Taxes can be complicated and frustrating to many people. Not only is there a risk of not filing them correctly, but many miss out on strategies that can save them money. Fortunately, Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) help millions of Americans accurately file their tax returns every year. CPAs are licensed professionals in taxes, accounting and business. Working with one can simplify the tax filing process and eliminate stress from all things tax related. Many financial advisors are CPAs and they can also help you create a full financial plan that goes far beyond tax services.
What Is a CPA?
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a tax professional with considerable experience and education in taxes, auditing and accounting. CPA certification requires 150 semester hours of higher education classes before candidates take the Uniform CPA exam. As a result, most CPAs obtain a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree to satisfy the hours needed and prepare sufficiently for the four tests comprising the exam.
CPAs must pass the following parts of the exam within 18 months:
In addition, experienced CPAs oversee new CPAs entering the field. New CPAs work 1,800 hours or more with guidance from other CPAs to sharpen their financial skills. Because of the rigorous education and work experience necessary to acquire certification, CPAs hold high regard in the financial industry. An established CPA will provide tax guidance and expertise if you have challenges or questions about your tax return.
Why Choosing a Good CPA Is Important
Because CPAs develop expertise in a spectrum of topics, it’s crucial to find one specializing in individual tax filing. While many CPAs have basic competency in this area, specializations in the field range from municipal auditing to small business needs. Additionally, because of dishonest workers and scammers posing as CPAs, conducting a thorough search for a CPA before selecting one is crucial.
There is also the obvious reason for selecting a good CPA, which is that they will save you money. A CPA that understands the tax code related to your unique situation can generally help you navigate paying taxes but they can also help you implement tax strategies that will help you save over time.
How to Find a CPA for Tax Services
As with other financial professionals and services, it’s wise to shop around before committing to a CPA. You don’t want to commit to a CPA before you know that they are the right fit for your financial situation. The following four steps can help you find the right CPA for your tax situation.
1. Create a List of Potential CPA Candidates
Instead of going with a random CPA near you who comes up on the Internet, use multiple sources to generate a list of possibilities. You can get leads from these sources:
2. Consider Looking Outside Your Area
If you’re having trouble finding a local CPA, it might be time to broaden your search radius. Going beyond local professionals could mean looking at a couple of towns over or even throughout your entire state. Although meeting in person has been the norm for tax preparation, the pandemic and technological advances have made virtual meetings possible and, in some cases, preferable.
For example, you may be pressed for time and can’t travel far or don’t feel at ease sharing your financial details with someone you might see around town. Many CPAs can accommodate your preferences by using secure file transfer tools online and communicating through video calls. But, make sure the CPA understands the tax code in your state.
3. Narrow Down Your List
When you’ve gathered enough leads, you can trim them down to make your call list manageable. This is the time to be picky about what you’re looking for and evaluate based on what information is available to you. These tips can help you whittle down your list to include only the best candidates:
4. Interview Your Candidates
During your CPA interviews, provide them with the most recent year’s tax return. This document will help a CPA understand if they can help you and how much your tax preparation might cost. In addition, you’ll likely share life events from the past year that impact your taxes, such as having a child or purchasing real estate property. After providing this information, you can consider the questions below as a way to begin your evaluation process.
The Bottom Line
Finding an excellent CPA for your tax preparation is vital for your peace of mind and financial well-being. While some CPAs’ services might not be suitable for your financial situation, you can conduct your search with leads from those you trust and filter out substandard choices with online tools. Since the government holds each individual filer responsible for their tax return, it’s crucial to trust the work of your CPA. Only sign your return when you’re satisfied that the filing correctly represents your financial status from the past year.
Tips for Finding a CPA
©iStock.com/AndreyPopov, ©iStock.com/courtneyk, ©iStock.com/ViloetaStoimenova