Choosing an Accountant
Choosing an accountant is much like choosing other professionals like a solicitor or plumber or insurance broker. The most important thing to work out is whether the accountant can meet your needs and support you in the way you need.
The accounting profession has changed over the years and will continue to do so into the future. Many, when they think about an accountant, think about tax. An accountant can do your tax return each year, provided they are a registered tax agent. You can check their registration on the online tax and BAS agent register.
Compliance will always be a part of an Accountant’s services however many accountants also provide services which add value to particularly business owners and people with investments. Accountants can provide tax planning advice, business advice, systems and processes, budget and cashflow as well as general CFO (Chief Financial Officer) services, by way of example.
So, before you approach a prospective accountant, know what you want to get from the relationship. Once this is clear, when contacting a prospective accountant, here are some questions you may wish to ask:
- What is the accountant’s specialisation/s? – What services do they offer? Do they regularly deal with people in similar situations to you? Do they have the right experience to help with your specific needs?
- What is their level of customer service? – Do they respond to phone calls and emails promptly? Do they communicate in plain language with limited use of jargon? Do you enjoy your interaction with them?
- What are the accountant’s fees? – What will you be charged, and when?
- Does the accountant hold appropriate registration for the services offered? – If they are going to do your tax return, is your accountant a registered Tax Agent (refer above)? If they are providing investment advice, they must have an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) or be an authorised representative of an AFSL holder, check the financial advisers register.
- Is the accountant appropriately qualified? – Do they have appropriate tertiary qualifications and are they a member of a professional association? Examples of professional bodies include the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, Certified Practicing Accountants Australia and the Institute of Public Accountants. Professional bodies impose certain standards on their members and can deal with complaints if you’re not happy with your accountant.
- Ask for references/testimonials – subject to privacy requirements, an accountant maybe able to put you in contact with some current clients for you to talk to. Alternatively, check the accountant’s website, Facebook page, Google reviews (to name but a few) to find any testimonials or reviews that may contribute to your decision making. Caution must be taken when considering this information as only the best reviews/testimonials will be published if the accountant is in control of the publication. On the flip side, if there is only one or two not so good reviews, check out how the accountant has responded to them – sometimes there are two sides to the story.