Diamond Certified Companies are Rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise.

  • Why this rating is the most accurate.
  • Our editors gather deep company info.
  • Performance is Guaranteed.

Diamond certified companies are top rated and guaranteed

Why Trust Diamond Certified Accounting Firms Rated Highest in Quality?

An accountant discusses financial matters with her clients.

You are the customer. If your goal is to choose an accounting service that will deliver high customer satisfaction and quality, you’ll feel confident in choosing a Diamond Certified accountant. Each has been rated Highest in Quality in the most accurate ratings process anywhere. And you’re always backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. Here’s why the Diamond Certified ratings and certification process will help you find a top-rated accounting service and is unparalleled in its accuracy, rigor and usefulness:

1) Accuracy: All research is performed by live telephone interviews that verify only real customers are surveyed, so you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews.

2) Statistical Reliability: A large random sample of past customers is surveyed on an ongoing basis so the research results you see truly reflect a Diamond Certified company’s top-rated status.

3) Full Disclosure: By clicking the name of a company above you’ll see the exact rating results in charts and read verbatim survey responses as well as researched articles on each qualified company.

4) Guaranteed: Your purchase is backed up with mediation and the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you can choose with confidence.

Click on the name of a Diamond Certified company above to read ratings results, researched articles and verbatim customer survey responses to help you make an informed decision.

More than 200,000 customers of local companies have been interviewed in live telephone calls, and only companies that score Highest in Quality in customer satisfaction–a 90+ on a 100 scale–as well as pass all of the credential-based ratings earn Diamond Certified. By requiring such a high score to qualify, the Diamond Certified program eliminates mediocre and poorly performing companies. Read detailed information about the ratings and certification process.




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Charles Sterck is partner at Sterck Kulik O’Neill Accounting Group, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2005. He can be reached at (415) 433-4500 or by email.

Charles Sterck

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Charles Sterck: A Process of Achievement

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO – After he graduated college, Charles Sterck wasn’t planning on being hired by a prestigious financial firm, but when it happened, he didn’t take his good fortune for granted. “Fresh out of school, I started working for Forbes & Company, which is the largest CPA firm on the west coast,” he says. “It was an amazing organization to work for, but it was also a very competitive environment. Fortunately, I enjoyed the daily challenges I faced and was able to succeed through a lot of hard work and diligence.”

Charles made his way through several financial firms before eventually becoming partner at what is now Sterck Kulik O’Neill Accounting Group, Inc. After 20 years with the firm, he says his focus remains the same as when he first started: to help small- and medium-sized businesses thrive in a challenging economy. “There’s no question that my favorite part of what I do is working with local business owners to help them overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.”

Born in Hong Kong, Charles came to the United States as an infant and was raised in the Bay Area. Despite having traveled all over the world, he says there’s no place quite like his San Francisco home. “I’ve visited many places, including much of Europe and Asia, and while I appreciate the distinctive things those cultures have to offer, I still think San Francisco is the most special place in the world. Cultural diversity, great food, amazing people—we pretty much have it all.”

Outside of work, Charles devotes much of his time to his great passion: breeding canaries. “I breed 30 to 40 pairs of birds each year, and it’s something I’ve been doing off and on for the past three decades,” he says. “I have an outdoor aviary on my property that typically houses about 450 birds by the end of breeding season.” Additionally, Charles stays actively involved in his local community, serving as treasurer of the San Francisco Food Bank and volunteering as a facilitator for the AIDS Health Project.

Whether in regard to his personal interests or his professional career, Charles says success is all about process. “As a financial professional, I love process, from setting initial financial goals with my clients to helping them achieve those goals step by step. In a similar way, the work I do with my birds is also about process—I have to make sure certain things happen at certain times in order to keep them healthy, happy and physically able to get through the breeding season.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Charles says he’d play a little catch-up. “I have a ‘to do’ list that just keeps growing,” he laughs. “My everyday responsibilities seem to occupy much more time than seems reasonable, so if I was to retire tomorrow, I’d treat these loose ends as if it was my job to get them done.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Ever read a book more than once?
A: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Caf by Fannie Flagg.

Q: Who’s your favorite film star?
A: Lucille Ball—she wasn’t just funny, she was an amazing character!

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Tea, made the way the English like it.

Q: Are you fluent in any foreign languages?
A: I was raised speaking Portuguese, and I also speak some Cantonese, although I probably have the vocabulary of an 8-year-old.

Q: Do you have a favorite winery?
A: I love all the wineries in Sonoma County—it’s an affinity I developed while auditing for a company that specialized in working with the wine industry.

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Small Business Tip: Utilize Local Resources like SCORE


SAN FRANCISCO — The vast majority of new businesses fail within the first year, often due to a lack of experience and knowledge of what it takes to stay afloat in a challenging economic environment. For this reason, it’s vital for… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Learning About SCORE

Complete Video Transcription:

SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: As a new business, you’ll want to prepare as best as you can before meeting with a CPA. Today, we’re in San… Read more




Sage Peachtree Complete Accounting
Intuit Accounting Software
MYOB Accounting Software
Intuit Quick Books
Acclaim Accounting Software
CYMA Accounting Software
DacEasy Accounting
Bottom Line Accounting
Clear Books Accounting Software
VersaCheck Payroll
AccountEdge Accounting Software
H&R Block At Home Accounting Software
Avanquest Bookkeeper
IGG Software iBank
NetSuite Small Business Accounting
Cougar Mountain Accounting Software
Simply Accounting
TAS Books
Adminisoft Accounts
Tally ERP Software

payroll accounting
small business accounting
international accounting services
inventory accounting
computer accounting
investment accounting
corporate accounting
financial reporting
property accounting
assets accounting
medical accounting
tax accounting
bookkeeping services
payroll services
tax preparation services
statement preparation
annual audit services
accounting software assistance
online bookkeeping
small business tax planning
small business accounting software training
general ledger accounting services
IFRS accounting services
GAAP accounting services

Barbary Coast
Bayview District
Bernal Heights
the Castro
Cole Valley
Cow Hollow
Diamond Heights
Duboce Triangle
Eureka Valley
Financial District
Fisherman’s Wharf
Fort Mason
Glen Park
Golden Gate Park
the Haight
Hayes Valley
Hunters Point
Inner Richmond
Inner Sunset
Jackson Square
Laurel Heights
Marina District
Mission District
Nob Hill
Noe Valley
North Beach
Outer Richmond
Outer Sunset
Pacific Heights
Potrero Flats
Potrero Hill
Rincon Hill
Russian Hill
San Francisco
Sea Cliff
South of Market Street (SOMA)
Sunset District
Telegraph Hill
the Tenderloin
the Presidio
Treasure Island
Twin Peaks
Union Square
West Portal and Western Addition


The following agencies and associations for professional accountants can provide additional information for CPAs and their clients.

American Institute of CPAs (http://www.aicpa.org/ForThePublic/Pages/ForthePublic.aspx)
California Society of Accounting and Tax Professionals (http://www.csatp.org/)
California Society of CPAs (http://www.calcpa.org/Content/home.aspx)
Department of Consumer Affairs, California Board of Accountancy (http://www.dca.ca.gov/cba/)
Society of California Accountants (http://www.gosca.com/)

Know What You Want
Know What You Expect from San Francisco Area Accountants

Before you start looking for an accounting firm in San Francisco, it’s important to pinpoint what you want.

Ask yourself about your highest priorities in choosing an accountant or tax preparation professional. Do these include the personal service you expect to receive? The quality of the work? Expertise and experience with a particular type of accounting or tax problem? Immediate service and rapid conclusion of the work? Convenient access?

Be able to answer these questions:

  • Do I want a Diamond Certified accountancy firm that is rated best in quality and backed by the Diamond Certified Guarantee?
  • Is my primary goal to establish accounting services only, or are there other services I need as well?
  • Am I likely to need services involving review or auditing of financial statements, or other specialized accounting services?
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What To Ask In Person
What to Ask San Francisco Accounting Professionals In Person

Once you've evaluated your reasons for selecting an accounting firm, the next step is to interview some local firms in San Francisco.

Questions you may want to ask include:

  • How long will it take to do my accounting work?
  • What happens if I should be audited? Will you assist me with the audit?
  • Will any of my accounting work be outsourced, and how does that work?
  • What contact information do you have on file for me? What do you need in order to reach me with updates about my accounting work?
  •  Is it good for me to call in periodically or otherwise keep in contact?
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  • What To Ask References
    Questions for References: Learning from Previous Accounting Service Customers

    How can you tell that accounting and tax preparation providers in San Francisco are all they say they are?

    That’s where independent research and scientific surveys come in. All Diamond Certified accounting firms have undergone a ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality from an accountant or bookkeeper in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, you’ll have confidence when choosing Diamond Certified companies.

    You can read Diamond Certified reports on all certified companies, including verbatim survey responses. And you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews because all research is performed by live telephone interviews of a large, random sample of real customers.

    If you can’t find a Diamond Certified accounting firm within reach, you'll need to conduct some research of your own. Even if you’re in a hurry, it is still a good idea to take a little time to check references. If you do, accounting firms in San Francisco may be willing to give you a list of recent clients you can contact, or other evidence of customer satisfaction.  

    Keep in mind, though, that those references are not equal in value to the large random sample of customers surveyed during the Diamond Certified ratings process.

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  • Review Your Options
    Hire a Good Accountant in San Francisco

    The Diamond Certified symbol has been awarded to companies that scored Highest in Quality in an accurate ratings process.

    The key question to ask yourself repeatedly, and once again before you make your final decision on accounting, bookkeeping and/or payroll services in San Francisco is this: Have I carefully identified my accounting needs, and do I have reason to believe from my search that the firm I have selected is an excellent fit for those needs?

    In particular, consider this question in light of the value provided by a Diamond Certified accounting firm.

    Then, compare your notes from the interviews you conducted with local accountants, including your initial impression of each.

    If it’s not immediately obvious which accounting service is the right one to choose, ask yourself these questions to discover which is the best choice for you:

    • Does one San Franicsco accountant provide the accounting services you need above all others?
    • Does one local accountant offer a better range of services than the others?
    • Which local accountantoffers the best price for high-quality financial services?
    • Which of the CPAs or accountants do you prefer to work with based on personality?
    • Which of the San Francisco CPAs or accountants do you prefer to work with based on your experience with and impression of their professional skills?
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  • How To Work With
    Before you Engage: Consider How to Attract the Best Firms

    Although all practicing California CPAs and public accountants must be licensed by the California Board of Accountancy (Web License Lookup), that does not necessarily guarantee that any particular firm will provide the best match for your accounting needs. 

    Bear in mind your specific goals and expectations for your accounting or tax preparation services, and remember that all Diamond Certified companies have already been thoroughly checked on your behalf, including license verification. 

    If you’re unable to choose a Diamond Certified accounting professional in your area of San Francisco, you should find the best company based on your own search.

    Accountants in San Francisco, including those in the larger areas of Bernal Heights, Sunset District, Mission District, Tenderloin and Richmond District, may have more experience in particular areas of accounting and possess special qualifications and continuing education backgrounds, so vet each CPA and accounting firm carefully according to your needs.

    Now that You've Found a San Francisco Accountant: How to Get Accurate Accounting Estimates from San Francisco Accountants
    First, you’ll want to meet with the accountant or representative and explain exactly what accounting services you need.

    Use the notes you have made, and be thorough and clear in your communication. Be as detailed as possible, and don’t allow yourself to be rushed.

    Ways to Make Your Accountant’s Job Easier
    It is important to listen carefully to the suggestions and comments of the accounting firm representative, and to answer his or her questions directly and thoroughly.  Be careful not to assume that the person understands unstated details of your accounting service needs: be exact and thorough. 

    Also, do not assume that you understand everything stated or implied in the information the accountant is providing you in the initial interview: ask further questions and be willing to take the time necessary to know the issues and feel confident in the understanding you have with the accounting service professional.

    If you are unclear on a point or concept, don't hesitate to ask for an explanation.  Realize that in order for the process to succeed, you must fully understand the accounting issues, your unique financial situation, and the possible solutions.

    All estimates must be provided to you in writing before the accounting work begins. Sometimes a more thorough evaluation is needed before the firm can provide a reliable estimate of accounting fees.

    Sign a Contract with Your Accounting Firm
    Make sure, before agreeing to any services from the CPA, that you are provided an engagement letter stating in detail the accounting services to be performed. The letter should also specify who will do the work and whether it is to be done elsewhere, and confirm the security of all personal and private data. 

    Be certain that the document itemizes and summarizes all charges to be made for your accounting services.

    When you’re satisfied with the information your San Francisco accounting firm has provided, sign a contract.

    Verify that the firm has a phone number where the representative can reach you at all times while your work is going on in San Francisco. The firm must have your approval for any additional work, and it can slow progress if the representative is unable to reach you.

    Once the accountant, bookkeeper, or professional CPA has identified more fully the financial situation and the accounting work needed, he or she will likely contact you with an update on the progress of your services.


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  • Be a Good Customer
    How Can You Be a Good Accounting Firm Customer?

    It's the accounting firm's responsibility to perform a thorough and complete job on your accounting or tax services. But you play a big part in the success of your accounting work also.

    Here are a few steps to take that will make you a better customer and can help you get better results from your local accountant.

    • Speak clearly with the accounting representative. Let him or her know the precise reason for your contact, and the specific outcome you are expecting from your accounting services.
    • Remember that friendliness goes a long way in forging and maintaining a good working relationship.
    • Before you leave your records at an accounting firm in San Francisco, restate your expectations and goals, and repeat to the representative your understanding of the agreement. Most problems with accounting firms or individual accountants occur because of a breakdown in communication. By being clear about the expectations you have and those of the accounting firm, you can avoid most conflicts.
    • Ask the representative if he or she will call you with updates, or if you should call to check on the progress of your accounting work.
    • Make sure your representative has a phone number where he or she can reach you at all times when contact may be necessary. Your accounting work will go more smoothly if you can be reached for any necessary updates or approvals.
    • When the firm contacts you, return calls promptly to keep the work on schedule.
    • Pay for the accounting services promptly.

    Why would you want to make a good customer? Accountants and accounting firms in San Francisco appreciate customers who are straightforward, honest and easy to work with.

    Your good customer behavior sets the tone from your end and creates the setting for a good relationship. Things may well go more smoothly, and problems may be more easily resolved.

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Check The Work
Check the Work Against Your Written Agreement

When the work is completed, your representative must provide you a written invoice for all services rendered.

For your protection, this invoice shoudl include:

  • The name, license number and physical address of the firm.
  • A list of all accounting services provided, preferably in itemized form.
  • The total fee for all accounting services contracted for.
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Written Warranties
Ask for a Written Warranty from San Francisco Accounting Firms

Before leaving the accounting firm, confirm the warranty offered by the firm on the accounting services.

Not all accounting firms offer guarantees on their work. But those that do should give you a written warranty document that must detail:

  • The accounting firm’s name and physical address.
  • What the warranty covers.
  • Your responsibility in order to redeem the warranty.
  • How long the warranty is valid, and whether it expires on a specific day or if it is prorated.
  • Any limitations or exclusions to the guarantee terms must be in writing to be valid.
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Top 10 Requests
Popular Accounting Services Offered By SF Accountants

Accounting and tax preparation firms in San Francisco provide numerous financial services, but some types of work are more common than others. The following are the most familiar requests for local accounting firms.

Payroll Services
Payroll services involve wage, salary, and deduction records for the employees of a business.  Payroll service is extremely important, because the amounts paid for employee compensation and associated taxes involve substantial federal and state regulation, and dramatically impact organizational income.

Small Business Accounting
Small Business Accounting is a crucial need for smaller organizations; businesses will be unable to survice without it. This is principally because any business must be able to reliably and accurately determine profitability, which is impossible without solid accounting statements.  Financial structural problems are a leading principal cause of small business failure.

Financial Accounting
Financial accountancy represents the accounting sector involving financial statement preparation for stockholders, owners, banks, government agencies, and others having or potentially having stake in a company.  Maintenance of financial capital is a key aspect.

A bookkeeping service provides records of revenue and expenses, and is significantly different than an accounting firm. Bookkeeping involves recording transactions such as sales, receipts, purchases, and payments: done by a bookkeeper, accounting clerk, or accounting technician.  Accounting entails the production of financial statements from the bookkeeping records.

Accounts Payable
Accounts payable are records of amounts a company owes, and may be referred to as trade payables. Accounts payable typically arise from invoices furnished from suppliers of goods or services. Accounts payable represent delayed payment and are therefore credit.

Tax Accounting
Tax accounting is the designation for an accounting methodology that addresses tax purposes.  The United States differs from most other governments in having accounting principles, set forth by Section 446 of the Internal Revenue Code, which differ from the general and accepted principles of accounting. Under Section 446 the taxpayer chooses a method of tax accounting consistent with his method of financial accounting.

Public Accounting
Public accounting is the form of accounting best generally known to the public, represented by the "Big Four" accounting firms, the largest national firms responsible for audits of the biggest publicly traded corporations. The audit is the principal concern of public accounting, and ensures the accuracy of company financial statements and reports.

Management Accounting
Management accounting or managerial accounting provides accounting information to managers for making better business decisions and improving organizational control.  Management accounting concentrates on the future direction of the organization, unlike financial accounting, which looks primarily at past performance.

Certified Accounting
Certified Accounting refers to accounting practiced by Certified Public Accountants.  CPA is the statutory designation for an individual who has successfully completed the Uniform Certified Public Accounting Examination and attained additional training and experience required by state law.

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Glossary Of Terms
Glossary of Accountancy Terms

Below are key accounting terms and descriptions that will help you navigate through your accounting, bookkeeping or payroll experience from start to finish.

Accounting is the work of a CPA or Public Accountant, and is conveniently understood as the process of summarizing and interpreting financial information. The creation of financial statements is the main activity.

Also known as: accountancy, accounting firm, accounting firms, account service, accounting services, financial accounts

accounts payable
These records specify what an organization owes, for example from goods or services received from other companies. Accounts payable are also called trade payables.

Also known as: trade payables

atest engagement
This is an assessment of the reliability of another party's written assertion. Audits, financial statement reviews, and prospective financial reviews are all examples of attest engagements: however, a compiled preparation is not an attest engagement.

This is the inspection of records by a CPA to provide an assessment of financial data in accordance with established auditing standards.

Also known as: auditor, IRS audit, financial audit

The services of a bookkeeper differ substantially from those of an accountant. The bookkeeper records financial activity and creates a trial balance, but does not produce financial statements such as balance sheets and income statements as does an accountant.

Also known as: book keeping, book keeper

certified accounting
Certified accounting is that done by Certified Public Accountants, individuals who complete the Uniform CPA exam and attain other experience and training.

Also known as: Certified Public Accountancy

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
This is an individual with a public accounting license issued by the California Board of Accountancy, who practices under a continuing professional education requirement of that Board.

Also known as: CPA, CPAs

compilation preparation
This is data formatted in a financial statement manner but not attested to by the accounting professional.

continuing education
Continuing education is a formal educational program providing direct enhancement of professional competency.

Finance may be conceived as money or funds management. More broadly, finance entails originating and marketing cash or surrogate money.

financial accounting
Financial accountancy is the formulation of financial statements for the stakeholders in an organization, and has largely to do with maintaining capital.

Also known as: financial accountancy, public accounting, public accountancy

financial statement
Fundamental, required, organizational data, which includes balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. These may be supplemented with additional data on the organizations financial performance.

Also known as: financial accountancy, public accounting, public accountancy

management accounting
Management or managerial accounting gives managers information for improved decisions and control, concentrating on the future performance of the business.

Also known as: management accountancy, managerial accountancy, public accountancy

payroll services
Payroll services maintain records of employee earnings, deductions, and taxes, providing financial information that significantly impacts the profitability of a business.

Also known as: payroll service, payroll tax, payroll deductions

peer review
A peer review is an evaluation of the professional output of an accountant or accounting firm by an independence licensee, according to prescribed standards.

Public Accountant (PA)
A Public Accountant is an individual with a public accounting certificate issued by the California Board of Accountancy, who practices under a continuing professional education requirement of that Board.

public accounting
Public accounting is audits done by the CPA's of the largest national accounting firms to ensure reliable financial data for stockholders.

Also known as: public accountancy, auditor, auditing

small business accounting
Small Business Accounting is the production of financial statements for accurately determining profit in a smaller business entity.

Also known as: small business accountancy

tax accounting
Tax accounting is done by a CPA specifically for tax purposes, using a different set of accounting principles that are specified in the IRS Code.

Also known as: income tax, tax return, tax accountancy

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Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ for Local Accountants and CPAs

Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified accounting firm?
A: We end the guessing game by offering a list of top-rated local companies who have passed the country’s most in-depth rating process. Most companies can’t pass, so only local accounting firms rated Highest in Quality earn the Diamond Certified award. American Ratings Corporation also monitors every Diamond Certified company with in-depth and ongoing research and ratings. And your purchase is backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. So you’ll feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified accounting firm.

Q: What's the difference between an accounting firm and a bookkeeping service?
A: A bookkeeping service keeps a record of income and cost, which differs significantly from the work of an accounting firm. Bookkeeping involves receipts, sales and payments and is performed by a bookkeeper, or by an accounting clerk or technician. Accounting involves the production of such financial statements as a balance sheet and a statement of profit and loss from underlying bookkeeping records.

Q: What are the four most important financial statements?
A: The four most important financial statements are: the balance sheet, the income statement, the cash flow statement, and the statement of changes in shareholder equity.

The balance sheet specifies the assets, liabilities, and owner equity of an organization at the beginning and ending of a period of time.

The income statement specifies the revenues, expenses and net income for an organization over a given period.

The cash flow statement details changes in liquid assets over a given period.

The shareholder equity statement provides a reconciliation of the change in equity over a given period.

Q: What is an audit?
An audit is a check of financial records, by an accounting firm or government agency such as the IRS, to assess the quality of financial information.

Q: What is small business accounting?
Small Business Accounting is a particular form of accounting tailored to smaller organizations, and crucial to the survival of small businesses. A business of any size must have reliable assessments of owner equity and profitability; financial statements must include balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements.

Q: What rights do I have as a consumer in Alameda County when it comes to accounting services?
You have the right, before agreeing to any services to be provided by the accounting firm or CPA, to be provided an engagement letter documenting in detail the accounting services to be performed. The letter should also specify who will do the work and whether it is to be done elsewhere, and confirm the security of all personal and private data.

Be certain that the document you are provided itemizes and summarizes the charges for your accounting or tax preparation services.

You also have the right to file a complaint with the California Board of Accountancy. For more information, visit the Web site for the Department of Consumer Affairs, California Board of Accountancy (http://www.dca.ca.gov/cba/).

Q: Is it a good idea to choose an accounting firm that has certifications?
A: While certifications don’t guarantee you better service from Alameda County accounting firms, the CPA designation, and other evidences of professionalism such as qualifications, training, continuing education and membership in professional associations, are important indicators of the seriousness of an accounting firm in satisfying customers and providing quality accounting services. Remember to specifically consider the Diamond Certified mark, a symbol of independently verified provision of high quality accounting and tax preparation services.

Q: Is there a difference between accounting firms in Alameda County?
A: Where you receive accounting service is a personal decision based on where you feel most comfortable. There are numerous differences between accounting firms: the choice of an accountant most suited to your needs is one to be made carefully and thoroughly, perhaps with specific consideration of choosing a Diamond Certified accountant.

Q: Some accounting services are expensive. Can I save by choosing an accounting firm that advertises lower fees?
A: While it may look like you’re saving money by going with a less expensive accounting firm, keep in mind that margins are often tight for accounting services, and that less expensive service may have lower quality. A firm may employ less experienced and less capable individuals for your accounting work, which may save you fees initially but expose you to the risk of lower quality work. This consideration emphasizes the value of choosing a Diamond Certified accountancy firm.

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