Questions? We have the answers.
Here are a few of the questions we are frequently asked.
If you have others, please contact us!
- What is the difference between certified public accountants (CPAs) and accountants? If you get an audit by the IRS, can both of them represent you?
- How do I know if I can do my own taxes or if I need to consult a certified public accountant?
- Should I consult a CPA if I am starting a new business?
- How much should I have withheld out of my paycheck?
- Do I really need to pay a CPA to prepare my financial statements? Couldn't I save money by doing it myself?
- How can I know which CPA is best for me?
- What do CPAs do?
- Are there things I should consider before I talk to you about being my CPA?
- How much do you charge?
- How do I know what exact services you will perform and what they will cost?
- How can you serve me, my business, or governmental entity?
- How can you help my family and me?
- How can you help me as a taxpayer?
- How can you help me as a business owner?
- What can I do to get the most value out of a relationship?
What is the difference between certified public accountants (CPAs) and accountants? If you get an audit by the IRS, can both of them represent you?
A CPA has demonstrated professional competence by passing a rigorous examination and meeting high standards of education. In addition, they must meet strict continuing education requirements and adhere to a stringent set of ethical standards.
CPAs are authorized to represent taxpayers in an IRS audit, as are attorneys and other professionals known as enrolled agents (EA). An EA is an individual who has demonstrated technical competence in the field of taxation and is the only taxpayer representative who receives their right to practice from the U.S. government. An accountant can only represent a taxpayer before the IRS if he or she is an EA.
How do I know if I can do my own taxes or if I need to consult a certified public accountant?
The IRS estimates that it can take 28 ½ hours to research tax law, organize your records, and complete a standard 1040 return with three common schedules. Tax law is constantly changing, so it is important that you are educated about these changes so you correctly fill out your forms. Being technologically savvy is also important as tax preparation software can help eliminate errors, both mathematical and technical. If you're not comfortable with using this type of software, you may want to contact a CPA.
If you're a salaried employee who takes the standard deduction, your return is likely to be simple. However, if you've encountered a major life change, such as marriage or divorce, or own a vacation home or rental property, your tax situation may be more complicated.
Self-employed individuals and small business owners are more likely to be audited by the IRS, and working with a CPA will help lessen that risk. In addition, if you have a high income, live in a state with high income taxes, or have a lot of miscellaneous itemized deductions, you could be subjected to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT, which eliminates many itemized deductions and was created to ensure that the wealthy pay their share of taxes, is now affecting more middle-class taxpayers. If you think this might affect you, consult a CPA.
(The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) provided the answer to this question.)
Should I consult a CPA if I am starting a new business? I am starting a business that is costing me $10,000. We are a wholesale company, and we pay our employees 10-15 percent commission-based pay. Do you think we should start the sales of our products at $1,800 and up in order to make a profit? Companies purchasing our products must purchase at least three products from us, which will cost them $5,400. Do you think I need to sit down with an accountant?
It's impossible to say what the selling price of your product should be since there are numerous factors that go into that decision, such as the cost to produce or purchase the product, your gross profit target on the product, the gross profit the market will bear for the product, and overhead, just to name a few. The price should be based upon your own internally generated factors. Do not shy away from a figure just because the price tag seems large. Large to you may not be large to potential customers.
It is imperative that you contact a CPA. You will need to discuss the organization of your company for tax purposes as well as numerous other issues relating to operations, not the least of which will be setting your target pricing and gross profit margins. Don't wait until year-end to have this discussion. You could be making decisions without the proper advice, and that could wind up hurting you financially or legally.
How much should I have withheld out of my paycheck?
It depends on your financial personality. Do you prefer to have more withheld today so that you can get a refund next year? (This is really an interest-free loan from you to Uncle Sam.) Or are you disciplined enough to set aside some of your paycheck today and save it to pay your taxes next year? (You could invest the money in the meantime.)
It is also depends on your prior year tax liability. Do you know how to avoid an underpayment penalty situation?
We can tell you how to avoid the underpayment penalty, and we can compute approximately how much you will get back or have to pay in.
Do I really need to pay a CPA to prepare my financial statements? Couldn't I save money by doing it myself?
First you need to ask yourself, "How valuable is my time?" Imagine what you could be doing to build your business with that time. Could you earn more than what a CPA would cost? The answer to these questions will change as your business grows.
Second, you need to ask yourself if you have the skills and the desire to do it yourself. Will you have to learn these skills? Will you have to keep yourself updated? Do you really want to crunch numbers? Do you want more than just a report when you are done?
How can I know which CPA is best for me?
Any professional you choose should not only have the technical knowledge required but should also treat you with respect.
Does your CPA and advisor take time to listen to you? Does your CPA and advisor return your calls in a timely manner? Do you feel comfortable asking your CPA and advisor a question?
When you need a professional in the region who will make you their top priority, call us!
What do CPAs do?
A significant contribution of CPAs in the practice of public accounting is the audit, whereby an independent opinion is expressed as to the fairness of financial statements. CPAs also perform almost every conceivable financial and management advisory service for businesses and individuals. CPAs do general accounting, tax planning and advice, tax return preparation, estate planning, personal financial planning, and representation of clients before government agencies. CPAs also help clients choose and implement accounting systems. They help in the development and analysis of financial models, cost controls, profit plans, and internal reports. CPAs are often consulted on business, civic, and other problems on which their judgment, experience, and professional standards permit them to provide helpful advice and assistance.
Are there things I should consider before I talk to you about being my CPA?
Yes. The more you understand about your needs, the better job we can do together of matching our services to those needs. Your first step is to decide what you want from us. Different CPA firms offer different levels of experience and provide different services. Prior to meeting with any CPA you are considering, you should review your present and future financial goals and needs. Some general questions you should ask yourself might be:
Will you need help with personal financial issues, individual or corporate tax returns,
retirement, estate, or college planning? Are you seeking investment help?
Do you need financial statements prepared for your business? Must those statements be
audited or reviewed? Will you need special financial reports for government agencies?
How comfortable are you in your own ability (or in the case of a business, your staff's ability) to
handle financial and operational details. Do you want to do as much as possible in-house, or are
you considering out-sourcing some of your bookkeeping, accounting, or CFO functions?
Do you need help preparing a business plan or a personal or business loan application?
Will your business need other services such as technology planning, strategic planning,
process consulting, or costs analysis?
How much do you charge?
We base our fees on a number of factors including the type of services required, the time required to perform the services, the level of expertise and experience required, and the complexity of the work. The fees fall into three categories.
Hourly based fees— For much of our work we are compensated based on the numbers
of hours it takes to complete the work. We are happy to quote our hourly rates and to
provide fee estimates for specific tasks.
Task based pricing— Our payroll processing service is priced based on the number of pay periods per month, the number of checks in each pay period, and the costs of any expenses (such as delivery fees).
Fixed fee services— For some longer term projects or commitments such as monthly
write-up we charge a fixed fee
Different types of services command different rates because of the expertise level of the people who perform them. We will talk frankly with you about our fees and put together a plan that utilizes the right CPA or staff person for the services you need, so that the value of the service and the price of the service make sense for you.
How do I know what exact services you will perform and what they will cost?
We use engagement letters that define the work and the associated fees before any work is performed. The letter is designed to prevent any misunderstandings and describes in detail the services to be rendered, fee ranges, and other terms and conditions of the engagement. It is a contract determining our responsibilities and your responsibilities and sets both of our expectations for a successful relationship.
How can you serve me, my business, or governmental entity?
We can help by:
- Recommending tax planning strategies
- Preparing tax returns
- Advising individuals on personal financial planning, including retirement and estate planning
- Reviewing a company's accounting system and recommending improvements
- Consulting on business problems and advising ways to improve the use of a client's resources
- Assisting in the design and installation of data processing and management information systems
- Conducting special studies (financing, inventories, cost accounting, credit, and collection) for business, government, and nonprofit organizations
- Helping clients apply for loans and credit by gathering and preparing information required
- by lenders
- Working with clients, attorneys, and bankers on mergers, acquisitions, and expansions
How can you help my family and me?
We can help…
- Develop a personal financial plan
- Create a family budget
- Plan for retirement
- Develop an estate plan
- Assess insurance needs
- Advise on divorce settlements
- Devise savings and investment strategies
- Build college funds
How can you help me as a taxpayer?
We can help…
- Develop tax strategies
- Prepare tax returns
- Minimize tax liability
How can you help me as a business owner?
We can help…
- Set up accounting systems
- Secure financing
- Analyze operating results
- Provide management consulting services on such subjects as data processing systems
- Develop budgets and business plans and forecasts
- Prepare tax returns
- Audit, review, or compile financial statements
- Assess benefit and compensation plans
What can I do to get the most value out of a relationship?
The primary step is to commit to a partnership with us. While we believe we are very good at what we do, we are only as good as the information we have. For our relationship to be successful for you, you need to:
Be prepared to discuss your plans, goals, problems, and questions. We can most effectively
advise you and serve your best interests when we understand your goals.
Gather all relevant personal and business financial information so we can get an accurate
picture and ask specific questions.
Be clear and candid about what you expect from our services.
Keep us informed of changes in your professional and personal life. A marriage or divorce,
the birth of a child, an inheritance, a career change, or a generous bonus can have a
significant impact on your tax liability and financial goals.
Be open to new ideas, tools, and opportunities
And, of course, you need to make sure you (or your staff) meet your commitments to
deliver appropriate, accurate, and timely information so that we have the information
we need when we need it.