Maybe you’ve always used the local accounting firm you know from the chamber of commerce. Or you’ve worked with a family friend or someone you went to college with.
You’ve enlisted this person to be your pest management company’s accounting firm for years, but now you’re unsure if their services and expertise are optimal for your burgeoning business.
If this sounds like you, read on for five signs it’s time to find a new accountant for your pest control business.
- You get a large, unexpected tax bill.
Communication is key to any successful professional partnership, and that includes the accountant-client relationship.
“We pick up several clients every year after tax season because their accountant called them on April 14 and said, ‘You have to come up with all this money,’” says Dan Gordon, CPA, managing partner of PCO Bookkeepers. “That makes people nuts.”
And rightfully so. A good accountant should be in frequent communication with his or her clients, doing strategic tax planning. In the late summer or early fall, he or she should do a tax projection to review your company’s financials and forecast what your tax liability will be by the end of the year.
Based on that information, the accountant may recommend estimated tax payments or at a minimum communicate what the company’s owners are expected to owe by April 15. Before the end of the year is also the time for your accountant to remind you to consider making any big purchases that could net a tax deduction.
“If we can get deductions, we will, but at the very least we’re going to tell you what you’re going to owe,” Gordon says. “The last thing we want to do is talk to our clients once a year on April 14 and say, ‘Hey, you owe all this money.’”
- You don’t fully trust your accountant.
Trust issues often stem from lack of communication, Gordon says. “Your accountant should be communicating with you a few times a year or as often as once a month,” he says.
Sometimes, though, a loss of trust is prompted by more nefarious concerns, like an accountant lining his or her own pockets at a great risk to you. For example, there are unscrupulous accountants who tell clients they are eligible for certain credits that are questionable at best.
“If you research some of these credits online, they are some of the most abused things that often trigger audits,” Gordon says. “So be wary if someone tells you to file for a credit you may not be entitled to.”
3. You get audited and your accountant throws you under the bus.
“Like a defense attorney, your accountant should be working to minimize any audit adjustments – right, wrong or indifferent,” Gordon says. “He or she should be your advocate who’s looking for solutions.”
Additionally, an experienced accountant will navigate an audit with confidence, not fear. The most important thing is having your arguments and documents organized and prepared.
“If you can stay really organized during an audit and understand what the questions are, you’ll make the auditor’s life easier and come out alright,” Gordon says.
- Your accountant can’t tell you whether your numbers are good or not.
“It used to be that the local accountant was your only option,” Gordon says. “Now, with all the cloud programs available, your accountant shouldn’t be local, your accountant should be industry-specific.”
An accountant who understands the nuances of your business and how they compare to industry norms is a competitive advantage. You want a firm that provides management reporting and advising beyond the standard P&L and balance sheet.
For instance, can your accountant identify whether your material costs too high? Is he or she flagging high marketing costs, inquiring about what you’re getting for these expenses?
“You need information like, ‘Is your labor in the right zone?’ If not, what can we do about that?” Gordon says. “The answer is usually to raise your prices or get better route efficiency, but not all accountants are going to deliver that information to you.”
- Your accountant doesn’t return your calls or emails.
It’s a concern if any vendor or partner doesn’t return your messages, and it raises questions about whether they are well equipped to serve your business.
Gordon says he runs PCO Bookkeepers like a pest management firm, noting with tongue-in-cheek: “You bring us a mess, we clean it up and then we put you on a monthly service plan.”
Joking aside, the company is process-driven and boasts a staff of CPAs, enrolled agents and account managers all ready to address client concerns.
“That accountant who doesn’t get back to you or gets overwhelmed because he/she doesn’t have the appropriate amount of staff, that’s not us,” Gordon says.
If any of the above points sound familiar to you, it may be time to shop around. The first step to finding a new accounting firm is to seek referrals from other business owners in your field. It sounds simple, but don’t forget to do a cursory Google search to ensure nothing shocking comes up, like your accountant has been arrested previously or charged with a crime.
At a minimum, confirm the CPA has an active license. You may do that by contacting the state board of accountancy where the person obtained his or her license, according to the American Institute of CPAs. You also can use the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s CPA Verify tool although it does not cover every state. State boards also provide lists or can answer questions about accountants who have undergone disciplinary action.