CPAs Think Bookkeepers are Dumb. Here's Why That's a Good ThingDec 11, 2022
News flash: CPAs think bookkeepers are dumb.
I could put it more kindly, but there’s really no point. It’s just the truth: CPAs just think bookkeepers are a bit stupid. Even qualified bookkeepers.
Now, I've been on both sides of this. I’ve been the CPA, and I’ve been the underestimated bookkeeper. Even if the CPA hasn’t actually said or done anything wrong, the bookkeeper often feels that they're treated as lesser than, or as if the CPA doubts what they’re saying. They're not given the benefit of the doubt by their client's tax preparers.
And honestly, for the most part…this is not terribly inaccurate. You are going to run into this battle as a bookkeeper, even as a qualified one.
However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. You can turn this into an opportunity, if you handle it carefully.
If you take nothing else from this, I want you to know that if you feel like you're up against a sea of CPAs or tax preparers for your clients, and you feel like they don't give you the benefit of the doubt or they treat you like you're an idiot, you’re not being dramatic. You may very well be right. And that's an opportunity, because that gives you the chance to be something different. You get to be a qualified bookkeeper who does their job well.
Surprise the CPA
If you hold your ground in the conversation and are kind and respectful of their overwhelm and time, you’re already two parts of the way to a more positive experience working with CPAs. The third?
Just be good at your job.
The thing is, this misconception CPAs have about bookkeepers? It’s there for a reason. There are a lot of bad bookkeepers that have given them this impression, and you get to surprise them by being a qualified bookkeeper instead.
When you're a qualified bookkeeper, not only are you going to be less rattled by an assumption that somebody who doesn't know you might have, but when you do your job and you do it well, the work is going to speak for itself. That’s the best way to build trust and rapport in your relationships with your client's CPA; getting defensive will only solidify their feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing. Instead, cling to your confidence, and let the work do the talking.
If you impress CPAs and prove you’re a qualified bookkeeper, it can potentially lead to really great partnerships and sources of referrals, so don’t discount that relationship based on hurt feelings or hurt pride.
What Might Actually Be Happening…
Now, I have seen some CPAs who really do act as if bookkeepers are stupid. However, I will say that it's not the case all of the time.
CPAS don't have a lot of time to coddle your feelings. So sometimes what's actually happening is that you’re being too sensitive. Otherwise, they may get short with you if you’re being very verbose, or if you’re asking for time of theirs for free (whether you realize you’re doing it or not).
Even if you’re not doing these things and you are a qualified bookkeeper, they may have been burned before. They may have had their time wasted by bookkeepers in the past. So, while your feeling that they’re dismissing you without cause could be valid, I wouldn’t go into relationships with tax preparers and just assume that they think that you're an idiot.
Tips for Communicating with CPAs
Here are a few tips for communicating smoothly with CPAs and proving you’re a qualified bookkeeper:
Firstly, be concise and respectful in your communication. Understand that they don't have a lot of time to coddle your emotions, so what you need to do is cut all communication down to the necessary pieces. What do you need from them? How is it going to benefit them and the client?
I suggest wording it this way: “Hey, CPA! Nice to meet you. I recently started working with your client, CLIENT NAME, as their bookkeeper, and I have a couple of quick questions about how you want to see things categorized so that come tax time, it's really organized and useful for you.”
A lot of times, I also ask them which way would be easiest to communicate, but that’s about it. In that email, I like to keep it really short. If they're reading it on an iPhone, I want it to be short enough that they don't have to scroll. Shoot for that length. And wherever you're being wordy, strike out those extra words. Their tired eyes don't have time to read it, trust me. Get it concise and clear and to the point.
Respect The Job
Next, understand that these CPAs and tax preparers are very, very, very overworked and overwhelmed. It has always been a very busy, hectic, and overwhelming job, but in the last few years with COVID and the IRS getting so behind and all of these new rules and regulations that have not stopped coming out, it’s gotten even worse.
On top of that, the work is complex. There's a reason why even qualified bookkeepers shy away from that job, so we want to be kind and gracious to the tax preparers in the world. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
We as bookkeepers don't want to get into the tax profession, and that's fine, but let's respect that they're doing a hard job.
Why Good CPA Relationships Matter
As a qualified bookkeeper, I do care about having good relationships with my clients’ tax preparers. I find them to be extremely beneficial relationships, and when I'm respectful of them, they're respectful of me.
When we're on the same page, both of our jobs are easier, and we're both advocating the best that we can for our client, which means we both have a happy client, not a frazzled client. So even if this CPA doesn't become a source of referrals for you in the future, at least working with them and your client is going to be good.
If You Want to KNOW That You’re A Qualified Bookkeeper…
So, how can you know that you're a qualified bookkeeper? If you want to be absolutely certain that you know what you’re doing when you interact with CPAs, you should take a look at my program BABS, or Become a Bookkeeper.
If you’re here, you're probably familiar with that program, but if not, you can either listen to Episode 46 of the Profits + Prosecco podcast, or you can head to my free virtual on-demand event, the Six Secrets to Running a Simple Scalable Bookkeeping Business, which you can access right now at https://www.katieferro.com/6-secrets.
That event will walk you through what the program is, what the promise is, and show you the behind-the-scenes of what you're going to learn.
Essentially, you're going to learn how to be a qualified bookkeeper. You're going to learn how to achieve the quality of work that you need to in order to make a tax preparer and your client happy.
We also cover the basics of tax with the purpose of having educated conversations with your client and with tax preparers while still deferring to the experts. It will also show you things to look for in the books that other people might not be telling you.
To enroll in BABs and learn how to be a qualified bookkeeper who actually knows what she's doing, head to www.katieferro.com/become.
To learn about the program and get a peek behind the curtain, head to www.katieferro.com/6-secrets.
To check out current Tech Talks or to buy the Tech Talk Vault Annual Pass, visit www.katieferro.com/coaching.