Managing your small business will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do! Turning your dream into a reality takes more than courage — it takes hard work, planning, diligence and trust. Trust is paramount because you’ll have to outsource much of the work involved, unless you’re also an expert in technology, marketing, payroll, insurance, bookkeeping, small business taxes and myriad other professions.
But who can you turn to for help? Your fallback will be to ask your friends, family and professional network for recommendations. And while that may work for some things, for more complicated business issues, like small business taxes, it’s important to look for someone with experience in your industry who has the credentials and training needed to help your business succeed.
You’ll also want to find someone who can help you year-round with tax questions and other financial tasks so you can focus on running your business. If you know what questions to ask from the start, you’ll avoid potential headaches and pitfalls along the way.
What’s your small business tax background?
First, determine a tax advisor’s credibility by asking about their specific small business tax background. Just because someone has prepared individual tax returns doesn’t mean they’re qualified to do your small business taxes. Also, years of experience matters, because they’ve had more time to learn about the credits and deductions available for small businesses.
For example, Marcie Rahn is a small business certified tax pro with Block Advisors. She is also an IRS Enrolled Agent (EA) with a Master of Accounting degree who’s prepared more than 500 returns for small businesses. Who would you be more inclined to trust with your business: Marcie, or your mom’s accountant (“the nicest guy in the world”) who doesn’t have small business tax experience?
You should also know the tax preparer’s area of expertise. Because you want advice that goes beyond tax theory and gets into applied, real-world experience. Think of it as ‘street-smarts’ for small business taxes.
How do you stay up-to-date on the latest tax laws and changes?
Tax laws are complicated, and they change every year, so you’ll want to find a tax advisor who understands the changes and can keep your business up-to-date and compliant. If you’re reluctant to ask this question, start by looking for a reputable company that invests in education and training for its tax advisors, like Block Advisors, a team within H&R Block.
Block Advisors tax pros have an average of 12 years of experience and hundreds of training hours, along with mandatory annual continuing education that is unique to the needs of self-employed individuals, small business owners and S Corp structures.
What are your professional credentials?
Some people will advise you to work with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for your small business taxes. That might be good advice, but remember, CPAs are accounting professionals who offer a range of financial services, including tax preparation and filing.
Other credentials qualify people to prepare small business taxes as well. For instance, Enrolled Agents (EAs) are tax professionals credentialed by the IRS or who have worked at the IRS for a minimum of five years.
Tax return preparers aren’t required to have professional credentials, although any person authorized to prepare a tax return for a fee needs to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN.
Many Block Advisors small business certified tax pros are CPAs or EAs and all have gone through specialized training to serve the unique needs of small business owners across a wide range of industries.
“Our proprietary small business certification is only available to our most senior tax specialists,” said Ian Hardman, Vice President and GM of Small Business at H&R Block. “These senior advisors seek this additional level of certification to demonstrate their continued devotion to helping small business owners succeed. It also signifies a consistent level of outstanding service across nearly 8,000 locations nationwide.”
Marcie Rahn shares a few other words of advice with aspiring small business owners.
“Look for someone who can take the time to help you lay the groundwork: how to keep good records, how to understand a profit and loss statement, how much to set aside for taxes. Also, look for someone who cares about your success: who asks about your dreams and goals, and what success means to you. You want someone who feels vested in your success, so that they take the time to help you make the most tax-savvy decisions and squeeze the most out of every deduction,” said Rahn.
Block Advisors, a team within H&R Block, is dedicated to meeting the tax, bookkeeping and payroll needs of small business owners year-round. To start working with the tax experts at Block Advisors, visit blockadvisors.com.