In today's world of regulated business, there is increasing pressure on companies to have transparency in their financial statements. This push from shareholders and government agencies has caused a large increase in the need for external accounting, transforming audit and tax services into a commodity. The fact that these firms are now so popular means they will offer you many discounts and incentives to obtain your business as a client. In order to obtain the correct firm, it is important to know what type of service professional you need.
First, you need to prioritize the main reason in reaching out to a professional. If you are looking specifically for help with taxes or tax planning there are many small firms available to assist your business. Many of these firms can be franchises such as H&R Block or LedgerPlus or they can also be local private firms. Before committing, it is important to look at the tax firm's employees. Many will have what is called an EA, or enrolled agent. These are licensed tax professionals who are certified by the IRS after taking a test covering all types of business taxes from public to private. This type of professional will be able to do sufficient work for a small business and can be significantly cheaper than hiring a larger or public accounting firm.
If your company is in need of an audit for shareholders, or you are a private firm looking for a professional audit, it is a good idea to go with a public accounting firm. These large firms consist of Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs. CPAs are held to the highest standards by the PCAOB and have to pass a rigorous test and continue education throughout their career. Although public firms will bill you more, they hold themselves to a much higher standard for quality of work. Also, public accounting firms will do a preliminary audit of your business before they decide to take on your company as a client. This is to make sure they do not see any red flags or feel that they could give your company an adverse opinion.
Because of this, you can trust these public firms more being that they do not want to be liable for assuring your financial statements if it later comes out your company has committed fraud. Another bonus of a public firm is their representation if there is ever any litigation against your business. Many times upset shareholders want to sue a publicly traded company because they lost their investment based on so called misleading financial statements. In this case the accounting firm will stand up for you in court and defend your numbers against the prosecuting party.
These are just two basic reasons to choose an accounting firm to help your business. It is very important to evaluate your individual situation before deciding on a specific accounting professional.