If you don’t want to lose your mind during tax season or get nailed by Uncle Sam when you sell your property, you need to hire an excellent bookkeeper and CPA.
When you are looking for a CPA, you are trying to find someone that has experience working with real estate investors and syndicators. You want to know if they are already working with investors today. They need to able to not only grasp how to handle the basics of income and expenses as it relates to multifamily, but also be very well versed with all the tax advantages and specialized investor reporting.
If they know about syndication but don’t work with syndicators today, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t work with them. Regardless, working with a CPA that works with syndicators already will be less expensive to start as they do not need to run up the hours – and you are paying for! They need to understand how to implement the various tax deductions and understand the syndication business model to be most effective.
Now, if they do not work with syndicators today and they are not familiar with apartment syndication – and you really want to work with them – schedule a call with them. Aside from assessing their ability to grasp the concepts, you will want to ask them how their fees are structured, are there fees if you need them to review financials for upcoming deals, what they charge to prepare a tax return and their bookkeeping fees. If you have outside investors, you will also want to know the cost to prepare quarterly and annual reports.
Once you get the fees down, you will want to know who you will be dealing with at the firm. If they want to charge you top dollar, you should expect to be advised by a partner or a mid-level CPA.
If you want to take an aggressive stand on your taxes, a conservative CPA would not be a good fit. You rely on the CPA to prepare your return. You want them to apply every loophole and tax strategy available – legally and ethically of course. In some cases, you may want them to push the limits on your tax returns. The CPA should also be able to handle the IRS and any audits that may come up.
You will also want to look at the tech ability. Do they have a portal that you can access for your reports? Do they offer a portal to your investors? Do they take security seriously?
When it comes to tax planning and strategy, you want the CPA to be proactive and establish a regular meeting to discuss how the property is performing and what you can do to protect your income from the federal and state taxes.
Take the time to set the expectations for your needs. If you were not happy with your previous CPA, let the future CPA know what went wrong. If they had a communication issue or were not proactive with their tax planning strategy, point it out.
As I pointed out earlier, you want to determine if the CPA is aligned with your goals, interests and future before signing them onto your team.
Finally, as you continue building your multifamily business, you want a team that can scale. This includes your CPA. If you choose a beginner that has never handled a syndication to be your CPA and your plan is to buy properties every quarter, you may experience issues. You need someone that can grow with you. Make sure your interview questions are deep and you are comfortable with their ability to deliver.
Let me know what you think. What questions did you ask your CPA? Leave them in the comments.