Finding the right accountant is worth the effort

January 10, 2013

You're bus,y and finding a good accountant might seem like something that you can put off until tomorrow. Here's why it's worth your time.

Q: With tax-filing time quickly approaching, can you suggest the best way to go about selecting an accountant to help with my practice’s finances?

A: This is an important and often-overlooked question. If you are in independent practice, choosing the right accountant can mean the difference of thousands of dollars a year to your bottom line. He or she can guide you through ways of treating many expenses as business deductions.

Start by asking peers for recommendations on accountants. Learning that a particular accountant has done a good job for a practice similar to yours is valuable information. Conversely, hearing about trouble with an accountant can save you a lot of headaches.

Ask your financial adviser for his or her recommendation as well. Advisers work with clients’ accountants regularly, so they hear about both the good and the bad in client-accountant interactions. Your financial adviser also may have a feel for how knowledgeable, personable, and creative a particular accountant is.

Another consideration is whether you want to handle some of your practice’s finances in-house. Many small and medium-sized practices employ a bookkeeper inside the office and send information to the accountant on a regular basis. Other practices (especially solo practices) may send out all bookkeeping and accounting tasks. 

As is true with physicians, some accountants practice alone or in small groups, whereas others work in larger firms. An advantage of using a small firm is receiving more individualized attention, but fewer options are available if the accountant isn’t meeting your needs. Conversely, a large firm has more resilience and backup, but may be impersonal and fragmented in its service.

Finally, after you’ve narrowed the list of candidates, interview the top two or three. Explain how your practice is organized and how you have worked with accountants in the past. Bring a recent tax return. Ask how the candidate might approach your situation and what improvements he or she would suggest.

If the accountant you are considering works at a larger firm, ask whether he or she will be the one actually doing your work. Also, find out whether he or she has experience working for other physicians. Does this person seem like a good match for your needs?

Following these suggestions will give you a great head start on picking a great account for your practice. This decision is important to your financial health, so it is worth investing your time to hire the right person.

The author is principal of Wealth Care LLC in Merritt Island, Florida. Send your practice finance-related questions to medec@advanstar.com. Also engage at www.twitter.com/MedEconomics and www.facebook.com/MedicalEconomics.