalf. In other words, he wasn’t fighting for us or our business at all. He was just a numbers guy. And you could tell his heart wasn’t really in it. Then we found Lisa…and let me tell you, it changed everything. I literally cried when we found her. Both from relief and because I realized for the first time what we hadn’t had in our business for the years before. That’s because she really CARES about us and our business. You can sit down with her one time and tell that everything she does is driven by heart and by a strong WHY that she believes in. And like everything else that starts with Why, it makes all the difference in her work.
For Lisa, it isn’t just one meeting come March or April. She works with us ALL year leading up to tax time, to make sure that we’re on track and making adjustments as we need to. She actually came down to our home & met with us last August for the taxes we’re about to file now because she could tell that the business was growing rapidly and we needed to make adjustments to account for that. How amazing is that?? After working with her for several years, we now know how an accountant SHOULD treat you. And since we didn’t know what we were missing out on for years, we wanted to make a list of some things to look for in an accountant so you guys are finding the best person to take care of you too! Here goes.
1. Your accountant should specialize in small business. As a group, small business owners get the short end of the stick when it comes to taxes. Not only do we have federal & state income tax, but we also get charged a (really hefty) penalty just for the luxury of being self-employed. Those self-employment taxes can be even more than income tax, which is crazy to me. Here we are trying to create a business, create commerce, contribute to the economy and we’re penalized for our entrepreneurial spirit. This makes me really cranky. So it’s really crucial that your account stays constantly up to date on every change in the tax code that affects small business, so he or she can get the best result for you possible.
2. Your accountant should do your bookkeeping. Or work directly with someone who does. Our accountant now does all of our bookkeeping through the year which means that come tax time there is no confusion and no learning curve as she tries to figure out what someone else did. So the taxes go a LOT faster. It also means that she can track how we’re doing throughout the year, so she can tell us if we’re on track for where we want to be or not.
3. Your accountant should be proactive. Your accountant should be actively invested in how you’re doing. Ours does this in a couple of ways. 1) she doesn’t just react to how we’ve set things up, she gives amazing recommendations for simple changes we could make that would go to work for us SO much more and 2) she will not only look at just the numbers & the end result…she’ll go the extra step to give us the analysis to say “ok, so this type of workshop is actually more profitable than this one” or “hey you guys should really get some more money in your SEP (self-employed pension) because your expenses/deductions are down.”
4. Your accountant should meet with you throughout the year. I’m not saying it has to be every month (but ours does check in with our monthly profit & loss statements), but your accountant should be checking in with you before the end of the taxable year to make sure you’re on track for where you need to be before the year ends.
5. Your accountant should set up your estimated tax payments. Whether that’s monthly or quarterly, your accountant should be helping you come up with a plan to pay in throughout the year so you aren’t getting slammed come tax time.
6. Your accountant should manage sales tax payments for you. The sales tax law is also constantly changing and our accountant goes to regular seminars to make sure she’s staying as up on it as possible so that we’re paying the right amounts. She will also prepare those returns & file them for us.
7. Your accountant should speak in normal language. Our old accountant used to only ever speak to us in “tax speak”….it was a constant stream of forms, numbers, and letters. And I left every meeting SO stressed out. But just the way that we would never speak to our couples in terms of apertures, shutter speeds or ISO, you want an accountant who is super technical on the inside and knows her STUFF, but can talk like a normal person on the outside when she’s talking to you!
8. Your accountant should care about you. Our accountant told us she was really proud of us this year. And again I cried. Because I’m just SO thankful that we found someone who is fighting for us and our business like she cares about it. Because she actually does. Oh, and it also doesn’t hurt that she gives us M&M’s when we meet with her! 🙂 That’s the way to really show you care!
We hope that helps give you some ideas for what to look for in an accountant!
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