What to ask an accountant?

5 Replies

Good morning from CA!

In getting started on this whole real estate investing venture, I have heard that it is a good idea to consult an accountant (preferably a CPA). I plan to meet with an accountant within the next week or so, but I'd love some input regarding valuable questions I should be asking.

I plan to buy and hold SFH or small multi-family, in CA or out of state. I'll be asking general tax questions, but any additional thoughts on relevant questions would be very welcome.

Thank you!


Hi Dani,

One of your first questions might be "How many of your clients own real estate investments?" Most accountants can help you on the accounting side, but an accountant that has some experience real estate investors is worth her weight in gold. She can be a great source of advice and can connect you with other people to help you grow your business and avoid mistakes.


I agree with Ruben, but have no idea why he would assume a good accountant would be female. LOL

@Steven Hamilton II  may address this, she ...ooops, I mean he is pretty good at RE accounting and tax matters related.

A CPA is a Certified Public Accountant, not public as in working for the general public as clients, but in giving public accounting requirements of corporate financial statements, it's a bit of overkill for a small RE investor. CPAs usually charge more, and rightfully so as they do have more education and responsibility in some cases, not saying they may not be able to do your tax planning, but some public accountant, who specializes in RE may serve just as well and not be a CPA.

Are they degreed accountants? How long in practice? How many clients deal in RE? Are they members of any professional accountancy associations? (just take notes because you won/t know them and you can look them up later on) May the practice in any Tax Court matter? Do they consider themselves as conservatives?  Do they justify a more aggressive tax planning and reporting strategy......after that, ask what % of their work has been challenged or audited and their win record. LOL

Biggest thing in working with other professionals is the ability to communicate, are your and their ethical approaches being similar, are they accessible are they (do they answer the phone or are you taking to a recorder and get a call back the next afternoon?)

Charges, how do they charge? Does a quick call constitute a billing or is an occasional answer part of the representation (don't abuse it)? What office charges do they have if any? Many simply work by the hour, if so, they should be giving an accounting of their hourly work claimed for billing.

Really, a buy and hold for a few properties shouldn't be a difficult matter, it's pretty cut and dry.

Steve is probably busy winding up the year, but he can fill you in.



I have compiled a list of questions that you can select which are most pertinent to your situation:

What was the most recent CE course you took and when?
What subject is/are your academic degree(s) in?
What is your specialty (tax accounting, tax representation, etc.)
How long have you been practicing?
How many clients do you have?
What percentage of your practice today is in real estate?
Have you represented clients in front of the IRA, and what is your success rate?
Will you share a reference(s) from your current client who runs a business similar to mine?
Will you share a reference who can speak to your representation before the IRA?
How can you or your professional network help me with entity structuring, retirement/estate planning, business analysis, etc.?
Help you define the appropriate business structures, both from a legal protection and from a financial/tax perspective
Help you create a tax strategy for your business that will allow you to legally keep as much money as you possibly can
Help you make smart decisions with respect to your individual real estate investments
Prepare your annual tax returns
Recommend other team members (attorney, insurance agent, real estate agent, etc) who can help make your business a success
What are your credentials?
What services do you offer?
What areas of tax and accounting do you specialize in?
What is your background and do you personally own real estate?
How would I be able to communicate with you? Can I get questions answered by email?
Given my circumstances, what business structure(s) do you recommend? Why?
Can you register the business structures for us?
How can you help in the various phases of real estate investing (acquisition through sale)?
Do you specialize in tax strategy? Specifically geared towards real estate?
How aggressive will you be in helping us keep as much money as possible?
What tax strategies/issues should I be aware of upfront?
How often would you suggest we meet to review our progress/plan?
Do you do tax preparation?
What software do you use (and expect me to use) to do our accounting?
Can you help me find other team members (attorney, insurance agents, real estate agents, etc)?
What is your schedule of fees?
Do you have references?

Some of the questions are duplicated in here for the reason of asking them a different way for a different response.

Also here is a link to another similar discussion we had on this topic (it is some very good reading): http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/51/topics/63679 

@Ruben Aguirre  Absolutely agree, thanks!

@Bill Gulley  Thanks for the link to the post and great list of questions.  I'll definitely be running through a lot of those!

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here