Paul Downs: What Should I Ask of My Accountant?

Paul Downs: What Should I Ask of My Accountant?

We’re continuing our series with guest writer, Paul Downs, author of the forthcoming book Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business

I managed to stay in business for 17 years before I hired an accountant. I did my own taxes, almost certainly incorrectly, but never got in trouble for it. (Hmmm. Probably overpaid every year.) My bookkeeping was a disaster: the classic receipts-in-the-shoebox approach. In my defense, I started my business in 1986, before Quickbooks existed, and didn’t get a computer until 1997.

When I finally retained an accountant, in 2003, it wasn’t for day-to-day help. I used her only for taxes at the end of the year. I would send her a Quickbooks file in January, and get back a pile of tax forms a month or so later. It was all neatly arranged, with clear directions where to sign and what checks to write. I appreciated that. During the rest of the year, I relied on a bookkeeper to enter the bills and income into Quickbooks, and managed cash flow myself. This led to lots of trouble, because I didn’t really know how to manage the cash. But I was too busy with my day-to-day struggles to fix this.

In 2010 I took advantage of my blog in the Times to ask for help. It’s a short post, and the good stuff is in the comments. Summary: there are different kinds of accountants. Some are hands-off, but you can hire others who will be as involved in your business as you want them to be.

If you are wondering about your relationship with your accountant, take a look:

What Should I Ask of My Accountant?

Paul Downs is the author of Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business.

Paul Downs

Paul Downs started making custom furniture in 1986, shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in engineering. Downs has only one line on his résumé but he has a wide variety of skills gained in twenty-four years of running his business. His clients range from individuals and small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, all branches of the military, and foreign governments. Downs lives with his wife and three sons outside of Philadelphia.