When it comes to accounting, many small businesses try to go it alone relying instead on free or inexpensive online accounting tools. But investing in the services of a professional and fully trained accountant can offer your business so much more. The truth is that it’s unlikely those online tools will save you from potentially irreversible financial mistakes. Nor will they alert you to brand new tax savings opportunities that you never knew existed. Good accountants will do just that as well as offering a whole host of other services that can help your business grow. So if you’re looking to hire an accountant, then here are the four essential questions you need to ask beforehand to make sure you select the right one for you.

Can you help me prepare for the tax season?

This is probably the main reason why a small business engages an accountant in the first place. And if you’ve ever made the mistake of trying to handle your business tax affairs yourself, then you will truly appreciate the added value an accountant brings.  With their comprehensive knowledge and expertise, they can help you navigate the minefield that is the tax system. From filing returns on time to making sure you take advantage of all the available tax credits and deductions, an accountant will very quickly see you realising a return on your investment.

How can you help me grow my business?

Most good accountants offer a range of services that go beyond merely filling out your company’s tax returns or completing the accounts. Often they can help develop financial plans and projections, which are an essential part of any good business plan. They can also help with cash flow management and strategies to tide you over when there are shortfalls. Quite simply, with their wealth of knowledge and expertise, a good accountant will quickly become an indispensable guide and mentor.

What about my personal financial situation, can you offer help in that respect?

A good accountant will be well versed in a range of disciplines including corporate and individual tax as well as general accounting and financial management. It’s likely, however, that they will also have expertise in retirement planning and financial planning in the wider sense and so will be able to offer advice and support in relation to your personal finances.

What’s more, they may also be open to assisting you when identifying and weighing up the financial ramifications of business decisions. For example, whether it would be better to hire an independent contractor or a full-time employee. Or whether the business would be better off buying or renting an office space. Their unbiased expertise and knowledge could make all the difference when it comes to important decisions about the future of your business.

Can I work with you on a long-time basis?

At the end of the day you need to have confidence and a level of trust in your accountant. What’s more, much like a trusted doctor or dentist, the accountant-client relationship is often an enduring one that spans many decades. And so a personal connection and a belief that you can work together on a long-term basis is an absolute must before you consider hiring an accountant.