What to look for in a CPA (Proceedings)


There is an old adage in the accounting industry: a good CPA should offer a shoulder to cry on, an arm to lean on, and a strong back to climb on.

There is an old adage in the accounting industry: a good CPA should offer a shoulder to cry on, an arm to lean on, and a strong back to climb on.

When looking for a Certified Public Accountant you should be looking for someone who:

  • Understands the veterinary industry

  • Has specific knowledge and experience of the management, financial, and tax issues applicable to the veterinary industry.

  • You feel comfortable with

  • Can assist you in achieving your personal and financial goals

There are not many accountants and CPAs who specialize in the veterinary industry. A veterinarian needs a CPA that understands Production, ACT, Staff Costs, Animal Care Costs, Occupancy Costs, and Value of your practice.

This is a person who is part of your inner core of business advisors along with your banker, lawyer, trust/estate lawyer, and investment advisor. The accountant should be relied on to assist you in the purchase/sale of your practice, the valuation of your practice, the analysis of management information, and assist you in making decisions as simple as financing or leasing a new digital radiography machine to complicated associate compensation formulas, as well as the normal governmental tax filings

We accountants are not known to have the most charming and fresh personalities, but personality and attitude are as important to you as it is to a client coming into your practice for veterinary services. Make sure this person is someone you can respect, and who will match as much as possible your compatibility requirements.

Once you have located an accountant you may want to do business with, you need to check references. You can obviously start with your fellow peers on their experience as it relates to service, competence, and costs. The veterinary industry is small, and the business area you practice in should have veterinarians you can contact.

The accounting industry is not much different than the veterinary industry when it comes to costs. A CBC in Sioux City, Iowa does not cost the same as in New York City or San Francisco for reasons of staff salaries, rent, etc. Also, there is a cost related to someone specializing in a particular industry. Yes you can have a veterinarian who just does the outpatient services, and then there are veterinarians who can do all the medical and surgical procedures for almost any medical need. The same is true for accountants, so sometimes it is a matter of what you need the accountant to do - just give the animal its shots, or perform an ultrasound. I trust you get my point here, and what you want your accountant to do will probably determine the cost.

What you want and need an accountant to do should be spelled out in an engagement letter. Most accountants will ask you what you want them to do, and walk you through a checklist of services they feel may apply to your situation. The engagement letter should be very specific as to what the accountant is responsible for i.e. preparing financial statements, tax returns, etc., and also what they are not responsible for i.e. fraud, etc.

Choosing an accountant should be done with extreme care, because of the effect this person can have on your financial success.

This person is part of the banker, lawyer, estate/trust lawyer, and investment advisor team. So, please do your homework, and the more of your personal and business plans and goals you bring to the table, the more expertise and value you will get from your accountant.

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