Jan 27, 2008

How do you find an accountant?

I've mentioned previously that we hired an accountant to do our taxes last year, and we were pretty happy with him (let's call him Harvey). Harvey had been my in-laws' accountant for many years, and I trusted my father-in-law's judgment in this regard, so it was an easy decision to have him do our taxes last year.

However, Harvey retired at the end of last year, though I didn't find out until last week. Our account was transferred to another accountant in the firm, but I'm not thrilled by the fact that the only reason I found out about the retirement and transfer was because I called to make an appointment with Harvey. My father-in-law, whose taxes are a lot more involved than ours, says the new accountant (let's call her Susan) seems well-qualified and he's going to give her a year or so to prove herself. And since I'm not really interested in searching for a new accountant this tax season, we'll just stay with her as well.

But I've been wondering what we'll do if we're not happy with Susan, which seems a real possibility considering that I'm not pleased with how she and the firm handled the transfer of our account. Word of mouth and referrals is my favorite way to find new professionals. I have one friend who's been with her accountant for years, so I can ask her for a referral. I could also ask our estate planning attorney.

Hopefully, things will work out with Susan, but just in case they don't:

How do you find a new accountant?


Anonymous said...

This is *kind of* related to your post.

I've been wondering at what point do you decide you need an accountant?

My brother has been on my case saying it's time for me to get one. But I've been a Turbotax user for years and find it easy and enjoy it.

My husband did get a new job this year that increases our overall wealth.

I guess I'm not sure I what point I should take the plunge. We live in a rural area with not a lot to choose from.

Any suggestions? Perhaps you've already done this blog post at some other point.


Chief Family Officer said...

@Jen-fur - I did my own taxes for years, and for several years after we got married. For me, I decided it was time to get an accountant when I started to worry that there were things I might not know about or might miss, mostly because I had opened accounts for my children and I wasn't sure about the tax requirements for those accounts or how they might impact our own taxes via the kiddie tax. My personal view is that if you're comfortable doing your own taxes and you don't have "weird" stuff to complicate it, then by all means, save the money and do it yourself.

MEG said...

I've been thinking about this as well. I'm using Turbo Tax again for 2007, but I'm about to close on a rental property so I want to get professional advice/help from 2008 on.

I don't really trust referrals because people will just refer you to who they use or to some CPA they know or owe a favor to. And how do I know they are competent to pick out and evaltuate a CPA? Or if that CPA is good/right for MY situation?

Ugh. Seems the only way to do it is take the leap with a random person/referral. If they're really terrible you will keep moving around until you find someone decent; but if they're merely underperforming or overcharging, you probably won't even notice.

How am I supposed to know if the CPA is doing a good job - or if someone else would be doing an even better job? If I knew enough to know that that I would be doing my taxes MYSELF.

Anonymous said...

We'll be using a CPA for the first time this year, due to complications in the extra income we earned trying to pay off debt this past year. Up until a year ago I worked as a personal trust administrator for a local bank and had worked with a dozen different local CPA's on clients' tax returns. The choice for me was fairly easy. There was one I trusted to be honest and and thorough more than the others.

I've had a couple of other people ask me about referrals this year and I've given them his name, but I've also given them 2 or 3 others that I knew were good, knowing the one that's right for us may not be right for them. If you have a banker, financial planner, or other financial professional you trust, ask them for two or three names, then talk to each one and see who you're comfortable with.

Living Almost Large said...

Word of mouth. I was wondering what do you pay for the accountant to do your taxes?

I paid $600 last year and was unhappy. I will be doing it myself this year.

I felt for $600 it took too long, we had to put a lot of leg work for all our deductions and they took extra time because they didn't even fully understand our tax situation.

We got granted restricted stock as a bonus in cash, but considered income, not stock. And no taxes applied if we chose to keep it 2 years which we didn't. But there's a tax loophole which the company pays the taxes after 2 years, but then it's not income, it's stock grant.

Hence yes it is complicated, but the CPAs didn't have a clue. We had to go the company and have them explain to us the forms they mailed us.

Chief Family Officer said...

@Meg - I totally get what you're saying. I guess that's why I want a referral - I think it's better odds than a random pick. I like Susan's advice of asking for two or three referrals, too.

@Susan - Thanks for the suggestions. If we end up needing to find a new accountant, I will ask our estates attorney for multiple recommendations so that I can pick the one who seems to fit our needs best.

@Living almost large - That's irritating. In LA, where the cost of living is fairly high, we paid about the same amount that you did. Ours weren't very complicated though, I felt like I was paying to have someone there who could answer all the random questions that I had, which was fine. But I felt like my accountant (Harvey) knew what he was doing, so that made me feel better about spending the money.