The Best Time to Change CPAs: Different than you think

Colleen Richards |

Last year my husband and I knew there was something wrong with our boiler, in the basement of our house. We knew this because we lost heat in the house during the winter – twice. We learned that repairing it would involve dismantling part of it and having no heat for a day. Our plumber, whom we see around town, admonished us several times to make arrangements with him to take care of it during that summer, when our need for heat would be close to zero. And we finally did, one week last summer – it was the last thing I wanted to be bothered to do, but when winter and snow came, boy were we happy, and relieved.

On a topic only slightly more scintillating than boilers: income taxes. I get it. In February or March, you’re knee-deep in Turbo Tax or the 50-page tax organizer that you dread receiving every year from your CPA. You have a vague recollection from last year that you really hate this, for one reason or another. Maybe you hate doing it yourself and have wanted to outsource your tax preparation. Or maybe your CPA is just grumpy and you just don’t like working with him (or her). Then you remember: Ohh, right! Every year at about this time, you swear you’re going to hire someone, make a change, start fresh. 

But then you don’t. Either it feels too rushed – you’re already into this current round of taxes, so you might as well finish them. Or, you send a few emails and realize that you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a tax preparer who is willing to take on a new client during the month of March. And also, it’s admittedly just a lousy task – who wants to spend their spare time researching and hiring a new CPA? It’s like hiring an attorney, or, dare I say, a financial advisor: perhaps (hopefully!) ultimately a positive change, but really never at the top of anyone’s to do list.

So, you wait another year.

I have good news for you. Starting in the late spring, and through the summer, you have an ideal window of a few months in which to hire a CPA. By then, they’ve all woken up from their post-April 15th naps. There are a couple of summer deadlines that will occupy them briefly, but otherwise there is a stretch until around September 1st, where their lives are relatively quiet. If a preparer were to take on a new client, they would welcome making that transition during the summer. 

The summer is an optimal season for CPA-hunting for a few other reasons. First, there’s time to actually meet in person. (How old-fashioned!) Plus, there’s plenty of time to send copies of files, for the preparer to get to know your tax situation, and to potentially prepare any needed amended filings without being rushed. 

Often, friends or neighbors should be able to make a referral to a tax preparer that they enjoy working with. Your financial advisor should be able to recommend a preparer in your area, as well. Or, your state’s society of CPA’s web site should have a “find a CPA” search feature (for those in Massachusetts, click HERE).

If this is a task that has been gnawing at you, consider biting this bullet during the summer months. You can thank me next tax season when you are relieved to remember that this unexciting but necessary chore has already been taken care of.