Discussions between CPAs and their clients cover many intimate topics, from the inner workings of a business to creating a family’s legacy. Because of the implications these discussions can have on a client’s future and financial position, it’s imperative that the lines of communication remain open—not just at tax time, but all year round.
Here are several best practices for how to work best with your CPA:
Ask about big decisions. If you are considering expanding your business, selling your business, or buying or selling a significant asset, call your CPA to discuss how to proceed in the most tax-efficient manner. Your CPA is aware of ways to structure purchases or sales to take advantage of current tax law. Making such decisions without the CPA’s input can result in lost opportunities for savings, either now or in the future.
The same is true for family decisions. If you are getting married or divorced, having or adopting children, hiring or firing relatives, or making philanthropic decisions, talk things over with your CPA. He or she can serve as a sounding board, assist with planning, and help guide these decisions in a financially responsible manner. As always, the earlier you get your CPA involved in these decisions, the better.
Ask about not-so-big decisions. Your CPA is eager to help you—even if it’s not specifically in the accounting or finance arena. Because he or she serves many clients in different industries, your CPA is exposed to expertise in a variety of disciplines, from technology to cybersecurity to personnel and marketing.
Your CPA might know the answer you’re seeking, but if not, he or she can likely refer you to just the right person to address your concern or curiosity.
Ask about tax and regulatory issues. Tax law and regulatory changes can have a major impact on your business, compensation structure, and estate planning. Your CPA is the best resource for the latest information about how tax and regulatory updates affect you—and what you can do to mitigate any negative impact.
Review important documents. In addition to having your attorney draft and review important documents, have your CPA review them, too. These documents include such items as corporate bylaws and insurance policies, as well as non-compete, equity compensation, employee, and prenuptial agreements. Your CPA can weigh in on how these agreements and policies can be best structured in light of your specific business and family financial circumstances.
Don’t hide. To paraphrase the iconic Las Vegas slogan, “What happens in your CPA’s office stays in your CPA’s office.” Your CPA has seen and heard it all, so don’t be afraid to share with him or her what you might consider to be silly questions, questionable decisions, or difficult circumstances.
For example, if you or a family member has substance abuse or addiction problems that might affect your business or estate, tell your CPA. If you’ve generated unwanted debt, made a bad business deal, or created a problematic family situation, tell your CPA. He or she will not be surprised or judgmental. In fact, your CPA can likely assist you in managing the fallout of these circumstances and perhaps provide insight and guidance as to how to handle them in the future.
Remember, your CPA is your ally and trusted advisor. Working closely with your CPA is the best way to protect your assets and plan for your financial future.