Guide for First Time Client Communication: Questions to ask a CPA

The accounting world is obsessed with financial services, reports, and statements. Yet sometimes we tend to forget that even accountants and clients need to lay a foundation of communication between them. You might be communicating with the hired professional but what questions to ask a CPA especially when it’s your first time hiring one? 

You do not need to do a lot of research to learn in-depth about how does CPAs works or how much they cost you. Communication nowadays is mostly based on computational accuracy and efficiency therefore you need a strong network. So do you need quality accounting software at hand? Yes. 

Online tools are just the means for effective client communication. 

In this article, you will learn how to conduct successful communication with the client and vice versa. You just need to begin by asking the right questions to ask the client at the first meeting and with the CPA. 

Questions to ask a CPA in your first Meeting 

It is good to ask the right questions from a CPA who will be handling your finances. It’s good to consult a professional because they can assist in tracking analytics and doing a lot more with your finances. 

But where to begin with? 

You can start by asking some of the very basic questions mentioned below. 

  1. What type of Records do I need to keep? 

Most entrepreneurs these days are smart but they still need a handful of guidance for record-keeping. The first and foremost question to ask CPA is about the records. 

Record tracking is vital. But even to accomplish this goal you need to maintain business records for taxes, profitability, scalability and to secure funds. It’s always handy practice should an audit be on your way. 

A CPA can tell you the importance of record-keeping and types of records you need like; 

    • Financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement)
    • General ledger 
    • Business tax returns 
    • Credit card statements 
    • Receipts 
    • Invoices
    • Contracts 
    • Bank statements 
    • Licenses and permits 
    • Insurance documents 
    • Payrolls etc 

Each record covers a specific time period. Maintain the records at the beginning of each tax year t to eliminate any chances of errors in tax filings. 

  1. Does the CPA have a PTIN? 

Also known as Preparer Tax Identification Number is issued by the IRS to a practicing CPA or paid tax return preparers. Without it, the tax professional cannot submit any tax filings for their clients. 

If caught pretending, then the rights to practice might even be revoked in the worst-case scenario. 

As a proprietor, it is your job to ask the CPA about PTIN. if you happen to be an individual filing your own taxes you do not need a PTIN. 

  1. Is the CPA Licensed in the state to Practice Public Accounting?

One of the questions to ask accounting firms is are they licensed for public accounting? If the accounting firm has CPAs in its team, then it’s compulsory to confirm this. 

There are other accounting firms too that operate without a CPA, so the licensing would vary. For instance, a firm named Allan and Associates may offer accounting and tax services but they not be held accountable for CPA legalities. 

There are certain loopholes that allow them to not follow the standard practice of a licensed CPA. 

  1. What Type of Clientele do you Work with?

A probing but necessary question to ask a CPA is the types of clientele they work with. A vague answer is enough to raise alarm bells. So you may need to ask the question again with a deeper perspective from your side. 

Every CPA works with multiple industries. Their experience in the related niche means more experience, expertise, and knowledge to handle taxes. If their experience is familiar with your niche then it’s a win-win. 

Narrow down the question to the experience a CPA has and what type of companies do they prefer to work with. That way it’s easier to find whether you fit in the clientele niche or not.

  1. Is your Accounting Firm Cloud-Based? 

This question is rather more related to you (the client). A company that wants taxes, and other finances to be handled remotely, may want to work with a cloud-based accounting firm. A CPA that operates remotely will be in need of cloud-based software and must be tech-savvy. 

Some CPAs do not practice the modern art of accounting so it’s compulsory to ask what type of accounting practices they follow? Is it paper-based or cloud-based? A cloud-based accounting firm is bound to have a hands-on relationship. 

Questions to ask Client in First Meeting 

Any entrepreneur will want to hire a professional CPA to avoid a financial mess on hand when tax season is just around the corner. Retaining an expert CPA is more difficult. As a professional individual, you also need to ask the set of questions to ask clients in the first meeting that helps build a cordial relationship with your clients. 

  1. What is your Business about? 

Before saying yes to working for a client, ask them about their business. As the most fundamental question, it will answer whether the client’s business fulfills your need as a CPA or not. 

Also, you need a clear understanding of whether the business is a sole entity, partnership, or LLC. it helps you understand the business history, competitors, number of employees, and so on. 

An introductory knowledge about the company helps you to decide whether to start working for the particular firm or not. 

  1. What steps did you take for Accounting?

Just simply put it in – what accounting planning has the business been undergoing before hiring a CPA. 

The client’s financial strategies once revealed give an insight into the major financial goals, their investments, equity sharing, bank loans, and much more. 

Also, you will learn about the major tasks handled by their previous outsourced accounting and bookkeeping firm (if any). 

  1. What type of Challenges do you face in Business? 

An amateur CPA may ignore the siren call a challenge represents towards clients business but such is not the case with an experienced CPA. 

Ask the prospect the expected challenges they usually face in a business. It helps to distinguish whether the problem lies in their accounting practices, software, or otherwise. 

If you are interested in jotting down the expected pain points, you should not shy away from this question. Communicate on clear terms and then quantify your value of what you can offer as a CPA to their firm. 

  1. Have you ever worked before with an Accounting Firm or a CPA?

Before approaching you, how the company was handling its finances? It’s important to learn about the client’s past experiences, any business mismanagement by the former service providers if any. 

But it’s a brand new startup, you must be able to offer them complete guidance on what to expect when hiring a CPA and so on. Discuss the involvement you will have within their business or tasks. 

Also, ask the reason for consultation or choosing a new CPA. 

  1. Which Accounting Software are they used to? 

Another question to ask a client in the first meeting is about the type of accounting software they are using or formerly used. 

If your client has experience with CPAs before, they must have preferred using a particular accounting method and software. Chances are there might be differences in accounting solutions the prospect client is following and what you as a CPA practice. 

You can learn about the accounting software used by the client, whether it is up-to-date or outdated. You can always ask them to switch to cloud-based accounting software if they are not already doing it. 

Bottom Line 

The foundations of any effective communication lie in asking questions. Transparency on both sides works in the favor of the accounting firm and the client for good. For a productive conversation, begin with basic questions to ask a CPA about the use of accounting software and more. Your trusted CPA is a modern individual with the right perks. 

So any delay in communication or lack of use of the right tools will indicate obsolete practices that as a client you must avoid.

But worry not. My CPA Dashboard is an easy-to-use software – an accounting remedy for sore old financial practices. It not only helps to improve the finances but is also an effective means of communication between both parties. Try now! 

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