Choosing an Accountant

Written on the 5 February 2013 by Macmillans Waller Fry

Choosing an accountant is an important decision. The right accountant can help you save time, money, and grow your wealth.

Your accountant could have a significant impact on your personal finances or on your business. It’s vital to work with a practice that is trustworthy and experienced.

Everyone knows accountants help with tax, but few know the diverse roles accountants perform. There are many ways an accountant can help you sort out your personal finances or help you grow your business. An accountant in private practice can help you foremost with compliance work and completing and filing your tax return. They can also help you with:

  • Starting a business: Your accountant could suggest what form the business should take and help you with your business plan, as well as give you specific legal and tax advice. Later on, they could also assist you with business acquisition and financing asset purchases.
  • Setting up a bookkeeping system for your business: They could help you set up a computerised bookkeeping scheme, so that you can keep easy track of sales, debtors, cash etc. An accountant can also prepare audited accounts and financial statements.
  • Commonwealth and state tax planning: Your accountant could help you with tax planning to minimise your tax bill. They will also keep you informed about changes to tax and superannuation legislation.
  • Financial planning, advice and auditing starting a business: Accountants can work with you to anticipate growth and change. They can help improve your business through better financial management.
  • Personal finance: They can guide you on matters of personal wealth. For example, estate planning, advice on wills and inheritance tax.

Key Questions to Ask. 

When you’re looking for an accountant, it’s a good idea to bring a list to the meeting, to remind yourself of your specific requirements. You should think about what your needs are, what areas of expertise you require and how much you are willing to pay. Your accountant will see that you are serious about your business. Here is an example list which you may consider using:

  • What is the fee system?
  • On what basis do they charge fees, is it fixed or monthly billing?
  • What are the billing terms?
  • Is the introductory meeting free?
  • Will I be charged for small encounters such as a phone call?
  • How long has the practice been in operation?
  • What other clients do they have and what sectors do they work in?
  • Would you be able to contact their biggest client and request a testimonial?
  • Is the practice experienced in your area of business?
  • Are they a member of any professional accounting body?
  • What is the history of the practice?
  • Which professional associations are they members of?
  • How does the firm keep up-to-date with industry standards?
  • Does the practice have an emphasis on training and staff development?
  • What seminars does your accountant attend, and what accounting publications do they read?
  • How will the firm keep you abreast of important filing dates?
  • How will you be kept updated and informed?
  • Do they have a process for regular personalised updates?
  • Do they have a newsletter to inform you about issues of interest to your business?
  • Are they familiar with the accounting software you use for your business, and if not, how will information be shared?
  • Which staff members will look after your business?
  • How big is the practice?
  • Will the partners oversee your portfolio?
  • What are the qualifications of the accountant who will look after you?
  • Do they visit clients at their home or business?
  • Do they provide any services for your specific business needs?
  • Is the practice able to fulfil your specific needs? For example, bookkeeping and industrial relations assistance.
  • Do they offer a secretarial service?
  • Do they have a benchmarking service to compare your business to others and make suggestions for improvement?

Above all, follow your instincts. If you are not getting a sense of trust or are not comfortable with the person, chances are that they will not be the best person for the role.


Author: Macmillans Waller Fry

 

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