Top 5 Traits of a Great Tax Accountant

January 27, 2015


As a small business owner, your accountant is a crucial piece of your business’ operational puzzle. If you are on the hunt for a tax accountant, you have discovered by now that there is a dizzying array of accountants and firms from which to choose. When you begin to consider the many ways in which a tax accountant can help your business remain financially sound and stable, locating a highly qualified tax professional becomes a vital venture. The process of finding a tax accountant can no doubt be quite trying, but the payoffs are significant—especially for your business’ bottom line. When choosing a tax accountant, it is best to first consider what you are looking for in a tax professional. With that said, we’ve compiled what we feel are the top five traits of a great tax accountant:

1 – An unmistakable love of taxes

A great tax accountant is one who lives and breathes tax codes and new tax laws. In other words, it is best to choose a tax accountant who specializes in taxes; not an accountant who also happens to do taxes. Keep in mind that the accounting profession is quite diverse, and not all accountants are experts in all areas of accounting. A good place to start is to look for a tax accountant with an extensive background in the field, enrolled agent (EA) status with the IRS, as well as a laundry list of industry-specific continuing professional education (CPE).

2 – A strong commitment to the profession

Let’s be clear: any accountant can offer general accounting services, but certainly not every one is qualified to do so as a tax expert. In Canada, a tax specialist with a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified General Accountant (CGA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation is likely your best bet.

In the U.S., a tax accountant with a certified public accountant (CPA) designation is likely your best bet, as CPAs are uniquely vetted in their adherence to ethical accounting standards and conduct. This is because CPA licensure requirements include courses in ethics, and often a state mandated ethics exam. More information on CPA requirements can be found at Accounting Edu. In addition, a tax accountant involved with industry groups shows a clear commitment to the accounting profession. In particular, it may be a good idea to search for tax accountants who hold membership in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) or even state-specific professional organizations, as they require their members to stay current with the latest changes in accounting and tax codes.

3 – A desire to understand your business

Tax accounting is never a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Therefore, a good tax accountant is one who takes the time to understand your business. The better your accountant understands your business and the more time he or she takes to learn about all aspects of your business, the more likely you will have a tax accountant who will actively search for ways to make your business stronger, more stable and more profitable well into the future.

4 – A knack for clearing up the complicated

The reason you need a tax accountant is because you aren’t a master of taxes. So the last thing you need is someone who talks to you in tax language you don’t understand and sends invoices you must attempt to translate. A tax accountant should make your life easier—well, at least when it comes to your small business tax matters—so an attractive trait of a good tax accountant is certainly the ability to decode those complicated tax issues and present it in language you can understand.

5 – A bordering-on-obsessive need for organization

It may seem rather odd, but no, not all tax accountants are organizational mavens. An organized tax accountant is much less likely to produce delays or errors in tax preparation and is much more likely to catch mistakes, omissions or oversights before they develop into issues that could result in penalties due to unpaid tax obligations. Luckily, it is quite easy to get a good idea of a tax accountant’s organizational skills simply by observing communications, correspondence and interactions. Remember: your tax accountant should be reminding and prompting you regarding your business taxes, not the other way around!

If you’re on the hunt for an accountant check out the FreshBooks FAN Map to find one in your neighbourhood who specializes in FreshBooks.


about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.