Accounting professionals offer a wide range of services, and the way they deliver those services varies just as dramatically. Taxes and financial decisions can be intimidating under the best of circumstances. When you’re not happy with your accountant, it’s hard to know whether the problem lies with your provider or simply a difficult situation. How can you tell if you’re getting the best value from your CPA? The following chart will help you assess your accountant objectively.

If your experience isn’t all it should be, it might be time to look for a different CPA. Sometimes, however, the mismatch stems from unrealistic expectations rather than inadequate service by the provider. Before you decide your CPA isn’t up to snuff, ensure that what you are asking your accountant to do aligns with the provider’s offerings and the services you are requesting and paying for.

Are my expectations realistic?

  1. Are you asking for things that are outside of that person’s knowledge/expertise? If you expect someone to be a solid business advisor, but they’re more comfortable sitting at a desk and filling out forms, there’s a mismatch.
  2. Are you asking for more than you are paying for or willing to pay for? Did your CPA offer a service that you declined due to the associated pricing, but you still have an expectation that the work will be performed? Low cost and high value tend to be negatively correlated.
  3. Are you asking for something that’s outside the scope of the engagement? If you engage a CPA solely to perform a review of your financial statements, then detecting internal fraud is probably outside the scope of that project.
  4. Do you think giving a CPA access to your financial records to perform one task means that he or she should perform others? If you give your CPA your books solely to prepare periodic sales tax report, it’s probably not reasonable to expect that (s)he would also be looking to see whether your profit margins have been declining.

Finding the right fit between provider, performance and expectations can be tricky. It’s worth the effort though, because a good relationship with the right provider can make a big impact on your financial picture as well as your comfort level. Be honest about your needs and your expectations, and then find a provider who consistently delivers the quality and service you deserve. This relationship is too important to settle for “meh.”