What to look for in an accountant?

8 Replies

Hi, I'm looking to enlist a new accountant and want to have a new focus on my investments with this one. My previous one retired and I also hadn't put in a lot of effort with my investments and tax planning previously.

I am looking for tips as to what to look for with hiring an accountant.

Thanks in advance.

@Buu Lam

Ideally - you would like an accountant who focuses in the industry you are in.
If you are into real estate - you should look for an accountant who serves clients in your industry.

Accountants who specialize in one specific field normally research the tax law changes in that industry.

Also it appears that you live in Canada. If you invest in the United States - You may also want an accountant who has clients who also invest in the United States.

Hi Buu, 

I recently was looking for a new accountant too.  I googled all the top rated accountants near me and called them to ask questions to see if they would be the right accountant for me.  I looked at whether they were easy to talk with, how open they were to questions (some of them are very secretive which might be good for protecting privacy, but it gives me nothing to work with in terms of deciding if they are the right accountant for my needs), how experienced they were with real estate investments, cost, etc.  In the end, I found my accountant through a referral from a realtor.  She was oddly way cheaper than all the other accountants, but she seemed to know a lot about rental investments so she was a winner for me.  We met her in person and everything was very straightforward so I let her do my taxes for last year and I was happy with the results.

Maybe ask around to see if your realtor or another real estate investor you know has an accountant that they recommend.  It's worth exploring those first since you know that they already work with real estate investors and you have a referral that makes you more trustworthy to the accountant.  

This is the list of questions I had for choosing an accountant:

Questions for accountant

●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?

●How much capacity do you have for additional work at this time?

●Would anyone else in your office be handling my books? If so, what is THEIR level of expertise in real estate accounting?

●What kinds of ongoing things will you need from me in order to do your job? What will I be expected to do?

●What do your services cost (based on the specific duties I need you to perform for me)? Do you charge hourly, monthly, annually?

●Are there any particular ways you can help me save money on taxes?

●Will I have to sign a contract/agreement if we decide to do business together? If so, can I review it beforehand?

@Buu Lam

@Marie Tai has a great list of questions there. Certain questions about entity structure and tax strategies may not be able to be answered before they have an understanding of your full picture- but still a great list of questions.

I'll also add that you should pay attention to the questions they ask you.

If you are wanting to leverage your CPA to help grow your business, rather than just someone to handle the compliance side of things- the questions they ask you will reveal just as much.

-Do they work with clients that are CURRENTLY where you want to be in the future?

-Did they help them get there?

-What broader business strategy experience do they have and how can that help you get where you want to go?

-Can they help advise you on the tough decisions, or do they just know how to crunch numbers?

These are also questions you want answered when you are looking for an advisor/accountant. If you are looking for someone to just handle the compliance side of things, you don't have to be as extensive with the strategy questions.

Hope this helps!

Wow, @Marie Tai , what a great list of questions to ask!

I have only one to add to that list:

How much is 2 + 2?  If they answer "4", keep looking.

The correct answer is:  "how much do you want it to be?"

Happy 4th of July!  Laugh and enjoy, be safe everyone.

Originally posted by @Marc Winter :

Wow, @Marie Tai , what a great list of questions to ask!

I have only one to add to that list:

How much is 2 + 2?  If they answer "4", keep looking.

The correct answer is:  "how much do you want it to be?"

Happy 4th of July!  Laugh and enjoy, be safe everyone.

 Haha very good

Thanks for the replies everyone. I did end up getting going with a new accountant soon after my original post.

I phoned several asking similar questions to what was suggested and a couple were investors themselves which helped narrow things down.

Coincidentally, I just met with him this afternoon. He's been a great help so far.