Small business owners change their Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, for many reasons. Sometimes the CPA can no longer provide the level of service the business owner is looking for. The business may have grown extremely quickly or extended services outside the CPA's realm of expertise. Other times the CPA and small business owner do not see eye to eye on certain issues, and one of the parties ends the relationship. Whatever the reason for changing your CPA, there are steps to follow to ensure you obtain all the documents necessary so the new CPA will be able to service your business in a seamless transition.

Call your old CPA and discuss the transition if you have not already done so. Request copies of all business-related documents for the years the CPA provided services, including federal and state tax returns, financial statements, general ledgers, trial balance (both unadjusted and adjusted), adjusting journal entries, balance sheets, income statements, statements of cash flow, quarterly sales and payroll tax returns and correspondence from tax authorities.

Arrange a date that your previous CPA will have these documents available for pick up or sent directly to the new CPA. Due to the confidential nature of this information, some CPAs prefer you pick up the documents and/or sign a release. The release should include an itemized list of documents turned over to you by the CPA. A release can be signed and sent back to the CPA via mail, fax or email if the documents are going to be mailed directly to the new CPA instead of being picked up.

Call your new CPA to advise him of the date to expect the documents.

Follow up with the old CPA in two business days if the documents were not received by the new firm. Schedule a new date for document production with the old CPA. Be firm but respectful. Ending a business relationship does not always proceed smoothly. Your old CPA may not respond quickly to your request for documents. Do not be discouraged. Provide adequate time for your previous CPA to respond.


If the documents you receive are original documents, your old CPA should not charge any fees. However, if you are being provided with copies of documents, your old CPA may charge you for the time spent by his office staff for making the copies. Being charged for copies is not normal practice as the copies are usually provided as a courtesy.


If you call your old CPA during the traditional tax season, January through April, do not expect him to respond to your request quickly. Your new CPA will likely have to prepare extensions for your business and personal tax returns and wait for documents until after tax season is over.