By Ken Jan

With the ever-changing nature of U.S. tax law, you may want to think twice before tackling your own personal or business tax return. A knowledgeable professional may be more qualified to prepare your taxes. A good accountant can make a BIG difference in your tax liability, which can have a BIG impact on your wallet! However...he or she must be a GOOD accountant. As with any profession, some people are far more capable than others. With that in mind, here are the Top 5 Tips for Finding a Good Accountant:

Tip #1: Look for Someone Tax Focused

Your accountant should know personal and (if applicable to you) business tax law inside and out. He or she should be immersed in continuing education to keep up with the frequent state and federal tax law changes. A good accountant will agree to represent you during all phases of any future audit (including collections)…and be willing to put it in writing.

Tip #2: Service Matters!

Let’s face it – a human calculator or worse – someone who only knows how to plug numbers into a computer program – can’t effectively help you save money and keep your finances in order. You need an accountant willing to get to know you and your business and YOUR particular needs. Don’t settle for a service that just fills out forms, files your information away and forgets you. Make some calls. Meet a few people. Hire someone you feel comfortable with and trust.

Tip #3: You Get What You Pay For

Does your accountant do customized billing so you only pay for the services you actually use? Can you call the office for advice without being charged by the minute? How often do they increase their rates? Do they pay for referrals? These are the types of questions you need to find out. Sometimes services advertising cheap teaser rates can cost you far more in the long run.

Tip #4: Make Sure Your Accountant is Insured

A good accountant carries Liability or Errors and Omissions Insurance. Typos happen. People make mistakes. This type of insurance will pay you for damages if your accountant ever makes an error.

Tip #5: Check References

Ask for the names and phone numbers of at least three current or former clients. Take the time to contact each reference and find out how satisfied they are with the person you’re thinking of hiring. Don't be shy about asking questions like, "Was there anything you feel Mr. X could have done better?" or "Were you unhappy with Ms. Y's services in an any way?" If you ask specific questions, you're more likely to get specific (and much more helpful) answers.

Bonus Tip! (And I throw this in here because I can’t stress it enough.)

Tip #6: Communication Counts

Does your accountant talk to you in layman’s terms on a level you can easily understand? Legal and financial jargon aren’t useful if you don’t understand what they mean. If you can’t understand your accountant’s terminology, it’s a safe bet you won’t understand what’s going on with your company payroll or tax return.

For more information about finding a good accountant, take a peek at these IRS Tips:,,id=217788,00.html

Author's Bio: 

Ken May is a Financial Advisor who lives and works with his wife Deb in beautiful Standish, Michigan. He specializes in College Planning, Investments, Insurance, Retirement Planning and Elder Law issues, and has over 30 years of experience in Finance.

To find out more about Ken or The Small Business Doctor, Inc., visit or sister site