Jonathan recently wrote with a common question: How does one find a good lawyer or accountant?
I’ve heard from several sources — including The Millionaire Next Door — that wealthy people generally have an accountant and a lawyer that they trust. I’ve been asking friends and family members, but none are very confident in their recommendations. How do I go about finding these people?
I’m fortunate. I didn’t need to search for competent help: I was friends with both my accountant and my lawyer before I ever needed their services. (I play poker with my accountant. My lawyer and I were best friends in grade school.) But what if you don’t have these sorts of easy connections?
Contrary to popular belief, accountancy expands far beyond taxes. As an individual or business owner, you should engage the services of a CPA based upon your specific needs as matched with the expertise of the CPA. With the proper match, a CPA can serve as a valuable resource. The following items can serve as a starting point in the process of engaging a CPA to assist with your individual or business matters.
- What are your needs? You should seek a CPA who meets your needs. Are you looking for tax compliance and planning? Looking for an audit, review, or compilation? Maybe a business valuation?
- Ask for referrals. Once you know what you need, seek out referrals from others that you trust. Ask friends, business associates, and other professionals.
- Ask questions. When you find a few CPAs that appear to match your needs, start asking questions. Make a list of the matters that are important to you. Such questions can address education, experience, specialties, and business philosophy.
- Assess communication and comfort. Now that you feel confident that the CPA is appropriate for your specific circumstances, assess how well he communicates and evaluate your comfort level with him.
- Don’t be concerned with location. Location may be important for selecting a house; however, location should not serve as a criterion for selecting a CPA. By focusing only on location, you are foregoing the consideration of other selection criteria such as those mentioned above.
A CPA can serve as a valuable resource in the growth and efficient use of your financial resources. Seek one who is open and honest about both their qualifications and limitations. Feel confident that you are engaging a qualified professional for your specific circumstances that seeks your best interests.
This advice also applies to finding a lawyer. Don’t just dig through the yellow pages; ask for recommendations from people you trust. But what if you can’t find somebody based on recommendations? What then? What are some good ways to find legal and accounting advice?
Addendum: In the comments, crazypumpkin has a great follow-up question: “I know so little about CPAs that I don’t even know what questions to ask them to know if they fit my needs. This is the first year that my taxes are complicated enough that I’ll probably need help doing them. But I haven’t a clue of what to actually ask of professionals to see if they are a good fit for me.”
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