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Top Ten Signs You May Need A New Accountant

Clock6 min. read
byMickaela Maxwell, CPA, CA onMarch 02, 2021

A good accountant should add value for clients and maximize deductions among many other important benefits. Learn what are the tell-tale signs that you may need a new accountant from CPA, CA, and Director of Private Company Services from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

1. They Don’t Explain the Financial Statements

A lot of small business owners, contractors and start-ups find that they don’t really understand all the rules and regulations. Even their own financial statements can be a mystery because they’ve never been shown how to read them properly. Accountants should take the time to help clients understand their financial and tax affairs. 

Find an accountant that will explain your financial statements to you in a way you can understand.

2. They Don’t Know Your Business or Your Industry

Most accountants will have the training and experience to deal with most of the needs of most clients. But when looking for an accountant, finding one with experience in your sector, could give you an edge. In many industries, there are specific tax rules and tax breaks that can be taken advantage of, if your accountant knows about them.  Whether you’re a contractor, an artisanal business, a pub or a retailer, having an accountant with sector expertise means that you will receive the best technical and commercial advice. 

Find an accountant that has experience with businesses similar to yours.

3. They Don’t Help Maximize Deductions

In the end, the owner signs off on his or her tax return and must be comfortable with the treatment of deductions for their business. Some accountants are too aggressive while others don’t claim all the available deductions. Your accountant should be able to explain the plethora of deductions available to your business as well as any risks that you could be exposed to.

The accountant should also bring proactive ideas on easing the tax burden or achieving business objectives.  Often times there are several different strategies that can be employed by your accountant that can work to your advantage.

Find an accountant that has a good balance of knowledge and creativity.

4. You Get Better Advice Elsewhere

If an owner gets better advice from another person or an article with information that he or she should have heard from their accountant, it’s time to start looking for a new one. A telltale sign is when the owner starts bringing suggestions to their accountant and hears, “That’s a great idea!” when the accountant should have brought it up to the owner themselves.

Find an accountant that works for you, not the other way around.

5. You Wonder What You Paid For

When you come out of the end of a fiscal cycle, you should feel like your accountant’s service was worth every penny.  If you can’t understand the cost of their services or you're worried about the cost of every minute you talk to your accountant, then you aren't getting the value you deserve. 

Find an accountant that is worth your hard-earned money.

6. They Aren’t In Regular Contact

This is a big one. Your accountant should be in regular contact with you to learn of any changes in your business and to keep you updated on any changes to tax and legislation that could be important to you. Communication can take many forms: face-to-face meetings would be ideal, but you should at least get phone calls, emails, or even articles or newsletters from your accountant. Being a Trusted Business Advisor isn’t just a once-a-year job. 

Find an accountant that communicates regularly and works to build your trust.

7. They Don’t Return Your Calls Quickly, Or At All

The business environment is constantly changing and information is needed quicker than ever.  If you’re always getting your accountant’s voicemail and they don’t get back to you to answer your questions or get you what you need, it may be time to move on.  You should always have access to the advice you require to run your business successfully.

Find an accountant that always gets back to you within a day – even in tax season.

8. Mistakes and Late Filings Are Common

Good service means that your accountant will deliver their work accurately and on time. Simple. Accountants have to meet dozens of deadlines for hundreds of clients, so they need to have highly disciplined processes supported by sophisticated systems. If these are not in place, then there is a risk that deadlines will be missed and you could be left with a fine. 

Of course, accountants are not perfect human beings and mistakes are made.  What is important is that errors are uncommon and they are followed up with and resolved quickly.

Find an accountant that has the time and expertise to make sure your work gets done and it gets done right.

9. You Get Unexpected or Unexpectedly Large Bills

It is important that you and your accountant discuss billing rates and practices in advance so that there are no surprises.  Clients often do not anticipate the amount of time it takes to complete certain tasks or research financial and tax matters, which is often the result of the accountant not setting the proper expectations.

Find an accountant that has a “no surprises” approach to billings.

10. They Don’t Add Value

The role of accountants has evolved over time.  In addition to financial statement preparation and tax filings, small business owners are looking for a professional to provide advice and insight into their businesses. Your accountant should be the first person you consult on financial matters and should be involved in all the major transactions of your business including legal matters, financing decisions, restructuring, compensation strategies, and succession planning so you can be apprised of the tax implications of your business decisions.

Find an accountant who is more than just an accountant.

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