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When to Use a Certified Public Accountant

A Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, can help you make sure that your small business accounting or individual taxes are accurate and complete.  Some businesses are small enough, such as home based businesses, that a Certified Public Accountant is not needed for most accounting tasks.  However, there are times when a business or individual should use a Certified Public Accountant.

If you have a small business, and you have discovered that an error in your bookkeeping exists, it can often be difficult to locate where and when the error was made to correct the mistake.  A Certified Public Accountant has special training and education to find these errors through an external audit process.  It is vital that these errors be corrected, because the books you use in your business are used to determine taxes and business decisions.

These records also allow investors to see how well your business is doing so that you can get more backing to help your business grow.  A Certified Public Accountant can find and correct any errors in your bookkeeping, and help you organize your bookkeeping so that you or the Certified Public Accountant can easily generate financial statements and reports.  These financial statements and reports prepared by a Certified Public Accountant are the documents that most banks and investors want to see before making any financing decisions.

If you are starting up a home based or small business, you should seek the guidance of a Certified Public Accountant.  The Certified Public Accountant can help you set up a double entry method of accounting with a journal and ledger, as well as a chart of accounts to help you use these tools effectively in your business.  The Certified Public Accountant can also advise you as to what taxes you will be responsible for paying throughout the year.  Quarterly taxes are often required of businesses and self-employed individuals.  To avoid penalties, late fees, and a large tax bill at the end of the year, you should contact a Certified Public Accountant for this information.

Any individual that is self-employed should seek out the services of a Certified Public Accountant when it is time for tax return preparation.  Tax laws change every year, and a Certified Public Accountant can help you make sure that you are receiving all of the deductions you have available as a self-employed individual.

Any individual with children, who is separated or newly divorced, or who may wish to itemize deductions based on mortgages, medical expenses, and charitable contributions should also seek out a Certified Public Accountant for assistance in income tax preparation.  This is because the tax laws are very complex, and change often.  If you make a mistake and claim a deduction that you could not legally claim, the IRS may audit your return and cause you to pay back the refund amount, with penalties.  Additionally, if you make a mistake and do not claim a deduction that you could legally claim, the IRS will not attempt to correct the mistake, causing you to receive a smaller refund.  Either way, you lose money.  The best way to avoid these and other errors is to have a Certified Public Accountant prepare your income tax return.

Where to Find Certified Public Accountants ?

So, you have decided you need the assistance of Certified Public Accountants.  How do you find Certified Public Accountants?  You can go through the yellow pages, of course, and look under the heading Certified Public Accountants.  Alternatively, you can do an internet search for Certified Public Accountants.  These methods, however simple they may sound, might not be effective in finding qualified Certified Public Accountants.

Looking through your local yellow pages for Certified Public Accountants will give you hundreds of firms and individuals that are Certified Public Accountants in your area to choose from.  How do you choose one of the Certified Public Accountants with no information other than the address and phone number ?

Doing an internet search for Certified Public Accountants will give you thousands of results, many of which will not be local to your area, and many of which will be information about Certified Public Accountants rather than listings for the Certified Public Accountants themselves.  

You can use a localized search engine such as Yahoo Local or Google Local to find Certified Public Accountants in your area.  However, this too has its drawbacks.  If you use Yahoo Local, you will only receive results that are like yellow page results:  an address and phone number.  There may or may not be reviews by consumers of the Certified Public Accountants as well, however, which could also help you to make a decision.  Google Local, however, also provides you with website links for the Certified Public Accountants when they are available.  This allows you to go to the websites of the Certified Public Accountants and gather information about the firm or individual to help you make a decision.

Once you have narrowed down your search for Certified Public Accountants to a smaller number of possibilities, you should go to your local Better Business Bureau website or call the Better Business Bureau directly to discover what the rating is for the Certified Public Accountants you found in your search.  These ratings will tell you if the Certified Public Accountants have ever had complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau.

Another source for testing the credibility and ethics of the Certified Public Accountants is to contact your local Board of Accountancy or similar agency.  These agencies are charged with monitoring Certified Public Accountants.  They also take complaints and follow up with disciplinary measures against Certified Public Accountants.  The Board of Accountancy may also perform periodic audits of the work performed by Certified Public Accountants.  This monitoring puts these agencies in the best position to help you make an informed decision when choosing Certified Public Accountants.

When in doubt, never work with Certified Public Accountants that have had complaints against them.  Do not work with Certified Public Accountants that do not have proper licensing to practice in your locality.  You should also avoid Certified Public Accountants that will not meet with you in person, sign contracts, or provide proof of education, licensing, and certification.  If you still have trouble finding Certified Public Accountants, select of well known firm of Certified Public Accountants to handle your affairs.  While the fees associated with these Certified Public Accountants may be higher than smaller firms, you will have the peace of mind that you are in good hands of ethical, qualified Certified Public Accountants.

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