What Goes into the Sale of a CPA Practice?

Building a successful and sustainable CPA practice is an investment of money, sweat, and tears that can go on for several decades. At some point, there comes a time when it is time to move on and enjoy retirement. And if you do not have someone in your family for whom you can pass your business along, there is one final transaction to make; selling your practice. To ensure that your sale is as smooth and profitable as you want it to be, it is important to know what to expect when it comes time to sell.

Financial Statements: An accounting practice more than any other type of business will be expected to have accurate and detailed financial statements for the prospective buyer. Be sure to have at least your past two years of financials for the buyer to review. This may also include the personal tax returns of the practice owner(s) and/or board of directors. These personal statements may need to be viewed as additional verification that the business is profitable.

Current List of Clientele: A buyer will want to have an up-to-date list of all current clients to gain insight into the long-term sustainability of the practice and to arrive at a final business valuation. They may also want to know details about your clients, the personal relationships between your clients and your staff, and the overall likelihood of retaining most if not the entire present book of business.

What Training and Assistance is Available: It is helpful for the present owner to offer extended assistance in retaining the current clients, as well as other key factors toward helping the buyer transition into a successful takeover of the practice. If the buyer feels that he/she is able to rely on the present owner to remain available for a set period of time to help deal with any issues that may come up, it adds an additional layer of security to the purchase.

Are You Willing to Finance: If a buyer cannot obtain the necessary financing to buy your practice, they may ask if you are willing to personally finance a portion of the purchase. Only the seller can make the decision on whether to finance or under what circumstances. This will depend on your personal circumstances and your comfort level in maintaining a financial relationship (for a time) with the party that purchases your practice.

Confidentiality: Typically when someone decides to sell a CPA practice, this information is not something the seller wants to become public information. If word leaks out about an impending sale, it could upset staff members and some clients so confidentiality may be necessary. Be sure to partner with a business broker that understands the important issues around the sale of an accounting practice, especially the need to keep things confidential.

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