Choosing an accountant

Get your numbers in the right hands.
To some people, looking at columns of numbers, bank statements and forms can cause profuse sweating, shaking and shortness of breath. To others, it's just plain confusing.

That's why you can hire an accountant. See our profiles of local accountants. These number crunchers can be hired for anything from once-a-year tax preparation to weekly business and financial management.

Before you decide which accountant to put on your payroll, you may want to answer a few questions.

What is an accountant?

Accountants are best known for doing your tax returns and audits, but they also balance the books as well as set up and keep financial records for individuals and businesses.

Why hire an accountant?

Here are just a few good reasons:

  • You have a small or start-up business.

    An accountant will help you file the proper tax documents, set up your bookkeeping system and work with you to set realistic financial goals for your business. He or she also will serve as an objective business consultant — someone who knows "the rules" and can free you up to run the company.

  • You have a lot of money or just came into a lot of money.

    Accountants are required to know the tax laws — knowledge can save you some of that money. Hiring an accountant makes someone else responsible for managing the money, which could help you grow your wealth.

  • You're bad with your money or squeamish about numbers.

    While accountants work a great deal with businesses, they also have individual clients who may not be rich but certainly have a need for management help. An accountant can get your finances in order and then assist you with keeping them that way.
Things to keep in mind

An accountant can be certified (CPA) or non-certified, and may work on his own or for an accounting firm. A CPA has met certain education and/or experience requirements and has passed the state CPA exam.

Accountants without the CPA designation may be just as qualified as those with it, particularly if they are members of the National Society of Accountants.

Once you decide you need an accountant, use to find a few local accountantsbean-counters you may be interested in hiring. Don't wait until tax time when accountants are swamped with clients— develop a relationship early. That ought to help keep those sweats and panic attacks down to a minimum.

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