International businesses expanding into the US, whether a manufacturer, distribution company or professional service firm, face similar challenges. Operational issues such as supply chain, vendor management and process or production optimization require close attention, as do human resources, sales and marketing. All of these priorities exist amid the backdrop of a new regulatory, tax and financial reporting environment requiring the experience-based guidance and direction of a qualified certified public accountant (CPA).
A CPA firm with deep international expertise will prove invaluable when addressing the compliance, structuring and planning issues associated with establishing operations in the United States. While many credentialed firms may appear to offer similar international services, the right firm to guide your expansion plans into the US will meet the following five criteria:
- Depth of Knowledge – The process of launching a subsidiary is a complex process, making it essential to work with a firm with deep bench strength among its partner, manager and staff ranks in the areas of tax, accounting and consulting. Finding the right international CPA means finding a firm that offers technical knowledge across the service team.
- Language Skills – The ability to communicate in your native language makes it easier to communicate complex principles and concepts. While most international business executives have English language skills, in some cultures having a CPA who can communicate in the native language can make or break the relationship. When evaluating CPAs, be sure to assess whether they have foreign language skills as it reflects the firm’s level of commitment to companies based in various locations. Granted, most CPA firms will not have professionals with language skills from every country, but CPAs who regularly work with global companies will have team members fluent in other languages.
- Organizational Involvement – With the unique issues faced by international companies expanding to the US, it’s important for a CPA to be aware of the financial, economic and geo-political issues relevant to your region of origin. More importantly, they should be aware of the issues, challenges and opportunities facing companies from these areas, such as those encountered with foreign direct investment (FDI). One way to evaluate a CPA is to assess their involvement with international chambers of commerce, business associations and economic development organizations. When a firm is involved with these groups it not only demonstrates their commitment to helping international companies expand, it is a strong indicator they are familiar with expansion challenges unique to each country or region.
- Global Accounting Association – An important aspect of expansion into the US marketplace is understanding the tax, accounting and legal issues that can develop in your home country as a result of global expansion. The ability to navigate US laws and regulations is important, but the ability to provide a 365-degree perspective is also critical. For this reason, it’s important to work with a CPA firm that belongs to a robust international accounting association. Since most CPAs don’t have offices in all corners of the globe, this helps ensure access to experts knowledgeable of in-home country rules and regulations when needed. Finding the right international CPA means finding a firm that has the network to serve your needs.
- Professional Network – Beyond the typical accounting matters at hand, most companies expanding into the US need assistance with other areas of their business, including legal and human resources advice. Firms with international experience will have excellent networks within other key industries and professions that clients can access as part of their consulting offerings. Often, these professionals work closely together and collaborate on the clients’ behalf.
What about Pricing?
While it’s not always the first criteria by which a decision is made, pricing is an important consideration. When reviewing engagement details, be sure to identify how the work will be performed, whether billed hourly or by project, and all of the variables that impact overall cost. Keep in mind that billing rates in the US are generally quoted in US dollars. This may mean the cost for services is higher than the standard in the home country and must be accounted for in the search process. Expecting to find a well-qualified provider with necessary credentials, experience and insights at home country rates often leads to disappointment. Focus on finding the best value for the money and ensure the international CPA firm merits its fees.
Is your company considering an expansion into the US? If you have questions about the search process or need assistance with an international corporate tax, accounting or audit issue, Clayton & McKervey can help. For additional information, contact us to see how we might help.