by Mark J. O'Donnell
You may be getting your information together for your CPA firm right now. It’s a great time to consider how to get more value from your CPA and business advisor. Consider the year-end accounting and tax preparation processes in 3 phases this year.
Phase one: Set your expectations.
Quoting one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, “Begin with the end in mind”. Have due dates for tax returns and financial statement completion. With your CPA, establish target dates for
- delivery of your information to the CPA,
- a meeting (if needed) to discuss the drafts of the financials and tax returns,
- final decisions and authorization to complete the work and
- delivery of the final financial statements and income tax returns.
This timeline won’t be perfect, but it will set an expectation for you and your CPA.
Phase two: Deliver complete information early.
You can optimize this process by being ready early and being organized. First, set a date to deliver the information to the CPA, and if possible, be early. Most CPA firms are experiencing labor shortages. Being early will set up your work to be started before the bulk of tax season work arrives. Conversely, late delivery will undoubtedly cause later completion and frequently an income tax extension. In addition, providing complete and organized information will make your CPA more efficient, which should save you money and help ensure the timely completion of your work (and they will appreciate you more). On the other hand, poorly organized and incomplete work papers cause the work to stop and wait for missing information or explanations. The stop-and-restart loop frequently causes significant delays and inefficiencies (and higher fees). Be early and be organized, and your CPA should complete your work promptly and efficiently.
Phase three: Maximize the CPA’s value.
Immediately after the year-end financials are completed, ask your CPA about your current and future financial concerns. Your CPA visits many companies annually and can utilize their expertise in taxation, accounting, and your industry for your benefit. You can and should ask several questions about your tax and financial plan for 2024. Here are a few of our favorites:
1) Are any new accounting rules or tax law changes effective in 2024 or 2025? How will they affect my company and my family?
2) How can I improve my company’s financials from the point of view of the bank or surety?
3) Has my company’s value increased over the last year? What can I do this year to increase the value even more?
4) Does your firm have any services I am not using that would be valuable?
5) Finally, a version of one of my best questions. ‘If you were me, sitting here three years from now, what must have happened in those three years for me to be satisfied with my financial results, tax management, and overall wealth?” As a business adviser, it’s tough to be asked. It’s an even better question to ask yourself.
Mark O’Donnell, CPA, is Partner at Schmersahl Treloar & Co. He can be reached at 314.966.2727.