Here are 3 tips to improve your relationship with your accountant for your business:
1) Don’t wait for them to call you about a planning meeting.
In a perfect world every accounting firm has unlimited time and energy to be proactive and think about your business and it’s future. In the real world, a lot of firms end up being reactive instead of proactive. Most of them want to be proactive but the ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’.
Be the squeaky wheel!
Call them and arrange a pre-year end planning meeting. The fall is a better time than the winter for both of you. Even though your accountant will charge you for the planning, the result for business planning and tax minimization strategy will be beneficial. Waiting until the middle or end of tax season when your accountant is tired and overworked is neither a good time for tax advice or business strategy questions. There are likely changes and actions you can take prior to year end that are impossible to do after the fact.
2) Ask them how you can make your year end work more efficient.
a) If your accountant charges you on a fixed fee basis, you can likely make changes that reduce the fixed fee. If your accountant is like most and charges by the hour, ask them how you can help reduce their time. Some business owners will organize their records prior to submitting them but the technician at the firm wants the info in different type of format. They will take extra time to re-organize your information and then charge you for the time.
If you are unorganized, it will cost you more for them to get you organized.
b) Ask them how you can improve on their ‘first pass yield’. This is how much work their staff can get done the first time they open your file. If your file can be started and finished in the ‘first pass’ it will be far less time to prepare. Try and get everything they need together and submit it at one time.
c) Try to ask the above questions directly to the technician who will work on your file. Why risk having anything lost in translation?
3) Ask them to advise you of extra charges in advance of doing the work.
One of the consistent complaints I hear is about the surprise when the bill comes long after the work was completed. When the fee has increased substantially there is usually a good reason, the problem is you didn’t approve the spending of your money ahead of time. It should be just like when you get your car in for service. If you take it in for an oil change and they change the entire engine without asking you there will be a collection problem! Same rules should go for accounting fees.
In summary, being proactive and improving the communication lines between you and your accounting firm are good things to do.