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You can treat an accountant like a numbers pusher, or as a member of your team. Given the accountant's expertise and potential for caring independent advice, it is better to treat your accountant as a member of your team.

If you are a small business owner or are self employed:

  • Let the accountant know that you want the accountant to share with you everything he or she sees in the numbers and in your business in general -- including gut reactions.
  • Let your accountant know you are open to bad news as well as good news.
  • It is ideal to meet with an accountant at least 3 times a year so you catch things earlier rather than later. 

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Find out from the accountant what records you need to keep and for how long -- especially back-up receipts and documents.

Determine what's the easiest way for you to keep necessary records. In manila folders? A file drawer? On the computer?

Keep your costs down, and maximize your time with the accountant, by preparing ahead of time. If your receipts are all in a shopping bag, have someone with less than an accountant's expertise organize them for you. This could even be by a friend's high school age child.

If you receive tax notices from the IRS, state or local authorities, talk with your accountant right away so you or she can take whatever steps may be necessary within deadlines.


Businesses should meet with an accountant at least three times a year.

  • The first meeting should be after the financials are in for the first six months of your fiscal year. It's a good time to review how the business is going, where the numbers indicate changes can or should be made, and any general advice the accountant may have.
  • Two to three months prior to the end of your fiscal year to determine if there are steps to be taken to minimize taxes for the year.
  • After the financials are prepared at the end of the year to discuss how the business has been doing, and whatever advice the accountant may have.
  •  If you have a board of directors, the accountant should meet with at least a representative of the board. If the board is large enough, there should be a meeting with the finance and/or audit committee.

Ask your accountant to meet with your bookkeeper to be sure the person is technically right for the job. If you are hiring a new bookkeeper, ask the accountant to meet the likely candidates to determine ability as well as whether they can work together.

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