Finding an Accountant or Accounting / Tax Services Provider for a small business is a common need for founders, owners, and operators. Doing so is an essential business skill to be learned and exercised during the life of a business.
Typical accounting needs include: bookkeeping, structuring the chart of accounts to best understand what is happening, tax filings, reviewing & advising on periodic financial results, payroll, deciphering IRS rules, advising on business growth investment decisions, etc. A bookkeeper handles only administrative transactions, and might not be an accountant. An accountant provides financial advice and insight.
Not every accountant can handle every kind of accounting or tax matter. Be sure to ask their areas of expertise and their experience in your type/size of business and the accounting matter at hand. Consider using a CPA - Certified Public Accountant A CPA has met specific state and education licensing requirements and passed the CPA exam; as such, it's a highly sought-after accounting designation
Think of using an accountant or accounting services provider this way: in most business matters,
- The business owner defines their business objective, reporting needs, and desired outcomes
- The accountant helps you manage the business and financial performance along the way
- A good accountant with experience in your specific type of business can also help you decide what is important to pay attention to.
Learn more about how-to select a CPA at State of Ohio’s Accountancy Board and NY Times article
Tips & Tools for Finding Accounting Services Providers
- Ask for referrals from friends and colleagues who use one for their similar business and or issue; be sure to ask the referred accountant about their specific expertise and experience in the matter at hand; ask to talk to some of their clients, it’s OK to decide not use them - its your financial risk, not your friend or colleague’s.
- Verify their credentials at https://acc.ohio.gov/Resources/License-Lookup
- Local chambers of commerce might provide referrals; be specific on what you need, ask for a free consult; interview several (they are also interviewing you)
- Make inquiries through your trade / industry association for qualified accountants with relevant experience.
- Do a local Google Search such as “accountant for retail store in 44004”
- If you are a Quickbooks user, find a QB ProAdvisor at https://quickbooks.intuit.com/find-an-accountant/ or check out other accounting platform providers such as NetSuite, etc
- Google search for internet-based accounting services referral or list sites, examples include
- Consider Google Search for a ‘Virtual CFO for small business’
- For tax preparation services, search the IRS PTIN database at https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf for tax service providers who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who hold an IRS Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion
- If you have a tax audit or other matter before the IRS, you might benefit from the services of an Enrolled Agent, federally licensed tax practitioners who are authorized to advise, represent, and prepare tax returns for individuals and businesses; see https://taxexperts.naea.org/
Need Accounting / Tax Help, but short on cash and capital?
If you are a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) business owner, at least convert your shoebox of receipts or spreadsheet(s) to an accounting package such as Quickbooks Online or Quicken Home & Business. Your future-self will thank you…. [trust us!].
- For DIYer’s, Google Search and find free or fee how-to webinars at Score, Cleveland Jumpstart or a local Ohio SBDC, examples include:
- Checkout the IRS resources:
- IRS Small Business Tax Center at https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed
- IRS Gig Economy Center at https://www.irs.gov/businesses/gig-economy-tax-center
- Some free IRS authorized volunteer tax return service locations are willing to do simple LLC or sole-proprietor Schedule C returns
- Find volunteer provider locations at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-qualifying-taxpayers - then call a local VITA/TCE/AARP_TaxAide provider, ask if they will do a simple Schedule C return
- Subscribe to an accounting firm’s free newsletter for your industry, example https://www.bkd.com/
Are you a 501C3 Non-Profit?
- Consider recruiting an accountant interested in your social mission onto your Board -
- you may need to have Directors & Officers insurance coverage in place in order to recruit a qualified accountant.
- See candid.org’s probono help article at https://learning.candid.org/resources/knowledge-base/pro-bono-tax-legal-assistance/
- Consider applying to TaprootPlus, a national volunteer organization providing pro bono small project services to community 501C3's
- Google Search for ‘pro bono accountants + [zipcode]’ willing to help out non--profit organizations
Final Note: A Score mentor is a volunteer, can offer business advice based on their experience, and help you find an accounting services provider, but we are unable to serve as your accountant and do not provide accounting services under our Terms of Service.