10 ways to distinguish a great CPA from a good one

By | March 12, 2020

Choosing a CPA isn’t easy. How can you tell if you’ll get the sound advice and high-quality services you need? Most people base the decision on a combination of personal recommendations, industry niche, fee structure and location. Once you’ve established the relationship, your experience as a client lets you know whether you’re dealing with a good CPA or you should move on.

As long as you’re getting good service and helpful advice, why keep looking? Actually, you might want to consider other options even if you’re convinced your CPA is doing a good job. That’s because while ‘good’ is, by definition, a positive thing, ‘great’ is even better. Some CPAs deliver an outstanding performance that goes above and beyond expectations to support you and your business. These ten differences can help you determine if you’re dealing with a perfectly good CPA or one that’s truly great.

  1. A good CPA has time to take your calls. Nobody likes reaching out only to be ignored, so a good CPA makes time for you when you need him. A great one, however, takes your calls but also contacts you unexpectedly to offer a heads up about legislative changes, keep you abreast of industry developments, discuss upcoming challenges and help you anticipate future needs.
  2. A good CPA knows what’s happening in your industry. Industry-specific insights are one of the things you rely on from your CPA. But while a good one can tell you what’s happening now, a great CPA follows the industry from every angle, allowing her to accurately predict what will happen and help you position your business to benefit from new developments.
  3. A good CPA keeps up with evolving technology. Accounting is changing rapidly in the digital age. New technology means everyone has to keep learning in order to keep up. Great CPAs don’t stop there; they stay on top of emerging technologies and employ them in the practice to maximize client convenience, provide a seamless client experience and protect your sensitive financial information.
  4. A good CPA participates in ongoing professional development. Lifetime learning is mandatory for any good accountant. Great CPAs distinguish themselves by taking this practice to the next level, learning everything they can about accounting and the issues that affect their clients. In addition, they make sure office staff also keep learning so clients get current information and skillsets no matter who they’re talking to.
  5. A good CPA has a strong network of accounting peers and related advisors. Sometimes a particularly thorny issue demands a second opinion or a specialist, so a good CPA relies on a network of other qualified professionals to help him meet client needs. A great CPA’s network includes regulatory and tax professionals in addition to colleagues, because solving client accounting challenges is often faster and more effective with an insider’s view of the same issues from the other side.
  6. A good CPA behaves ethically. Professional ethics are a must for accountants, and you wouldn’t accept any less. But a great CPA makes ethics a priority by participating in regular ethics training and attending to the nuances of ethical standards as they change over time. Understanding how ethical guidelines apply within tricky situations allows great CPAs to make the right call every time.
  7. A good CPA listens to your ideas. You know your business, so a good CPA is always ready to weigh in on the ideas you bring her. A great CPA listens but also presents ideas to you, coming up with suggestions and growth strategies based on a deep understanding of your business as well as your personal short- and long-term goals.
  8. A good CPA helps you handle a crisis. When things go wrong, good CPAs guide their clients through the storm and help clean up the mess. Great CPAs tend to focus on identifying risks to keep potential problems from occurring in the first place. They can’t prevent every disaster, but they watch closely and help you stave off unwanted outcomes with their proactive stance.
  9. A good CPA is someone you can turn to for advice. When clients have questions or concerns, a good CPA has the answers you need. But clients aren’t the only ones with questions. Great CPAs display a level of expertise and professionalism so distinctive that state and federal tax authorities and regulatory agencies turn to them for guidance and feedback on prospective accounting changes, regulatory actions and agent training.
  10. A good CPA pays for himself. A good CPA’s fees are clearly worth the cost, saving you money by keeping you in compliance and making sure your accounting is sound. A great CPA may cost more but delivers tax strategies, business ideas and industry insights that add so much value the relationship creates a substantial net gain for clients.

If your current provider isn’t meeting the ‘good CPA’ standards on this list, you definitely need a new accountant. But most do a good job, so if you’re happy with your CPA you don’t necessarily have to consider a change. Just be aware that though few and far between, there are CPAs out there who can deliver far more than what a good CPA provides for clients.