Have you considered the possibility of starting your own business and establishing your own firm in the industry of taxes? Have you wondered what the challenges and obstacles would be along this path, or what are the recommended practices by experts in the industry? Maybe you're looking to advance your career, improve your business, or simply want valuable recommendations from your colleagues. If you are searching or simply want to learn from the wisdom shared by experienced colleagues, you have come to the right place.
In this article, we share recommendations from leaders and mentors who partake in Puerto Rico's Tax Return preparation industry. From CEOs to partners, discover the valuable tips and experiences shared by your colleagues.
CPAs share their wisdom
What do you recommend to someone who wants to undertake and start their firm? What things should they take into account?
- Albert Tamarez: “Things don't happen overnight. They must have commitment, patience, and perseverance. You have to be willing to put in that extra effort to gain that knowledge."
- Raquel Ortiz: “They must have experience. Work for a firm and then, responsibly, you can start working for yourself."
- Eugenio Lomba: “Experience must come first. If you don't have it, you must purchase it, there is no shortcut. A person with experience could buy a practice already running or get together with several people and help themselves get a job."
- Miguel Fonseca: “The person must have some capital to support themselves. Be patient because it takes time to create a portfolio of clients."
- María de los Ángeles: “At first, it will be hard to acquire clients. You need resources, good credit, patience, and experience."
- Alejandro Méndez: “The experience and also, if you are going to associate with other people, that the skills that your partners have complement you. If I dedicate myself to taxes, let my partner dedicate myself to auditing. If both of them decide to go for the tax side, each one covers a different area of taxes and one of the owners has experience in accounting administration."
- Rolando Lopez: “First find something you like and then start to give formality to what the business would entail; all the necessary elements: If you are going to need financing, your budget, the goals, what is your business plan in the market that you are going to pursue."
- José Figueroa: “It's an uphill journey. There are a lot of CPAs in Puerto Rico, there are a lot of firms...take it easy. They have to start little by little. Do not take on a client for the sake of taking them on. Have a good work evaluation method. An agenda is critical. There are so many dates, there is so much to file, so many changes. Buy as many books as you can. And finally, seek help. Doing this alone is practically impossible, you have to know how to delegate responsibilities."
- Lilliam Cedeño: “First, you must commit. You have to be very responsible. You must focus on what the responsibilities and consequences are. You must organize and comply with everything that has to do with permits, licenses, or necessary documents and stay up to date on everything that is advice."
- José A. Tort: “Number 1: Know what you are doing. Setting up a firm without knowing what to do or without experience is not recommended. Number 2: Setting up a firm does not mean that you are going to work less, in reality, you have to be willing to work much more."
What is a tip you would share with other Accountants?
- Albert Tamarez: “Always be aware of innovations. “You have to pay attention to what the best trends are to be prepared for any event.”
- Raquel Ortiz: “Share. We are here to support each other.”
- Eugenio Lomba: “Form alliances, friendships, acquaintances – people you can call for consultations.”
- María de los Ángeles: “The balance does not really exist. At some moments the balance will tip one way and at other moments it'll tip the other way. The important thing is to know what you can control and what you cannot control.”
- Alejandro Méndez: “Continue to educate yourself, become a CPA, and gain experience. I will continue to insist on practice. I don't believe that someone who has been in the profession for 30 years already knows everything. You have to be hungry.”
- Rolando Lopez: “At university, education focuses on technical skills, however, soft skills are not so soft and make the big difference between resounding success and an average person. Critical thinking, customer service, communication, etc... anyone could learn to prepare spreadsheets, the difference between Juan and Pedro is established by them."
- José Figueroa: “It sounds strange, and I don't do it, but once a year, you must take a break, whether before the Tax Season or after it, but it must be done because you are going to burn out, mentally and physically. On the other hand, do physical exercise. The change I've noticed since I started exercising is drastic. It helps mentally, it helps physically, and it helps you go to sleep peacefully because you'll be getting rid of any accumulated steam from that day. They are little things that may not be tied directly to the profession, but they matter.”
- Lilliam Cedeño: “If new things have arisen, both in the Treasury Department and in the IRS, then they are things that I would be sharing with my colleagues. If information reaches me, I share it. You always have those colleagues with whom you consult, your community.”
- José A. Tort: “They must be extremely organized and not deliver their work past their corresponding due date, which is what 95% of accountants in PR do. Here, we have deadlines for two weeks before the delivery date.”
What advice do you have for someone interested in improving their service as an Accountant?
- Albert Tamarez: “We should all have something that makes us stand out in a group; do not be another cookie-cutter model of an Accountant."
- Raquel Ortiz: “Keep up to date on tax and corporate laws, on deals with clients, and work on being self-confident.”
- Eugenio Lomba: “Have fewer clients and charge well for your service. Treating your clients well will help you more in the long run.”
- Miguel Fonseca: “First you have to know where your fault is. You are going to need tools to improve your service and resources to help you improve that service.”
- María de los Ángeles: “Be up to date on what is happening and know your client. If you don't know what he needs, you can't offer him your services."
- Alejandro Méndez: “You must be organized so as not to cause your clients to be fined or not be able to give them access to something. That is important to them, something that saves costs for their company. So, pay attention to detail; Being organized is important.”
- Rolando Lopez: “It depends on what skills you have already identified, but in general terms, if you are an Accountant, it is important that you become interested in consulting.”
- José Figueroa: “Technology is important. We in Puerto Rico are still very focused on what paper is and that sets us back a lot. Thanks to Expert Tax, we have entered the digital era. We are little by little organizing the documents with EDi. Since Tax Returns are online, we use a tool where the client has their password and can enter, see their tax form, sign it, and from there they go to the Treasury. All this has reduced the processing of Tax Returns by about 70% of what it was before. It saves you a lot of time, so I think it's important to incorporate technology into your office. Let everything be automated. There are things I do on paper, but almost everything is already digitalized.”
- Lilliam Cedeño: “Accounting services and contribution services can be done by anyone. What will make the difference is what you offer, and how you stand out among your colleagues. The treatment, the communication, that extra mile that one gives in that service.”
- José A. Tort: “The most I see is that some people don't deliver their work on time. Newcomers and experienced Accountants alike have to constantly deliver what they promised: financial reports, spreadsheets, etc. Don't let everything accumulate until the last minute."
What do you think is the secret to keeping customers happy?
- Albert Tamarez: “Provide the service on time, dedicate the time they need to understand the services you offer and why they are necessary. Let there be an assessment by both parties."
- Raquel Ortiz: “Helping them and always being available to them. Seek the best alternatives under the law.”
- Eugenio Lomba: “Be responsible. Do the job well and get it out on time.”
- Miguel Fonseca: “The service. It's not the price. The service and quality of your work will attract clients.”
- María de los Ángeles: “Give them the necessary attention and manage their expectations. If you won't be able to make a deliverable by the established date, manage expectations on time, not on the day of. This goes hand in hand with delivering your work on the due date.”
- Alejandro Méndez: “Communication. You have to call clients. You have to attend to those emails and calls. It is not necessary to see each other constantly. It is important in every relationship – professional or personal.”
- Rolando Lopez: “The quality of service and continuous communication.”
- José Figueroa: “You keep them happy by being up to date with the laws because if you are up to date, you keep them ahead. Also, be honest with your client so that they remain happy.”
- Lilliam Cedeño: “Communication, guidance, service.”
- José A. Tort: “Deliver everything on time. Deliver the right job. Many can do the right job, but few will do it on time. Let the client know that you are going to deliver the work in a timely manner.”
How do you assure your client that their information is secure?
- Albert Tamarez: “Implementing the necessary practices and methodology to ensure that information. Reduce risks with appropriate measures: limit access, multifactor authenticator, etc.”
- Raquel Ortiz: “You try. I know that when it comes to applications, make sure they comply with all necessary security measures."
- Eugenio Lomba: “The use of software with integrated security measures, internet with protection, spam or weird email management. Security protocols are placed in the office. Still, nothing is 100%.”
- Miguel Fonseca: “You have to have tools, such as an antivirus, systems that ensure the prevention of intrusions. Constantly review and evaluate. Have an in-house or external IT team dedicated to the security of your data.”
- María de los Ángeles: “It is necessary to have an in-house IT team and if you don't have one, it is important to recruit an external team dedicated to it. Currently, we have an in-house IT team dedicated to all security issues.”
- Alejandro Méndez: “Confidentiality is important. I do not leave a laptop with client information alone, I take it with me wherever I need to. It has a code to be able to use it. If I haven't used it for a reasonable amount of time, the computer locks me out.”
- Rolando Lopez: “Nowadays it is easy for information to be stolen by so-called hackers, so it is important to have the software up to date; have firewalls in place, and integrate encryption practices.”
- José Figueroa: “We are currently working on having everything encrypted. Our IT person makes sure the firewalls are up to date.”
- Lilliam Cedeño: “Selecting the best programs, ensuring that these programs secure all client information and that there will be no loss of information.”
- José A. Tort: “With all the safeguards that we all know: passwords, employee authentication, firewalls, ensuring employee honesty, backup systems.”
What do you recommend every accountant should look for in a Tax Return preparation software?
- Albert Tamarez: “Make sure it has real alternatives for your range of clients, but at the same time you must know all the tax policies to ensure your compatibility with the software.”
- Raquel Ortiz: “That it makes the process of preparing tax forms easier for you.”
- Eugenio Lomba: “May it help you get the job done as soon as possible and as correctly as possible.”
- Miguel Fonseca: “You should look for a program that is reliable, that contains as few errors as possible, that is stable in its execution, that is fast, simple, and easy to use.”
- María de los Ángeles: “You should focus on finding software that is suitable for the size of your firm and your services. There are many programs, but not all of them will fit. You must select one that is as closely aligned with your services as possible. Keeping in mind the resources you have on hand, find the program that meets your needs. Finally, make it scalable, so you can grow with it.”
- Alejandro Méndez: “You should know the quality of service of that company, their tech support. The support provided by the company in charge of the program is very important. The other thing is to make sure it is a user-friendly platform, that is easy to use. One detail I look for is data validation. It is an important tool.”
- Rolando Lopez: “It is essential that it is user-friendly and that it leaves a trace of where all the information comes from.”
- José Figueroa: “Ensure that it is a complete program, will all the necessary elements you might need; that you can carry out different functionalities related to the spreadsheets all in one place."
- Lilliam Cedeño: “It should make the processes easier for you. Easy to use and easy to access. That the information is protected. That you can manage information easily. It should offer me more alternatives, not just the traditional tax form. In short, make the work I have to do easier for me.”
- José A. Tort: “Let it be reliable and quick. It should not have all the cells open, due to possible errors. Finally, it should have a lot of cross-checking.”
These responses from experienced CPAs in the field are just the beginning for those people interested in improving their contribution and experience within the world of Accounting.
These tips demonstrate how the combination of technical knowledge and interpersonal skills will be the secret to standing out, advancing your career, and ensuring exceptional service.