6 Tips to find the perfect accountant you can count on

Tax time is fast approaching, which for many people means it's time to start looking for an accountant.

The right accountant will do more than just help you file your tax return, he or she can also show you or your small business how to save money. To find the perfect accountant for taxes, keep these six considerations in mind.

Licensed accountants
At a bare minimum you should make sure that your accountant has one of the three possible professional accountancy licenses behind his or her name. Chartered accountants (CPA) have both degree-level education as well as real world work experience. Certified general accountants (CGA), meanwhile, can provide a range of services for both small businesses and individuals. Certified management accountants (CMA) combine management skills with accountancy, which makes them particularly attractive for small businesses.

Referrals and references
Many of the best accountants are found by word of mouth. Ask friends, family members, and business associates if they can recommend a particular accountant. When you do find an accountant, ask for references and search online for reviews and testimonials. An accountant who has been referred tends to work extra hard to ensure that she or he lives up to that referral.

What can your accountant do?
If you need an accountant to just crunch numbers and help you file your personal tax return, then finding one shouldn’t be too difficult. But what if you need an accountant for your small business? Many accountants nowadays also offer business advice and even help understanding legal documents. Not all accountants are qualified or experienced enough to provide this sort of help, so be sure to ask any candidate what she or he can and cannot do to help you in your business.

Cost
Obviously, you are going to need to know how much your accountant is going to cost. Most accountants charge on an hourly basis and rates vary widely depending on what kind of services they provide and whether they are geared to individuals or businesses. You will want to know more than just their hourly rate, however. Ask also whether they charge for every phone call and try to get an idea of how much their services are going to cost in total.

Firm size
Many accountancy firms are one-person operations whereas others may employ hundreds of accountants. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but one big difference is availability. A sole proprietor may be available to answer calls and emails on the weekend, for example, but he or she may have no replacement to handle your file during a vacation. The opposite situation would likely be true with a larger firm.

Software
Keep in mind that tax software may be able to do just a good a job at preparing your taxes as an accountant would. Using software is cheaper than using an accountant and is usually just as effective if your tax return is relatively simple. However, if your financial situation is complicated then you will want to discuss your taxes with a certified accountant.

Finding the right accountant for your tax needs means finding a professional who will help you save money. The qualities you should look for in a tax accountant extend beyond just somebody who is good at math and to a person who can offer qualified advice to help you or your business succeed financially.