Top Pros And Cons Of Holding A Forensics Accountant Degree

Ways you didn’t know your accountant could help you

While an accountant is often your best bet for pocketing maximum returns at tax time and can offer you peace of mind that you’re fulfilling your statutory obligations, in an ideal scenario, they can also act as a trusted business adviser and use their expertise and foresight to grow your business.

Your accountant can offer much more than just a tax return

If you are only speaking to your accountant at tax time, it’s safe to assume you are not optimally utilising their expertise. “A lot of people just go to the accountant once a year for that end-of-year tax return so the advice that can be given at that point is fairly limited,”

Your accountant can set the direction for your business

To truly leverage your accountant’s expertise, Sweeney suggests you ideally engage them when you’re setting up a business so they can align strategic advice with your specific goals. “Right from the beginning, we’d be looking at why [a client is] looking at starting up a business. What do they want to achieve, and what does that business need to do for them?”

Your accountant can help you implement your business goals

In an ongoing advisory capacity, a good accountant will contact you regularly to monitor how your plan is being implemented, and in turn Sweeney encourages business owners to frequently check in for advice.

Your accountant can keep you answerable to your business plans

Consistent contact with your accountant protects your business as you can both actively monitor whether you are heading in the right direction and steer your business back on course if not. “We all get busy, we all get distracted. There’s no point finding out six months after the end of the year that you could have fixed a problem with your business. And that’s unfortunately where a lot of small businesses are at,”

WHAT CHARACTERISTICS MAKE A GOOD ACCOUNTANT?

Accounting and bookkeeping are pivotal functions in any organization. They measure and check the financial status of the organization and provide invaluable data for business decisions. As a result, these fields demand topnotch accuracy and excellent organizational skills. Better defining and understanding the skills and qualities of an accountant can ensure you hire the right fit.

A STRONG SENSE OF ETHICS

Ethics and integrity are valued characteristics in an accountant. They must know right from wrong and always display integrity in his or her accounting and bookkeeping activities.

CONSTANTLY LEARNING

While accountants need to have a strong grasp of the basics, they must also display interest in keeping up-to-date. With the introduction of new principles, laws and taxes, the field of accounting is ever changing. Accountants must ensure that they have a thorough understanding of the latest news and developments in their fields. Nowadays, technology is playing a greater role in the industry and accountants must be cognizant of these emerging trends. An accountant who does not keep learning will not remain an asset to an organization in the long run.

EMPHASIZING ACCURACY

It is essential for accountants to be accurate in their work. Misplacement of digits or even a comma might result in huge financial risks for an organization. As such, accountants must focus on the details and place a lot of emphasis on the accuracy of the work. Accountants must have developed the skill of double checking their work to the point where it is second nature to them.

ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS

Accountants need to deal with a lot of paperwork, numbers and data on a daily basis. To remain on top of all these details and access the right information in an efficient manner, they must exhibit excellent organization skills.

Tips for Hiring a CPA That’s Right for Your Business

As a Certified Public Accountant and a business owner, I can see the benefits of hiring a tax and financial expert. But I also know some common mistakes many people can make when deciding what type of CPA to hire.

What’s the Difference?

An accountant is a general term for anyone in the tax or finance profession who follows specific rules and regulations.  I think of CPAs as super accountants because they are accountants who have passed a notoriously difficult licensing examination in a state. So, technically all CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs.

Find a CPA or firm that understands your personal needs.

You need to be able to openly communicate with your CPA. If you’re hiring an external CPA firm, it has to understand what you do before you decide to work with them, even if the firm is just doing your taxes. There are too many things that can go wrong if your CPA doesn’t truly understand your business.

Remember to keep other qualifications in mind when hiring a CPA.

There’s a lot more to accounting than just crunching numbers, especially when it comes to hiring a CPA for your business.  With their deep understanding of complex financial concepts and tax code, it can be difficult to have that broken down into layman terms. That’s why I think it’s important to look beyond the lines on their resume that might not be exactly to your standards and focus on other qualifications such as communication.

Figure out what you need before hiring.

Ask yourself this question: What are your business’s specific accounting needs? Are you looking for someone to process your accounts payable and sales invoices, do taxes and payroll or create your budgets and financial statements?

Getting financial advice

You don’t, and shouldn’t, need to be an authority on financial matters to be a contractor, sole trader, in a partnership or to run your own company. A good accountant will free you up to concentrate on your work, while giving you confidence that your numbers are working for you.

Why seek expert help

A good accountant is key to the financial health and success of most businesses and self-employed people.

On a basic level, it’s their job to help make the numbers work for you by:

making sure you’re compliant

advising you on how to reduce your tax

helping you maximise cash flow.

They will also objectively assess how your business is performing, where you’re falling short and how you can work to improve.

The monthly fee for most accountancy services puts off some business owners, contractors and self-employed people — but the old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true. Investing in a good accountant will save you money, and potentially your business, in the long run.

When to seek financial advice

While you should check in with your accountant on a regular basis, it’s particularly important to get financial advice when you are:

starting out

having trouble paying your bills

looking to grow

closing or selling your business

getting ready to seek investment

considering large bank loans

filing your taxes, or dealing with tricky tax issues.

Organization Tips for Accountants and Bookkeepers

As an accountant or bookkeeper, it’s your job to make sense of all the financial transactions in a company. Even small businesses require vigilant oversight of everything going out and coming in. The smallest error can result in hours upon hours of scrutinizing data and looking for misplaced decimal points. Additionally, accountants and bookkeepers typically have more complex responsibilities like managing employee payroll and preparing tax documents. These tasks require focused attention and a systematic process, as a slip up could lead to serious repercussions for the business owner.

Manage Client Relationships

Be honest: have you ever thought to yourself “I could get so much more work done if only these clients wouldn’t take up my all my time?” It’s funny because it’s true…but you also know that without those clients, you wouldn’t have a business. And if your business is growing, you know this means bringing on more clients, which means more meetings and more phone calls.

Integrate Your Software Programs

Using CRM software is a great start for managing client relationships, but these relationships aren’t limited to pre-scheduled meetings and phone calls. When a client shoots you a “quick email” with questions, sometimes it’s easiest to answer them right away. But how are you supposed to track these conversations effectively if you receive an onslaught of messages each day?

Optimize Your Workspace Organization

You knew this one was coming. Digital organization is great, but physical organization still plays a big role in your workplace productivity. Maybe you’re working in a corner office, or maybe you’re running your bookkeeping or accounting practice from your kitchen table. Either way, there are some tried and true methods for creating an organized workspace.

Here are a few ideas to consider implementing:

An L-shaped (or U-shaped) desk puts more essential items and files within reach.

Keep clutter to a minimum. Infrequently used items should go in drawers or on shelves behind or above your main workspace.

Use organizers to separate small items stored in drawers. Don’t be the accountant who’s always hunting around for a pen or a calculator.

Use a combination of vertical and horizontal file folder organizers to maximize your available storage space.

Save your eyesight! Use a combination of overhead and task lighting.

Double or even triple computer monitors save time and minimize confusion caused by switching between programs (like your accounting software and your CRM).

Legal Tax Planning Aids Wealth Protection

How to Choose Your Tax Adviser or Accountant

Do I need a tax adviser or an accountant?

More often than not people will actually require both an accountant and a tax adviser, however, it is important to establish why you need them – do you need someone to manage your accounts and help you with your tax return? Or someone to give you sound advice that will legally save you money?

What does an accountant do?

Your accountant can manage your accounts, provide compliance work and some may even do tax planning.

What does a tax adviser do?

Tax advisers tend to focus solely on tax planning. They spend significant amounts of time keeping up-to-date with the latest tax legislation and tax cases to help make sure they provide their clients with great strategies that will help to reduce or eliminate tax – some of which your accountant may not even be aware of!

Example of the difference between an accountant and tax adviser

If we compare the accountancy profession with medicine, an accountant is the equivalent of a GP, and most of the time a GP is all you need for routine health care, but if you get seriously ill (compare with a dispute with HM Revenue and Customs) or you need surgery (tax planning), then you need a specialist consultant (a Tax Adviser)

What qualifications should my Tax Adviser / Accountant have?

As a client you want to be assured that your tax adviser / accountant is acting in both your best interest and within the law, which is why it is important to know what qualifications your tax adviser or accountant has, and when they were achieved and if they are relevant to you. Check that the qualifications they have cover the area of taxation or accounting that you require assistance with.

How to Find a Good Tax Adviser

Many unlicensed tax preparers with questionable credentials set up shop during income-tax season. Some disappear after the April 15 filing date, leaving you to deal with the IRS if there’s a problem with your return. The IRS recently cracked down on such rogue tax preparers by, among other things, contacting those whose returns have frequently shown to have errors. Plus, it is instituting stricter rules for anyone who charges a fee to prepare a tax return. See the IRS’s fact sheets about the new requirements for tax-return preparers. Most of the new rules do not take effect until the 2011 tax season, so taxpayers still need to be vigilant when hiring a tax preparer or adviser this year.

One good approach is to look for an enrolled agent. Enrolled agents are tax experts who must pass a rigorous test, meet annual continuing-education requirements, and who are licensed to represent clients in front of the IRS. Enrolled agents can prepare your income-tax return, and some provide tax-planning advice. You can also contact an enrolled agent if you need help after receiving a penalty letter from the IRS.

Enrolled agents work in a variety of settings: Some have their own firms, some work for tax-preparation chains, and some are also certified public accountants or certified financial planners. You can find an enrolled agent through the National Association of Enrolled Agents. They usually charge by the tax form to prepare a return (so the more complicated your return, the more you’ll pay) and by the hour for tax planning.

Tax Planning: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When your clients come to you and wonder what they can do to save money when it comes to paying taxes, you can recommend tax planning services. Many taxpayers aren’t aware of how impactful tax planning can be.

Wise taxpayers plan out their upcoming tax year instead of hoping you can do something amazing for them once the year is over. Those that plan ahead have more control over their tax situation and increase their chances of reducing their tax obligations. It’s the first step toward a better financial future.

The Good: In-Person Tax Planning with a Professional

The best way for taxpayers to implement a workable tax plan is to meet with a professional. Like a doctor, tax preparers who offer tax planning services take time to look at their client’s financial health, then diagnose any areas where mistakes and poor planning actually cost them. It’s also a good way to look for any missed opportunities that the taxpayer may use in the future.

True tax planning is a formal assessment of a client’s tax situation, but not many people really understand that creating a plan, implementing it, and then maintaining and evaluating it over the years will really influence their tax burden. When you and your client have the opportunity at the beginning of the tax year to create a thoughtful and effective financial plan, they’ll be very happy when it’s time to file those tax returns.

The Bad: Generic Tax Planning Software

If a client is not convinced that hiring you for formal tax planning is something they want to do, they might at least consider some do-it-yourself tax planning using specialized tax software. From data management software like Microsoft Excel to programs and apps designed to help individuals and small businesses with tax planning, using available tools is better than no tax planning at all.

Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer

It’s the time of the year when many taxpayers choose a tax preparer to help file a tax return. These taxpayers should choose their tax return preparer wisely.  This is because taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return. That’s true no matter who prepares the return

Here are ten tips for taxpayers to remember when selecting a preparer:

Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.

Check the Preparer’s History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to the verify enrolled agent status page on IRS.gov or check the directory. 

Ask about Service Fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition. When asking about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information.

Ask to E-File. Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and use direct deposit.

Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 17 due date. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.

Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.

Never Sign a Blank Return. Don’t use a tax preparer who asks a taxpayer to sign a blank tax form.

Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, review it. Ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. They should also make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. Review the routing and bank account number on the completed return. The preparer should give you a copy of the completed tax return.

Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.

Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their return without the taxpayer’s consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.

mistakes to avoid when choosing a financial or tax adviser

If you have the knowledge to do your own financial planning, tax preparation and/or investing, you can choose whether or not to do it yourself. Part of that decision is determining the highest and best use of your time. Doing the job of a financial or tax adviser, at least doing it well, requires a significant commitment of time and energy, both of which are limited and precious. Most people would rather spend that time on family, travel, hobbies, or volunteer work. If you’re in that camp, and need to find a financial or tax adviser, here are some common mistakes people make—and how to avoid them.

Not making a decision

Indecision—i.e., choosing not to make a decision—is like selecting “none of the above” on a test question, and can often be an impediment to financial success. This is as true when choosing an adviser as it is to sound investing. Many people let too much money sit in cash, or fail to rebalance their investment portfolios periodically, because they are waiting for the “right” time to make a change. Indeed, an inability to act (due to procrastination or indecision) is one reason many people choose to hire a professional financial adviser, who can eliminate the emotional element and use a disciplined approach to make decisions and take action as needed.

Not asking for referrals

If you are serious about hiring a financial professional, ask for recommendations from people you respect, such as work colleagues, friends, and professionals in related industries (e.g., an estate-planning attorney or insurance agent). If the idea of asking for a referral makes you uncomfortable, here are some questions to help you get the information you need

Assuming what a title or credential means

While no one can call themselves a “CPA” without considerable education and testing, literally anyone licensed to sell financial products (insurance, mutual funds, etc.) can call themselves a “financial adviser” or “wealth manager.” Similarly, certain credentials can be obtained by simply spending a few hours or a weekend taking a course, whereas others, including “CPA” (Certified Public Accountant) and “CFP” (Certified Financial Planner practitioner), require many months or even years of study, rigorous testing, and ongoing continuing education.

Not focusing on relevant experience

A common mistake is to only consider advisers who are older, rather than seeking an adviser with experience that is relevant to your situation and needs. It’s easy to assume that gray hair (or a lack of hair) equates to experience. However, it might just reflect age, with many of those years spent doing things other than providing the service you need.

Ignoring conflicts of interest

The investment industry is full of conflicts of interest, and they usually center around compensation. A registered representative (RR) or insurance agent can make 10 times as much commission if they get you to buy one thing versus another. Advisors with a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), on the other hand, get paid the same amount regardless of which investments they recommend, so they have no incentive to push one over the other.