Entrusting someone new to file your taxes or handle your books is not an easy decision to make.
An episode of Cheers tells us all we need to know about the emotions involved in making the switch to a new accountant.
Season 2, Episode 14 entitled “No Help Wanted” aired in January 1984. The episode follows Sam Malone, the charming owner of bar Cheers, and Norm Peterson, a currently unemployed accountant and a regular at the bar. Strapped for cash, Norm takes a dishwashing job at Melville’s, the restaurant upstairs. Sam takes pity on his friend and reluctantly hires Norm to do the bar’s taxes.
Norm immediately starts work on the bar’s tax return. On several occasions, Norm emerges from the bar office wearing a green eyeshade and drenched in sweat, clearly putting all he has into this tax return!
Norm nets the bar a $15,000 refund. The amount alarms Sam. He had never received more than $3,000, and oftentimes, owed money. Norm explains that Sam’s previous accountant had relied on archaic tax laws, whereas Norm utilized new credits and deductions.
Fearing Norm has committed some form of tax fraud, Sam retains his old accountant and files the return with the smaller refund. When Norm learns that Sam does not trust his skills, he is devastated and hurt.
The situation tests their friendship and reflects a regular occurrence in the real world.
Finding a new accountant can be challenging. It can also be difficult in deciding when is the right time to make the change. Several instances should signal you to find a new accountant.
The situation between Sam and Norm reflects one of the reasons to look towards switching accountants. The job of an accountant is to understand your finances, minimize your tax burden, and know the tax credits and deductions available to you. If you as the client feel that you are missing out on some of these credits, then it is time to switch accountants. If you are not sure what you may be missing, consider getting a second opinion or doing some research on changes to tax laws.
Other signs can indicate when you may need to find a new accountant or tax professional.
If your current accountant continues to miss important deadlines or frequently files extensions, your business may not be a priority for him or her, or he or she lacks important time management skills. Except in extreme circumstances, your returns should be filed in advance of the normal deadlines.
Communication is paramount when it comes to understanding your finances. Communication should also be regular and timely. Your accountant should be available by phone and email and should really respond to you within hours if they missed your call even if the response is to say they are working on the problem or question. If you feel your current accountant is avoiding you, that’s a problem.
Your accountant should value your business as much as you do. That statement should not feel like an over-exaggeration. Your accountant is in a position to offer you advice on when you should spend more, spend less, hire more people, move to a new space, or apply for a loan. They are the touchstone to your financials and they should be taking the time to explain your financial statements so that you understand your financial picture. Your accountant should also provide guidance and help you set a plan for the coming year.
If you have always had a good relationship with your accountant, by all means, stay with them.
At the same time, getting a second opinion, inquiring for price quotes, or asking fellow business owners about their accounting experiences can shed some light on your situation and help you make a change.
Norm spent almost all of his free time at Cheers. Consider supporting local accountants who frequent your businesses. They will care even more about your successes.
Cheers from Quill & Keyboard Accounting.