Are you a do-it-yourselfer? Will you try anything that’ll save you a bit of money initially, rather than hiring a professional? Painting, renovating, cleaning… some people even try to save a few dollars by massaging their own tired legs and feet at the end of a long week!
You might be able to live with a less than perfect paint job, walls and benches that lean, or legs and feet that continue to hurt. But, what would you do if you had the ATO breathing down your neck for additional tax payments, or something you declared as a business expense that definitely shouldn’t be? Anyone who has been through an audit knows it’s not a nice experience. And that’s just one of the many reasons why we should use professionals to manage our financial affairs. The good ones know what they’re doing and their job is to ensure you’ll never get into that position of financial discomfort.
Whether you’re a salary or wage earner, or a business owner, finding a good accountant will be the key to running an efficient business, lodging accurate tax returns and ensuring you don’t owe anybody anything you haven’t accounted for during the financial year. If you need a new accountant, or you’ve finally realised your time is better spent on something other than counting receipts and struggling to balance the books, here’s what you should look for:
1. Find someone with relevant accounting experience
2. Find someone with a focus on your best interests
3. Find someone who collaborates
4. Find someone flexible
5. Find someone through your own network
6. Find someone with transparent fees
Find someone with relevant accounting experience
It’s important to know that accountants often specialise within industries, so you’ll need to find an accountant with experience relevant to your line of work. A Certified Practising Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Accountant (CA) is a great place to start. CPAs and CAs are qualified accountants, guided by standards imposed by the relevant professional bodies.
Then, consider their specific experience to see if they are a good fit. If they have other clients in your industry, you’ll be able to see if they can add value to your business – not just prepare and lodge your tax returns. A simple client reference is a great way demonstrate any relevant accounting skills. If you’re a business owner, your accountant will also need to demonstrate an understanding of your business and your book-keeping software.
Don’t be afraid to treat the process like a job interview. It will determine whether your accountant really understands you and your professional objectives!
Find someone with a focus on your best interests
The accountant you choose will be privy to a lot of personal and business information, so you’ll need to find someone you trust completely. This sensitive information will give your accountant insights about how to save you money at tax time and keep them across the day to day running of operations. From there, they’ll be able to help grow your business through new opportunities.
The best way to ensure your accountant has your interests covered, is to interview them. Is their focus on you? Do they ask open questions and make you feel comfortable?
It’s difficult to establish trust immediately, but first impressions go a long way. Use your intuition and go with your gut feelings. You might even need to meet a few different accountants until you find the right one for you and your business. Just remember, it’s important to engage a financial professional you feel comfortable working with, long-term.
Find someone who collaborates
Does the accountant or accountant’s firm collaborate with other professional services? A good accountant will have a network of other professional services they engage with, from lawyers and conveyancers, through to financial planners and mortgage brokers. For example, if you need to refinance some personal debt, your accountant could reach out to their contacts who are brokers; if your business is rapidly expanding and you need access to new IT software and hardware, your accountant might know a reliable IT professional who understands your line of work.
Good accountants also collaborate with other accountants from within the same firm – meaning you’ll have a team of qualified professionals considering your needs. Accountants who collaborate will always be better for your business interests. Collective networks have a much larger knowledge base and often uncover new opportunities. You’d be getting the best possible advice from a panel of qualified experts!
Find someone flexible
In an ever-changing world, filled with new technology and new business practices, good accountants need to be flexible. Circumstances change and people often have to move to follow their work opportunities. If you need to move interstate or overseas, your accountant should be flexible enough to hold meetings via Skype, or respond to emails and text messages, rather than the “old-school” phone calls between 9-5. And if you need a face-to-face meeting but your business hours are a little irregular, then a flexible accountant should be able to make it happen.
It’s important to know your accountant can be flexible when needed. All within reason of course, because accountants have lives away from work too!
Find someone through your own network
Social networks are great for sharing baby photos and other precious moments. They’re also brilliant for sourcing reliable information. Don’t be afraid to ask people in your network who they use and why they use them as their accountant. If you end up using the same accountant as your best friend or a family member, you can remain confident that privacy and confidentiality are both traits of a reputable financial professional.
And don’t forget to “cast the net” wider than Facebook. If you have a LinkedIn profile, you’ll be able to hone in on relevant connections and experience. You might even find you have a few connections in common with your new accountant!
Find someone with transparent fees
Don’t be afraid to ask how much it will all cost. A good accountant will be transparent with their fees, so you know what you can expect to pay. You might even sign an engagement letter, which stipulates the work to be performed and how it will be invoiced. A good, transparent accountant will also provide you with an estimate of costs for any additional work required. While you want the best advice from your accountant, you also need to know what you’re paying is fair and reasonable.
Remember, investing a little bit of money into a qualified accountant will save you a lot more in the long run! Simply follow these six steps to find the best accountant for your business.
Contact Louisa Andreucci, Manager & Representative of Accounting & Business Advisory AFSL 485569, to discuss your accounting needs on 1300 764 200 or [email protected]
Information contained in this article is of a general nature only and does not constitute personal financial or taxation advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information in this article you should consider the appropriateness of the information with regards to your objectives, financial situation and needs. It is recommended specific financial advice be sought in relation to matters referred.
The information in this document has been derived from sources we believed to be reliable and accurate. Subject to law, neither Hood Sweeney Accounting & Business Advisory ABN 30 007 696 595, AFS License No. 485569 or Hood Sweeney Securities ABN 40 081 455 165, AFS License No. 220897, nor their directors, employees, agents, representatives or Authorised Representatives gives any representation or warranty as to the reliability, accuracy or completeness of the information; or accepts any responsibility for any person acting, or refraining from acting, on the basis of the information contained in this article.
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