Working with an accountant requires a level of trust and honesty that some find difficult. A survey of 2000 Americans published in Business Insider magazine revealed that when it comes to talking money, people would sooner discuss current events, health, pop culture, relationships, and politics. To simplify that task a little, we’ve compiled a basic list of things that you should—and shouldn’t—do while working with an accountant.
Discuss any changes you should make to get ahead.
The entire point of working with an accountant is to get ahead financially. Yet some treat their accountants as if they’re simply there to record numbers in a checkbook. Ask what financial steps will benefit you in the long run, and have your accountant create a plan of action for you.
Ask how changes in the law affect you and your business.
With federal, state, and local governments weighing in, there’s always a change in the system. Whether it’s a shift in tax reporting or a change in overtime laws, your accountant is there to keep their finger on the pulse of the economy and how it impacts you.
Ask when purchases of bigger-ticket items should be made.
There are definite strategies to buying equipment for your business or buying a new car for your personal world. Your accountant can advise you on the best times to make those purchases happen.
Yes, it’s annoying to hold onto receipts and to record your purchases. Yet the more structured you are here, the less your accountant has to do to advise you and get your books in order—which generally means less of a bill to you. It’s worth the bit of extra time.
Make recommended payments in a timely manner.
This is especially true for estimated tax payments, but also for items like rents and credit card payments. Why pay a fee if you can avoid it? And some of those fees can be pretty hefty.
Make sure both you and your accountant are responsive.
Phone tag is one thing with your friends and family; it’s another when we’re talking about a professional relationship. The best financial success can be garnered when both sides communicate clearly and effectively.
Hand them a disorganized pile of papers.
Time equals money, and you’re paying them to do secretarial work that you could have easily handled yourself. Sort your paperwork as you receive it—and if you aren’t sure what the best sorting stacks are, send an email to your accountant and ask their preference.
Call incessantly or expect priority treatment.
Accountants have multiple clients and each is important. Establish a preferred communications line with them—whether that’s emailing, texting, or calling at certain times. However, they can’t work if they’re constantly on the phone with you.
Ignore their advice.
You’re paying them for their expertise; don’t decide that you know better. Sure, you can go and get a second opinion from a different accountant if you choose… but accountants operate under the guidance of strict laws. Their advice is generally spot-on.
Wait until the last minute.
This just produces angst for all parties involved. There are many pieces involved in completing accounting work, not all of which are visible to the layperson. It’s not so much about respecting that accountants have lives; it’s more about guaranteeing that your work is completed.
Keep secrets from them or give them false records.
Accountants need to know things such as if you’ve failed to file in previous years, if you have overseas assets or income, if you’re paying someone under the table… It’s much easier and less costly for you to be upfront about these things, than for your accountant to discover them as they’re working and have to go back and redo work.
Ask them to lie for you.
Just don’t. They won’t. Their license is worth more than that.
Hopefully these tips will simplify the matter of working comfortably with your accountant and developing a great relationship to secure your financial future!