Finance And Insurance
15-Aug-2020 By - Anna Eydlish
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Not sure what to look for when choosing an accountant?

Check out our Top Tips for Choosing An Accountant.

Once you’ve decided it’s time to hire an accountant, the next step is to choose which accountant to hire.

It’s in your company’s best interests to have an experienced, capable person handling one of the most important areas of your business – your finances. The right person will save you time and money year after year. So here are some things you should consider when you’re choosing an accountant.

Irrespective of the industry your small business falls into, you cannot understate the value of a good accountant. You can get a bookkeeper for basic accounting services, an accountant who has a degree in accounting for more complicated accounting and payroll services, or a certified public accountant who can help with tax planning and also prepare taxes. All of these people can share strategic advice for business growth. 

If you run a small business, you need to hire a reliable accountant. But you need to do the required research to get a good fit.

Choosing an accountant is like choosing a new business partner. The right accountant will become a trusted colleague, you can depend on, who offers advice and guidance as your small business grows. So what are the top things you need to look out for?

Once you’ve decided it’s time to hire an accountant, the next step is to choose which accountant to hire.

It’s important to take the time to do this carefully, and there are a few things you’ll want to consider first. You’ll need to think about issues such as the accountant’s location (e.g. are you looking for an accountant in Oakleigh or an accountant in South Perth?), the division of workload and the type of accounting software you’ll use. Consider how much you’ll have to pay the accountant and whether they can help to reduce your business taxes.

It’s in your company’s best interests to have an experienced, capable person handling one of the most important areas of your business – your finances. The right person will save you time and money year after year, and will keep you on the right side of the Australian Taxation office. So here are some things you should consider when you’re choosing an accountant.

Ato Taxation Return

Ask yourself if location matters

It used to be important to have your company’s accountant located nearby. But today, more companies are collaborating online, using cloud-based technology to manage their business. This means that location is less of an issue. With cloud accounting, you and your accountant can view identical real-time data at the same time – no matter where you are.

The decision about where to find your accountant really comes down to what suits your company best. Depending on how you want to handle the finances, your accountant could really be based anywhere in the world. You can find someone who understands the specifics of your business or industry.

On the other hand, you may prefer face-to-face contact and find it useful to have someone who’s able to go to business meetings with you. If this is the case, then you’ll need to limit your search to accountants who work nearby or are willing to travel to your premises from time to time.

Wherever they happen to be based, make sure they’re an expert in the tax laws that apply to your business.

Choose a certified or chartered accountant

In many countries, accountants are regulated by professional bodies that look after accounting qualifications and try to maintain high professional standards. Professional accountants may be called Certified Public Accountants or Chartered Accountants. Chartered Accountants (CAs) are highly qualified professionals who have completed degree-level study along with workplace experience and a professional competence program.

Given the greater experience and knowledge that a certified or chartered accountant has, they’ll be able to add value to your business right from the start. And if you expect your company to grow, it’s a good idea to hire a professional accountant at the beginning rather than later on.

Of course, it is possible to use accountants who aren’t certified, chartered, or registered, but it might be an unwise business move. Tasks such as bookkeeping, tax preparation, and general financial management might not require a certified or chartered accountant. But you will almost certainly need one if your company grows to the point when you need a loan, or if you’re ever audited.

Whether you’re looking for Business Accounting Services, or need a start-up business accountant to set up your books, we are here you can rely on. 

Look for an accountant with relevant expertise

You’ll need someone with experience preparing tax returns and financial documents for companies of a similar size and revenue to yours. If your company uses cloud-based software for much of its business, you’ll probably want someone who’s savvy with cloud computing.

It’s even better if they’ve worked with companies in similar market sectors to yours, as that will help them understand the unique needs of your business. You might want to check to see if they have larger clients. If they do, it’s a good sign as you’ll know they should be able to handle your growing needs over time.

You could also ask them for a client list that details each company’s gross revenue and some employees. Find out how their clients have grown and developed over the years, to get a sense of whether they’ll be able to handle the evolving needs of your company.

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Talk to government and business associations

Small businesses are the lifeblood of many countries’ economies. Because of this, governments like to encourage their growth.

As a small business owner, take advantage of networks of business advisors available to help you make decisions like choosing the right accountant.  They can also be useful places in which to network and talk to other business owners. Do this a few times, and you may find an accountant is recommended to you by other business owners. If nothing else, this could help you cut down the list of possible people to interview.

Check out our range of Business Planning Services to work towards your business’ success.

Tap into your social networks

When searching for an accountant, the ideal candidate might be right under your nose. Start by asking any friends or family members who own small businesses if they would recommend their accountant. If so, why? And if not, why not? The answers to both questions could prove useful at a later stage when you come to interview candidates.

Bear in mind that choosing an accountant can be a personal decision, so what’s right for your best friend’s PR business might not suit your manufacturing company. Also, take into account differences in business structure. The best accountant for a sole trader might not be the best fit for a company with ten employees.

Make use of your connections online

Although Facebook might not be the best place to post a request for accountant recommendations (though it’s not the worst, either), more business-oriented networks could be useful. LinkedIn is one of the largest globally, and if you already have a profile there, you could use it to search for accountants who’ve been recommended by others.

Decide how the accounting work will be divided

Accountants can handle every aspect of bookkeeping and small business accounting. In most cases, you can bundle up your bills and invoices, hand them all over, and they can do the rest. But this might not always be the best approach.

Accountants often charge by the hour, so making them do simple data-entry tasks is not the best use of their time – time that you’re paying for. So take charge and get more involved in the accounting process (if you can). This will give you a better grasp of expenses and revenues in real-time and a heads-up on potential problems.

For example, you might choose to enter the basic accounts data in-house, then hand the work over to your accountant. Then they can handle the more involved tasks such as bank account reconciliation, filling out tax return forms, payroll and capital depreciation calculations.

Good quality accounting software will make it easy for you to take part in your accounting process. It will simplify tasks like invoicing, automatically sending the invoice and recording its contents at the same time. And if the accounting software is cloud-based, you can then give your accountant secure access to your accounts with the click of a button.

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Get someone who’s proactive about saving you money

Some accountants will do little more than manage your accounts and complete your tax return forms, but the best accountants are more proactive. So before choosing an accountant, ask what they could suggest saving your business money.

For example, what proportion of your operating costs do they think you can offset against tax? If you’re a sole trader or consultant, can you offset a percentage of your phone bill, car costs, maybe even rent or mortgage payments? What are the implications of doing so? The accountant should warn you of any pitfalls. For example, using your home as business premises could result in a tax charge levied on the house when you sell it!

Always bear in mind that in most countries, there is a big difference between tax avoidance (usually legal) and tax evasion (usually illegal). You need an accountant who knows the details of tax law so well that they’ll save you money in legal ways, but not one who takes things too far and risks causing your business to operate illegally.

Be very careful about this, because ultimately it’s you, the business owner, who’ll pay the penalty if the law is broken.

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Find out what software the accountant uses

Accountants often have their own preferred accounting software. The chances are they’ll have been in business for many years and may have become used to one particular brand of software.

This can be a problem. If your company uses a different type of software, there are potentially going to be issues sharing data. Although it might be possible to export and import data in a suitable format, it can be time-consuming and easily lead to errors. There’s also the risk of your highly sensitive financial information being read as you send the data back and forth because email is about as secure as a postcard.

So try to find an accountant who’s using the same software as you. Or, failing that, one who’s willing to do so. There’s no reason why they can’t use more than one type of accounting software for different clients. That’s especially true if the software is easy to learn.

It’s best if you can agree to use market-leading accounting software that’s easy to use, and only exchange files that have been suitably encrypted. An even better option is to choose collaborative, cloud-based accounting software with encryption built-in. This will mean you don’t have to worry about the risks involved in exchanging data back and forth. Some great options are MYOB, Xero, or Quickbooks.

Interview several candidates before you decide

As with anything else in life, don’t automatically accept the first offer you receive. Arrange things in such a way that you can compare a selection of accountants with each other. Then it will be easier to determine which one is best for your business.

An interview can be a powerful way to see how well you’re likely to be able to work with a person. And a series of interviews will not only help you better define the type of accountant you need but also gain you valuable free advice. This may even help you determine your own business requirements more clearly.

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Understand the fee structure

There’s no single, universal method that accountants use to charge by. Some will charge by the hour, and some might charge a monthly retainer, others could charge a percentage of your turnover. As a small business owner, negotiation should already be part of your skill-set. If it’s not, learn it and apply it here.

Make sure you get written quotations from all the accountants you interview, then go away and compare them carefully. Consider a range of scenarios – one fee structure may make sense while your business is small but could become less attractive as it grows.

Nothing is set in stone. You could ask for a combined method of charging or a sliding scale based on turnover, or any other of a wide variety of possibilities. The accountant might not agree with your proposed fee structure, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Learn to use and trust your intuition

You’re running your own company, you have experienced, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re doing. It’s also likely that you get along well with people since that’s an important part of being successful in business.

So make use of those skills. Intuition is just another word for the unconscious processing that goes on in our minds. It’s not magic – it’s thought that takes place below our conscious level of awareness. Used in the right way, it’s a powerful business tool in itself.

When you meet an accountant for the first time, consider your intuition. Alongside logical evaluations such as location, pricing, experience and references, ask yourself if you could trust this person with the intimate details of your business. If you think you could work with them for the foreseeable future, then that’s great.

But if your gut feeling is saying no, you should probably walk away. Your unconscious mind may have picked up all sorts of cues (such as verbal stresses and body language) that it doesn’t like. Intuition isn’t always correct, but when it comes to choosing something as important as a business accountant, don’t ignore it.

Choosing the Right Accountant: When Is It Time?

Many small businesses don’t have the volume of financial transactions that necessitate hiring a full-time — or even part-time — bookkeeper or accountant on staff. Then again, the financial situation of their business is such that they could benefit from more regular financial review and planning and up-to-date accounting — instead of leaving every invoice, receipt, and ledger to hand off to the tax preparer at the close of the fiscal year.

Hiring an outside accountant or accounting firm on a consulting basis is a good first step for a growing business. The outside firm can often cost less than the salary and benefits of a full-time employee and, at the same time, you may be getting a higher level of advice from a CPA or a tax accountant, the latter of whom usually is a licensed CPA and a lawyer specialising in tax law. Even with the latest and greatest accounting and tax software, it still may be easier to farm out your financials to a CPA firm that can manage your books online through secure software-as-a-service programs than to maintain those software programs in-house.

Good accountants help companies grow by managing complex financial work and offering advice on practical business issues. This will be guaranteed to save you money in the short and long term. The best ones will be your partner in all but name – and as long as you choose wisely, you can’t go wrong.

Guest post by : Anna Eydlish Form -

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