The “I Got a CPA” Update

Ellen FanshawA little over a month ago, I wrote about how I finally went out and got a CPA after a CSR working for an automated tax software program told me “you really need a professional to do your taxes.”

Here is how my CPA experience went! I am curious if it was anything like other people’s experiences with CPAs and financial advisers.

1. I had no idea how much it was going to cost. 

My CPA’s website didn’t have any rates listed, which is fine, but it took me to the end of our first in-person meeting (after a few phone conversations) to finally say “um… what do you charge, and is it by hour or by project?”

It was per hour, and since some of those hours happened without me in the room I really didn’t have any idea what my bill would be until I received it. That, of course, made me nervous because I like to plan things in advance, but it turned out fine.

2. I didn’t have to sit down and explain every receipt or every client who paid me income.

One of the reasons I procrastinated on getting a CPA for so long was because I thought it would be like the CPA scenes in Slings and Arrows (the ones where actor Ellen Fanshaw is forced to literally hold up one receipt at a time and tell her CPA why it was an essential business purchase). It was less about holding up the receipts — mine are organized enough that it wouldn’t be a problem — but the time it would take to go through that process. I didn’t have days I could take off work for this.

But, as it turned out, Slings and Arrows is nothing like real life. (I should have guessed that they took artistic license with real life; after all, one of their lead characters is a ghost.) I turned in all my lovely well-kept records, explained what they meant, and that was that. I didn’t have to spend hours holding up one receipt at a time.

3. I’m all set for both this year and next year.

My CPA not only did my 2013 taxes, he also told me what I needed to be paying for the last half of my 2014 estimated taxes. This was huge, because I had underpaid my 2013 estimated taxes, mostly because I ended up earning more money in 2013 than I had expected I would at the beginning of that calendar year.

So now I know what I need to pay for 2013, what I need to pay for 2014, and how much I should be putting aside in a special tax savings account, which is absolutely essential to freelancing and something I had not been doing previously.

All in all I recommend CPAs.

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