Michael P. Rudy and Associates - mrcpa.net

Selecting A CPA

The process of SELECTING A CPA requires careful consideration of several criteria. As a trusted financial advisor, your CPA will work closely with you or your company on a variety of issues, so you want to be sure you are confident in your selection. The information contained in this section is intended to assist you as you make a critically important decision for your future or that of your company.
Among the most important criteria you should evaluate in selecting a CPA are:

How many years has the CPA been practicing? What did he or she do before becoming a CPA? Whether you would prefer to select someone just out of college, or one who has 25 years of experience, you must be comfortable with the level of experience in the CPA you select.

Where did the CPA attend college? When did he/she graduate? What degree was conferred? Any graduate-level education? Although all CPAs must pass an intense four-part exam before becoming a certified public accountant, regardless of schooling, it still may be useful for you to learn more about the educational background.

A college education and passing the CPA exam are only the beginning steps in an accountant’s career. What additional training has the CPA undergone? In what areas? Most states require that CPAs undergo regular “continuing professional education” (CPE) in order to retain a license. How many hours of CPE credit has the CPA earned during the last year? What classes does he/she attend to receive the continuing education?

No two clients are alike, and specific questions are bound to develop as the CPA handles your financial matters. What resources are available to the CPA when he/she has questions which need to be researched? To whom does he/she turn for advice?

Depending upon your needs, you may want to select a CPA who concentrates his/her practice in a particular area. If you own several franchises, you may want to select a CPA who primarily services the franchising industry. If you are in the health care industry, you may be more confident in SELECTING A CPA who has dedicated his/her practice to providing the highest quality of financial and consulting services to your industry. Does the CPA concentrate his/her practice in any particular area? What percentage of his/her business is in that area? How does he/she stay abreast of trends and developments in that industry? Does he/she belong to any related trade organizations?

There is no “perfect” size firm in the accounting industry. You may feel more comfortable working with a sole practitioner, or you may prefer an international accounting firm with offices around the world and thousands of CPAs on staff. Try to interview CPAs in different size firms, and make the choice best for you.

What professional associations does he/she belong to? Why? Is he/she involved in any leadership capacity in the association(s)? Is he/she involved in the community? In what way? These questions will be more important to some clients than others, but they will elicit helpful information you might use in making your selection.

Although some prospective clients may be hesitant to ask questions about pricing, any responsible CPA will welcome an opportunity during the selection process to explain the billing fees and procedures. Will the work be charged on an hourly basis? If so, at what rate? What if a support-staff person performs work? Will that be billed at a different rate? How frequent is the billing?

All CPAs must meet rigid professional standards in order to maintain their license, and the accounting industry as a whole adheres to a strong ethical code. But as no two clients are alike, not all CPAs are exactly alike. After you have learned about experience, education, etc., take the time to learn about the person you will be trusting with your financial matters. Subjective as this may sound, pay attention to your instinct.

If you did not first learn about the CPA from a referral, you might want to ask for a list of references. Take a few moments to contact current clients to gauge their level of satisfaction.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of CPAs in the United States, so how do you go about identifying those you might consider retaining? Person-to-person referrals are probably the most common means, but you might also consider contacting your state’s CPA society.