Be warned, just because someone knows how to prepare a tax return doesn’t necessarily make him a good accountant. He can still be an idiot. How do you know if your tax accountant is an idiot? Here are the key indicators:
1. He’s not active.
If you’re struggling to find and communicate with your accountant, then he’s an idiot. Your accountant, no matter how smart he may be, is not God. You are the client. He is a service provider. That means when you need service, he needs to respond. Fast.
Every good service provider knows this, and every good accountant I know returns calls, replies to emails and answers texts.
They are, within reason, available for their clients, even on nights and weekends. They are excellent with technology. They have a support system in place, staffers, executives, answering services — to make sure you know someone is there to help. Clients don’t want to hear that their accountant is “buried” or that it’s “busy season.” Competent accountants know that they’ll be busy between January and June, so they make sure they’ve got an infrastructure to support that level of work.
2. He’s not proactive.
In a recent survey, the number one reason why businesses leave their accountants is that they weren’t getting proactive input. We know that most tax returns can be completed with relative ease using software and a young staffer. Business owners do not pay a tax accountant to prepare tax returns. They are paid to give tax advice. The code is complicated and every business has its nuances. Entrepreneurs are looking for our accountant to find ways to reduce the tax burden. They don’t want to beg. This should be his primary function.
A competent accountant doesn’t wait for clients to call. He doesn’t hide behind the tax regulations or retreats in his office. He doesn’t avoid phone calls or runs away from difficulties. Good accountants are reaching out to their clients proactively. They meet with their clients throughout the year. They ask their clients for financial information way before the end of the end of the year so they can make suggestions.
Proficient accountants are also good advisors and experts. They don’t shy away from helping their clients with issues beyond just taxes. Issues like personal financial planning, insurance, even business management. I don’t know a single business owner who wouldn’t love a smart financial person to be on his or her team, offering their advice proactively. If your accountant doesn’t appreciate this need, then he’s an idiot.
3. Finally, he’s just not on your side.
The worst accountants I meet are the ones who think they’re an extension of the FIRS.
Business owners are, by their nature, glass-is-half-full personalities. They are leaders. They get things done. They find solutions to problems. They don’t take “no” for an answer. They’re certainly not asking their accountant to do anything that’s against the law. But they are in need of an accountant who is creative, innovative and willing to weigh the risks and rewards of decisions that may or may not result in tax liability. They need someone on their side.
If your accountant is not on your side, then he’s an idiot. He should be working with you to minimize your tax obligations. He should be making recommendations and also making you fully aware of your uncertainties. If he truly values you as a client, he will be a partner prepared to take reasonable risks with you. If the FIRS does come knocking on your door, he should be not only well-versed in the stand you’ve taken and ready to present a solid rationale but also ready to be by you and not run for shelter. If your accountant is not willing to be in the foxhole with you, then he’s not an associate. He’s just a tax return preparer. And he’s an idiot.
Before you enter this year’s tax season, take another look at your accountant. If he’s an idiot, fire him and then get someone fit.