How to Find the Right CPA Near You

Tax season is almost here. Dun, dun, dun!

Although it’s a dreaded time for many, tax season doesn’t have to be stressful. With the right CPA or accounting firm on your side, you can rest easy knowing that you’re in good hands.

Of course, you could do your taxes yourself, and there are plenty of programs that make it easy. However, there are many reasons why you might want to consider hiring a tax professional. If working with an accounting firm is the right option for your needs, you’ll want to ensure that you find the right one.

There’s a lot on the line when it comes to hiring a CPA. Working with the right CPA could make the difference between owing money and getting a tax refund, so it’s worth your time to be mindful about who you hire.

6 tips for finding the right CPA



#1. Figure out what kind of tax specialist you need

Before you start your search for a CPA, you need to know exactly what kind of tax specialist you’ll need. If your situation isn’t too complicated, you probably don’t need to worry too much about finding a CPA who specializes in anything in particular. On the other hand, if you’re facing a complicated situation, like an audit, you need a tax specialist who can get you through it.

CPAs are just one type of tax professional you could choose to work with. If you’re preparing a tax return for an estate, you may need to consult a tax attorney. Or, if the situation you’re dealing with is overly complex, an EA (Enrolled Agent), who has to pass rigorous tests, can help with things, like audits and collection actions.

#2. Know where to look

Finding a CPA can be challenging, especially if you don’t know where to look. As I said, there’s a lot on the line when hiring a tax specialist, as it affects whether or not you get a refund, as well as how much that refund is. There are a lot of places you could look for a CPA, but only a couple of places you should look.

With so much at stake, you don’t want to risk looking for a CPA in the phone book or in even in a Google search, at least without further research. One of the best places to start in your search for a local CPA is a personal recommendation from a friend or coworker. The one downside to this, though, is that a personal recommendation is only about one CPA and only gives you a glimpse of one experience.

Searching for a CPA with Top Rated Local® will allow you to get an instant look at several accounting firms’ overall online reputations and compare them side by side. You’ll also be able to read a firm’s reviews across all of the verified sites it’s listed on.

#3. Pick the right size firm

The general rule is that the bigger the accounting firm, the more likely it will have higher fees and have less time to dedicate to working on your return. That’s not to say that it’s never a good idea to hire a bigger accounting firm, but you’re likely to get more personalized service if you work with a local tax professional.

On the other hand, small accounting firms may not have the diverse talent and experience necessary to get through your return if it’s complicated. In this situation, you might be better off choosing a bigger firm.



#4. Verify that they have a PTIN

Anyone who is compensated for preparing income taxes, or assisting in preparing income taxes is required by the IRS to have a PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number). Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to someone who has volunteered to help you prepare your taxes. But, if you’re paying someone to do your taxes, you’ll need to ensure that they have a PTIN because they’ll need to include it on your tax return.

#5. Ask the right questions

Before you commit to working with someone to do your taxes, you need to speak with them ahead of time. This could be done through an email, over the phone or in person. When you speak with them, make sure that you ask the right questions. These include:

  • How much experience do you have working with people in my situation?
  • Do you specialize in any tax issues in particular?
  • Does the work get done by you personally or your in-house assistants, or does it get outsourced?
  • How are your fees calculated — flat fee, hourly or another rate option?
  • Are your fees negotiable?
  • Approximately how long do you expect it to take for you to finish my taxes?

#6. Watch out for red flags

There are many different CPAs out there who you could choose to work with. Often, you can tell if someone isn’t right for your needs right off the bat when you know which red flags to watch out for. Here are a few common ones:

  • They promise that you’ll get a big refund before even looking at your information.
  • They promise that they can get you a bigger return than other tax professionals
  • They promise that you’ll be able to make certain deductions before looking at your information
  • Their fee is a percentage of your refund
  • They’re not prepared to provide you with support if you’re audited
  • They don’t have the appropriate credentials

Find the right CPA with Top Rated Local!

When you’re ready to search for a CPA near you, start with Top Rated Local. You’ll be able to find the best-reviewed accounting firms in your area, compare them side by side, read CPA reviews from across the web from one place and more. Find a local CPA near you today!

Originally published 2/26/20

Should You Hire an Accountant?

There are so many reasons to hire a professional accountant. Here are just a few of them.

9 reasons to hire an accountant

#1. You have a small business

Small business owners can benefit tremendously from having a good accountant on their side, particularly if their plates are already full with everything else.

An accountant can help a small business file necessary compliance and legal documents, take care of payroll, maintain records, prepare annual statements and more. Accountants are particularly helpful when it comes time to pay taxes, saving you time, stress and money.

#2. You’re starting a small business

Not only can an accountant help to keep an existing business running smoothly, but they can also help new businesses get off to the right start.

When they’re just starting out, small business owners are looking to save money in every possible way. However, the one thing a small business owner should never skimp on its accounting.

Believe it or not, hiring the right accountant could actually help you save money while you’re getting your business up and running. You’d be surprised at how quickly fees stack up when things are done improperly.

#3. You want to pay off debt

A lot of people think that only super-wealthy people can benefit from working with an accountant. But, the truth is that accountants can do a lot for people who are looking for help getting out of debt and living within their means.

Working with an accountant certainly won’t be free, but depending on your situation, the right strategy could help you save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in interest. It could also help you get out of debt sooner.

#4. Your taxes are complicated

Are you self-employed? Do you have multiple streams of income? Do you receive income from an investment? If so, your taxes are likely to be a lot more complicated, and hiring an accountant can make all the difference.

Hiring an accountant to help with complicated taxes will give you peace of mind in knowing that the job is done the right way. It can also save you money, as a good accountant will help you avoid paying a cent more than you need to.

Complicated taxes are also more likely to end in an audit, in which case, it’s definitely good to have an accountant on your side.

#5. You make more than $200,000 a year

Speaking of audits, did you know that your chances of getting audited go up by quite a lot when your income starts exceeding $200,000 per year?

Your chance of getting audited, if your income is less than $200,000 a year, is about 1 in 250. If your income exceeds $200,000, it’s about 1 in 100. And, if you earn more than a million a year, it shoots up to about 1 in 41.

No matter how much you make, getting audited is scary. Having an accountant there to walk you through will help you get the best possible outcome and give you peace of mind.

#6. You’re receiving an inheritance

Many people are under the misconception that getting an inheritance is a relatively straightforward thing, and are surprised to learn that there’s actually a wrong way to go about it.

If you’re receiving a large inheritance, you should know that going about it the wrong way could result in a lot of taxes, as well as a higher future tax rate.

Under the guidance of an accountant, you can avoid having to pay more than is strictly necessary, while also reducing your tax liability in the future.

#7. You want to give a large gift

Want to help your adult son or daughter pay for the downpayment on their new home? This is just one of the many examples of a time when you’re making a large monetary gift, and believe it or not, the IRS expects taxes to be paid on gifts.

What exactly is considered a gift? Anything that you don’t expect to receive fair payment for. This can include money, but it also includes anything of monetary value, like property and investments. Any time a gift exceeds $15,000, the Gift Tax applies.

An accountant can provide you with different options for reducing the amount of tax you’ll have to pay on your gift.

#8. You’re buying a business

When people think about becoming a business owner, they often imagine building a business from the ground up. However, some people become business owners by buying a business instead.

Before you bite the bullet and make the decision to purchase a business, it’s always a good idea to consult with an accountant.

An accountant can check for an outstanding debt the business may have, see whether the company owns and leases assets (like equipment) and more.

#9. You’re selling a business

Even if you’ve managed to handle your books on your own up until this point, if you’re planning on selling your business, it never hurts to have an experienced accountant behind you.

At the very least, an accountant can help you structure your finances in order to walk away with the most money after the sale. However, an accountant can also work with your buyer’s accountant to make sure all the boxes are checked, as well as help you get your records in order.

These are just a few of the many instances when it’s beneficial to have a reliable accountant on your side. But, it’s important to realize that not all accountants are made equal.

Hiring the right accountant can help you save the most money and give you peace of mind, but how do you ensure you’ve found the right one? Top Rated Local® can help.

With Top Rated Local, you can read account reviews from verified review sites across the web, compare accountants near you side by side, view accountants’ overall online reputations at a glance and more.

Find an accountant near you today!

5 Things That Could Trigger an IRS Audit

An IRS audit is the last thing anyone wants to deal with.

Most of us have plenty on our plates right now. What with homeschooling our children, figuring out how to work from home, or putting our lives on the line as essential workers — all while navigating the world and figuring out how to stay safe in the midst of a pandemic. An IRS audit is the absolute last thing anyone needs right now.

When the Internal Revenue Service audits you, they are taking a closer look at your tax returns to ensure that all tax laws have been followed and to verify that the correct amount of tax has been paid. IRS audits can be stressful, but the good news is that they’re not all that common.

Luckily, we’ve still got a couple of months left before our tax returns are due. However, when you do decide to file, you need to know what could potentially trigger an IRS audit,

5 Common Things That Can Trigger an IRS Audit

#1. Failing to report all of your income.

The number one way to ensure that the IRS will come knocking is to fail to report all of your taxable income.

The gig economy has made doing our taxes even more of a headache because it means keeping track of more forms and more sources of taxable income for many people. But, whether your income comes from a more traditional source or from a variety of sources, it’s incredibly important that you report all of it to the IRS.

Any time you fill out a W-2 or a 1099, those forms are also sent to the IRS, which means that they already know about your taxable income. You’re not going to pull one over on them if you fail to report it; you’re just going to end up getting audited.

#2. Making math errors.

As someone who’s never been good at math, I know just how easy it is to make math errors while doing calculations for your tax return. As easy as it is to make mistakes, though, it’s important to get it right.

Calculations that don’t add up can absolutely trigger an IRS audit, but it’s not the only kind of math error that can do so. Any math error could trigger an audit, and that includes transposing the wrong numbers.

Always double check your math on your tax return and that you’ve transposed all numbers correctly, including your social security number.

#3. Overclaiming charitable donations.

Making charitable donations is one of the best things you can do with your money, and now more than ever, nonprofits and charities need support. And, when you are so giving with your money, you absolutely deserve to make deductions. However, if you want to avoid being audited, it’s critical that you claim only the donations you actually make.

Overclaiming charitable donations is one way that some people try to get around the system and take more deductions than they’re owed, which is why claiming lots of charitable donations can be a red flag for the IRS. That’s why any donations you claim need to be backed up by the charity you gave it to.

#4. Taking a home-office deduction.

Fraud is, unfortunately, very, very common when it comes to home-office deductions, which is why claiming a home office is one of the most common IRS triggers.

What qualifies as a true home office? The only people who are supposed to claim home offices are those with a dedicated space in their homes just for business. Even if you work from home — which many, many people are doing right now — you can’t claim any space you work in as a home office. It has to be dedicated to work exclusively. If you sit on the couch or at the kitchen table to do your work, it doesn’t count and can’t be deducted.

There’s no reason not to take advantage of home-office deductions if you do, in fact, have a home office. But, you better be able to back it up by having a dedicated space in your home just for business.

#5. Operating with a lot of cash.

If you’re regularly depositing or spending large amounts of cash, the IRS is going to start noticing. Thanks to the Bank Secrecy Act, which was implemented to help the IRS detect money laundering, the IRS is notified anytime someone completes a cash transaction of $10,000 or more.

If you are involved in regular cash transactions that meet or exceed $10,000, you can bet that the IRS is going to pay close attention to you, particularly if the income you report doesn’t support such large transactions.

Keep in mind that structuring your transactions in order to avoid the $10,000 limit can also trigger an IRS audit and is against the law. An example of structuring is when someone deposits $9,500 in cash at one branch and then $600 at another.

Find the right accounting firm near you with Top Rated Local®!

Whether you’re already facing an IRS audit or you’d like to avoid one altogether, having the right accounting firm or CPA on your side can make all the difference. But, how do you sort through the many options online and find the right one for your needs? Start with Top Rated Local!

When you use our one-of-a-kind local business directory to find an accounting firm near you, you’ll be able to read that firm’s reviews from across the web and get a quick look at their online reputation as a whole using our Rating Score™ system.

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5 Reasons to Pay a Pro to do Your Taxes

Should you pay someone to do your taxes, or should you do them yourself?

This is the age-old question that we all must ask ourselves come tax time, and as the dreaded April 15th inches closer and closer by the day, it’s one that is on a lot of minds at the moment.

There are plenty of great tax professionals and accounting firms out there who are ready and waiting to help you file this year, but the question as to whether or not you should take the time to do them yourself or pay someone to do them for you is a very personal one.

The truth is that, whether the cost of hiring a CPA is worth it or not, largely depends on your individual situation. In some situations, it totally makes sense to do your taxes on your own, but there are many situations when hiring a professional is the way to go.

5 Reasons to Hire a Tax Pro

Reason #1. Your situation is a bit more complicated.

When the only things that you really need to take into account while filing your taxes are your W2 and proof of health insurance, the process is pretty simple. However, things get more complicated with every itemized deduction you decide to take out.

Here are a few things that can complicate the process of doing your taxes:

  • You own a business or you’re self-employed.
  • You utilize a state or federal exchange for your health insurance.
  • Your income taxes were filed too late.
  • You own a home.
  • You have children.
  • You’re taking out itemized deductions.

If one or more of the above situations apply to you, then it might be in your best interest to simply hire someone to do your taxes for you. That’s because, the more complicated your taxes are, the more likely you are to miss something or make a costly mistake.

Reason #2. You want to avoid making a costly mistake.

The fact of the matter is that filing taxes in the United States can be complicated, and that’s true regardless of how simple or straightforward your situation may be. To make matters worse, changes and updates to the tax policy happen all the time. Although some of these changes are meant to make things easier, they often lead to mass confusion.

But, even without the complications and the changes, there’s always a chance that you could make a mistake while doing your own taxes, and that’s true even with the simplest returns.

Here are a few of the most common mistakes people make when doing their own taxes:

  • Missing or inaccurate information.
  • Mathematical errors.
  • Incorrect account numbers.
  • Filing the incorrect forms.
  • Filing taxes under the wrong status.
  • Forgetting to sign.
  • Failing to include applicable deductions or credits.

Mistakes can be costly, and working with the right tax professional can help you avoid them.

Reason #3. You don’t want to waste your time.

Filing tax returns that are a bit more complicated makes it much more likely that you’ll end up making a mistake, and it also makes it more likely that you’ll end up wasting your time and energy on something a professional could have handled much more quickly.

Did you know that the average time it takes to complete a typical return with deductions is almost 20 hours? That’s right, your average tax return with deductions will take almost a full day of your time, and even then, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it right.

Your time has value. And, when it’s not spent doing things you have to do, like working, running errands, getting your kids to soccer practice, etc., you deserve to spend it doing what makes you happy. For most people, that’s not doing their taxes.

Reason #4. You want the best possible outcome for your money.

Cost is certainly something you’ll want to consider when deciding whether or not to work with an accounting firm to file your taxes this year. Obviously, CPAs don’t work for free, and hiring someone to do your taxes will mean paying them. However, it’s often an essential step toward getting the best possible outcome, and it can often end up saving you money in the end.

As I mentioned, tax policy can be a complicated thing, and something as simple as a misplaced decimal point, or a missed credit or deduction, could mean the difference between owing money and getting a refund.

This also goes back to the idea that your time is worth something. Twenty hours is a lot of time to spend working on your taxes, and the value of your time should absolutely be weighed when determining the cost-benefit analysis of hiring an accounting firm.

Oftentimes, working with a CPA or an accounting firm is the best option for many people in terms of cost. A tax professional can help you save time, avoid mistakes, and get the most value out of your return.

Reason #5. You want advice for planning ahead for next year.

It’s never too early to start thinking about filing taxes next year, and if you owed more or didn’t get as big of a refund as you were hoping for, there might be things you can tweak or change to make it happen next year.

If your situation will be changing in the next year — for instance, if you’re buying a house, making new investments, switching jobs, having a child, or getting married — hiring a professional could help you plan ahead accordingly.

The last thing that you want is to end up at this time next year with the knowledge that you could have avoided owing thousands of dollars by simply adjusting your deductions.

Find an accounting firm near you with Top Rated Local®!

There are lots of situations where hiring an accounting firm is the best way forward, and if you’re ready to find the right firm to work with this year, start your search with Top Rated Local! With Top Rated Local, you can read an accounting firm’s reviews from across the web from one place. Find the right accounting firm near you today!