It’s probably too late to make a switch from your accounting firm before you file business taxes this year. However, it is a great time to re-evaluate what you’re getting for your money, what you need and what kind of you service you really want.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Get Recommendations. Ask business colleagues, your banker or other business professionals to refer a reputable accountant. Look for the seal to find trustworthy Certified Public Accountants accredited by BBB. The Maryland Association of CPAs has a link to 100% member organizations, meaning that 100% of the company’s CPAs are members of the trade association.
  • Check Credentials. There are bookkeepers and accountants, and then there are CPAs. Anyone can call themselves an accountant or bookkeeper. To work as a CPA, a person must obtain an undergraduate degree, pass an exam and meet the experience requirements. A CPA also must participate in continuing education classes to remain licensed and certified, as well as abide by certain ethical accounting standards.
  • Determine Size. The size of the accounting firm you choose will depend on the size of your business and what types of services are needed. Large accounting firms have more resources, while small firms will be able to provide more one-on-one personal contact. Whichever you choose, be sure you feel comfortable with it, because you will need to trust the firm with sensitive financial information.
  • Interview Candidates. When interviewing candidates, it’s important to look for an accountant that has experience in your industry. Be sure to ask about the types of services they provide, as well as any specialties. Some firms will be able to provide more in-depth services, like financial planning advice, retirement planning and employee benefit planning, while other firms may specialize in preparing tax returns and end-of-the-year financial statements. Be sure to get to know the people who will be working with your account.
  • Request References. Ask the accountant or accounting firm to provide references you may contact. Ask the references how often they are in contact with the accountant throughout the year. Ask what type of services the accountant provides for their business and if they are satisfied.
  • Discuss Fees. Be sure to ask about service fees upfront. Find out if the firm charges by the hour with an additional fixed cost or if it charges monthly. Get an estimate of the annual cost for the services you are purchasing, and compare the bid with other accounting firms. Keep in mind you usually will get what you pay for, meaning an experienced accountant will charge more for his services, but will usually be worth the money.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. She can be reached at 410-347-3990 and abarnett@greatermd.bbb.org.