(BPT) - You know your taxes are due on April 15 (or April 18 this year thanks to Emancipation Day), and you know you will either owe money or get a nice check from Uncle Sam. But you also know it’s never really that simple.
Tax returns can get complicated, especially if you’re self-employed, make extra cash through a side gig or recently inherited cash or stock. This is why many people chose to hire a tax preparer to help deal with all the complications and nuances involved in tax preparation and filing. Great accountants can make a complex process simpler and less strenuous for their clients. Let’s be honest, they can work magic. They take stacks of paperwork and transform them into digestible information for your records and, sometimes, a nice refund check.
With so many tax services to choose from, it can be difficult to know if you went with the best option. Of course accountants should be organized and numbers-oriented, but what are the qualities that make the best accountants stand out above the rest? Here are six ways to know if you hired an accountant who would make Dumbledore proud.
You know you’ve hired an accounting wizard if:
They build trust. Accountants deal with very confidential information on a daily basis, and one of the aspects of a great accountant is that their professional integrity would never allow them to share your information with a third party. In fact, veritaserum — the most powerful truth serum in the wizarding world — would have no effect on an accounting wizard.
They act as an adviser. The best accountants are advisers to their clients — not just vendors. According to Kathy Gans, senior vice president of accounting and finance recruiting company Accounting Principals, a great accountant understands their clients’ needs and goals. “Your accountant should work with you to better understand your goals and determine how you can achieve them. They shouldn’t disappear after tax season. Plan for a post-filing follow up to see how you can better prepare and manage your finances with your accountant moving forward.”
They educate. You get schooled by your accountant, and that is not a bad thing. A great accountant should make sure you understand the process behind your taxes and explain why certain decisions and deductions are made. They should also be great communicators and willing to work with their clients in person, on a phone call, through the Floo Network or the Owl Post Service.
They solve problems you didn’t know you had. A great accountant has an eye for detail and a creative mind. “Your accountant should be creative and able to practice out-of-the-box thinking to identify areas for improvement along with fresh solutions,” Gans says. Whether it's complex spreadsheets, death eaters, tax summaries or dementors, your accountant should be able find the right solutions for all of them — because they know “expelliarmus” is not a one-size fits all approach.
They have amazing time management skills. Your accountant has many clients, but it should never feel that way to you. Accountants should effectively manage and prioritize their time. They stun you with how much they know and are able to accomplish. They must have a time-turner, it is the only reasonable explanation.
They stay abreast of changes in the industry. You know you hired a great accountant if their up-to-date knowledge of finances and tax law can only be matched by Ms. Granger’s knowledge of spells.
“It’s not enough for accountants to be certified,” Gans says. “They must constantly stay up-to-date with the industry’s changing laws and generally accepted accounting principles. They should also stay ahead of emerging technologies in the industry. Not only does it help them better serve their clients, but it will also benefit their career.”
Accounting wizards are not mythical creatures — there are plenty waiting to help you better understand and manage your taxes and finances. They will educate you on your options, earn your trust and help you catch the snitch in life’s game of financial Quidditch.