Accountant Working At The Office
27-Oct-2020 By - team

What can you ask of your accountant?

When choosing an accountant, look for one that will suit you or your business.

Some accountants specialise in tax returns for individuals or businesses in a particular industry, and others are experts in a particular area of tax.

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Key Skills You Need from Your Accountant

How many of you are aware of the skills required for a successful career in this area? In name, it may not seem the most glamorous career option available, but take a closer look, and you could find yourself at the heart of the business, making key decisions. 

No matter how big a company ever gets, the need for an accounts department persists. Perhaps that focus is on auditing, maybe management or tax and finance related. Chances are, you will start in one of two career paths – technical or commercial.

Each of the points highlighted below should form the basis of your expectations, all of which should be provided by a great accountant.

 

Get Your Tax Correct

It is quite a basic and fundamental expectation. After all, getting this right could cost you the difference between business survival and financial disaster.

You may not have a sound knowledge of all your tax obligations, what is expected of you and your business, but that is exactly where an accountant can help. A great accountant should be active long before the end of your tax year so that they can advise you on how to structure your finances efficiently.

 

Be Proactive

As mentioned briefly in our previous point, your accountant should also be there to remind you of any deadlines. Whilst you are busy running the day to day activities of your business, your accountant should be proactive and make sure you understand your financial reporting requirements and deadlines.

You shouldn’t always expect to ask for advice before you get it. Your accountant should periodically review your financial position, look out for red flags and give advice on cash flow optimisations where necessary.

Apart from that, they should also be reminding you about reporting and other important financial related deadlines, not the other way around, so you can concentrate on the day to day running of your business.

 

Your accountant should be responsive

The last thing any business owner wants to do is to wait days just to get an overview of their accounts or to get a report that would normally take less than a minute to extract. Popular American businessman and keynote speaker, Stephen R. Covey, said: “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it”.

Communications with your accountant should be effortless and not feel like wasted time but an investment with an expectation that something useful, valuable and actionable will come from it.

 

Know Your Business

As a client, you feel that your accountant should value you. And rightly so. You should expect someone you employ to do their homework and know the ins and outs of your business. This includes everything from knowing what you do, how your business works and who your key staff are.

 

Your accountant should add value

When we talk about value here, it’s not just making sure your bookkeeping is up to date, taxes are accurate, filing annual reports and providing payroll administration. Although these are very important core services, the truth is there are hundreds of accountants that can provide the same service.

You should, therefore, expect your accountant to go above and beyond and broaden their scope of services to include perhaps advising on a business plan, advising on the legal structure of a company, help you with loan applications, etc.

 

Your accountant should be flexible

Rigidness is the biggest suppressor of innovation, and in today’s fast-moving business world that’s a one-way street to failure.

There are various new technologies available to accountants that can automate many of the mundane and time-consuming activities of the finance function. Your accountant should be utilising these where applicable to bring greater cost-savings and efficiencies to your business processes.

Your accountant should also be flexible in the advice that they give you. You don’t operate in a one size fits all industry and the advice that your accountant gives you should reflect this. What works for one business might not necessarily work for you, and what worked last month might not be applicable anymore this month. Your accountant should have the foresight to know what strategies will work for your particular organisation in the particular industry that you work in and be able to adapt these strategies to achieve long-term growth.

It’s quite simple really, isn’t it? You need to talk to your accountant, and they should make every effort to answer, return a call or get in touch with you when the occasion arises. You certainly shouldn’t settle for someone you can’t get in touch with.

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Assist you in the loan process

Starting a business often involves taking out a loan. Having an accountant who understands your financial position can help you present the purpose of the loan and consider various options for financing.

Once the client needs have been qualified, accountants can help business owners with the next phase of winning a loan.

Usually, accountants help clients gather the information and data necessary for a loan, from quantifying the current financial condition and credit need to identifying repayment sources. With this data, accountants can also work with clients to craft compelling loan applications that can improve the chances a bank will approve the request.

 

Help Improve Your Cash Flow

The truth is that cash is always king for any business. As a client, you should expect to be advised and informed about how cash can move through your business, how you can improve this and ultimately how your business will benefit.

 

Save You Tax

As well as making money, it’s also important to save tax. Your accountant should always be able to find ways that you can minimise your tax bill.

 

Prevent Any Surprise Bills

Feeling as though you have been deceived or taken advantage of is a sure-fire way, accountants can lose your business. Therefore they should always provide you with cost estimates on jobs or a cost limit, so you aren’t left shocked with the arrival of a hefty bill. For more information on our costs, take a look at our pricing structure.

 

Know Your Aspirations

Just as your accountant should be familiar with the current state of your business, they need to understand your aspirations. Do you want to grow? Or eventually, sell up? These are all questions your accountant should be aware of to ensure a great working relationship.

 

Treat You Courteously

It shouldn’t matter whether you employ one person or a hundred people; you should always expect to be treated with respect at all times. Your accountant should aspire to nurture a relationship with regular communication and know who they need to contact in varying scenarios.

You can’t always be around to answer questions which could have been directed to your bookkeeper, for example. A great accountant will maintain a relationship with a business owner and keep those lines of communication open.

 

Review your documents and contracts

If you are entering into an agreement with a possible tax or accounting implications, it’s probably a good idea to have your accountant review the document.

Accountants can analyse the agreement and let you know about the tax and accounting consequences that will affect an individual’s or an organisation’s financial prospects. Their perspectives help their client avoid negative consequences associated with cash management, financial planning, financial statements, and insurance.

accountant bookkeeping people

 

Help with estate and trust planning

Since your taxes can impact your estate, you may want to work with an accountant to make sure more of your hard-earned assets go to your heirs or charity rather than the government.

Accountants can provide strategies that allow their clients to pass assets to children or grandchildren before they pass away, or provide strategies that will allow non-profit organisations to benefit from a client’s generosity while minimising the tax ramifications. These strategies help clients make sure that a greater percentage of their assets go toward organisations that provide a social good.

 

Provide information

Whilst you’re likely an expert in your chosen industry, you might not necessarily know everything there is to know about tax or self-assessment, for example.

An accountant should be courteous to all your staff and happily explain things to you/them no matter how trivial it may seem. You should expect patience and respect from those who deal with all that financial jargon day in and day out.

 

Keep Up To Date With Latest Legislation

Failure to keep up with ever-changing legislation, laws and regulations can result in a fine. Not only will a good accountant keep you up to date with upcoming changes to the law, but they will also be able to tell you exactly how they will impact your business and how you can best prepare for them.

 

Be GDPR Compliant

GDPR was one of the biggest changes to business throughout 2018, with high costs for non-compliance. Given the sensitivity of the data your accountant holds about you, in addition to your GDPR measures, you should expect your accountant to have their own measures in place to ensure compliance with GDPR. 

 

Questions You Absolutely Must Ask Your Accountant

Does the shoe fit?

Many accounting firms–especially smaller shops–specialise in particular industries or companies of a certain size. So the accountant who handled your individual return might not be the best one to do your corporate taxes; the person who advised your startup in its early days might not be able to keep up if you hit a hot streak.

Ask what size businesses your accountant works with, the range and the average. It’s critical to know if your accountant has the experience to grow with the business–or if you’re too small a potato to get attention.

 

How can I help you do a better job for me?

No matter how skilled and savvy your accountant is, she can only be as good as the information she gets from you. Help her to be even better by asking for specific ways you can equip her with information.

The key is getting past the essential documents your accountant needs to do your taxes. Any good accountant will let you know if you’re missing something essential for tax preparation. But digging a little deeper into how to prepare, document, and organise your finances from an accountant’s point of view can lead you to put better practices in place every day, and achieve greater financial stability.

 

Do they get you?

One of the first things to look for in a startup accountant is whether or not they get it. Do they understand startup life? Have they worked in, or founded, a startup themselves? Do they get the highs and lows? Being involved in a startup is not the same thing as running a flower shop, or a fitting tyre business, or even a flourishing restaurant.

A good example is working out which metrics are important to you right now. That is the kind of knowledge that your average accountant just doesn’t have. Yes, it’s important to have an understanding of each line in your Profit & Loss or Balance Sheet. But will a traditional accountant’s metrics give you an immediate sense of how your startup is functioning? Probably not.

Does your accountant get the terminology and metrics you need to run your technology startup? Things like Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), Churn, Life Time Value (LTV), Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC).

If your accountant doesn’t get that, maybe they’re not the right person for you.

 

How can you help me with health care for my employees?

Your accountant is not your insurance agent, of course; he won’t tell you what coverage to offer your staff. He can, however, help you figure out the key financial details you’ll need in order to make informed decisions. For example, do you know how many full-time equivalent employees you have in your business? It’s an essential number for Affordable Care Act regulations, and it’s not necessarily the same as the total number of employees you have.

Your accountant can also help you analyse and understand your cash flow, so you can make better plans on how to work insurance options into your monthly budget.

 

Are they onboard with your vision, and actively help you to achieve it?

Sure, your average bookkeeper or accountant can look backwards, and help you with the basic finances. When you have a startup accountant who has been in the trenches, they can guide you practically from that experience. The “fail and learn” scars that come with startup life are invaluable.

The other bonus is that your accountant will understand the need to build traction and raise venture capital to support your growth.

Your normal accountant struggles with the concepts of equity and valuation. You want a startup accountant that not only gets this but is experienced enough to share and teach “startup maths”.

When it comes time to raise money, you want someone that can help you navigate, grant and venture capital landscape in Australia. Make sure that your accountant can give you the financial modelling and other capital-raising support services that will maximise your chances of success.

 

How can you help me to make this tax season better than last year’s?

Taxes are always part of running a business, and you can always look for ways to improve how you handle payments, deductions, record-keeping, and so on. Your accountant, the expert on tax laws and their constant changes, can give you the insight you need.

Your accountant can help you answer questions like:

  • What are the latest changes in tax law that affect my business?
  • When is the best time to make big equipment purchases?
  • How can I best keep track of deductions?
  • How can I maximise my tax savings?

 

How can you help me better manage my cash flow?

Keeping a positive cash flow is the bane of many small business owners’ existence. It’s also an essential skill for a healthy, growing small business.

Ask your accountant to help you understand your cash flow, analyse problems or areas to improve, and make plans to manage it better. Your accountant can point out cash-flow tendencies in your business that you might overlook.

 

Are there any industry-specific tax regulations that I should know about?

Some tax regulations affect only specific industries, such as freight tax in the shipping industry, food tax in the restaurant industry, and tax on trade-in value in the automotive industry.

Industry-specific grants, subsidies, regulations, and corresponding deadlines and changes can greatly impact your business. Talking to an accountant with industry expertise can help you avoid paying taxes, you don’t have to pay.

 

What changes could I make that would help my business?

Although your accountant is not your business coach or financial advisor, she is an expert in taxes and finances, and she knows your business. She also knows how to analyse and understand all that financial data you collect every day.

It’s easy, as a small business owner, to get so busy in day-to-day operations that you don’t take the time to plan for the big picture. Use some of that time with your accountant to do just that.

There are good reasons for hiring an accountant at different stages of your company’s growth. From a business plan to company formation, loan application to government audit, an accountant can make life easier for you at each step.

That doesn’t mean you always need to employ an accountant full-time or hire one on a retainer basis. Sometimes just a couple of hours of their time will be enough.

Like all small business owners who are looking to save money, you may think you can’t afford an accountant. But look at how long it would take you to do certain tasks (such as taxes), and ask yourself, is that a good use of your time?

If you get an accountant to take care of time-consuming tasks like taxes, it’s quite likely they will cost less per hour than you would pay yourself. You’ll not only have extra time to free you up to generate revenue, but you’ll have peace of mind that an expert is taking care of the details.

DISCLAIMER
THIS WEBSITE CONTAINS GENERAL ADVICE ONLY AND IS NOT PERSONAL FINANCIAL OR INVESTMENT ADVICE. ALSO, CHANGES IN LEGISLATION MAY OCCUR FREQUENTLY. WE RECOMMEND THAT OUR FORMAL ADVICE BE OBTAINED BEFORE ACTING ON THE BASIS OF THIS INFORMATION. INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN HAS BEEN SECURED FROM SOURCES EWM ACCOUNTANTS & BUSINESS ADVISORS BELIEVES ARE RELIABLE, BUT MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES AS TO THE ACCURACY OF SUCH INFORMATION AND ACCEPT NO LIABILITY. WE SUGGEST THAT YOU CONSULT WITH A TAX ADVISOR, CPA, FINANCIAL ADVISOR, ATTORNEY, ACCOUNTANT, AND ANY OTHER PROFESSIONAL THAT CAN HELP YOU TO UNDERSTAND AND ASSESS THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH ANY INVESTMENT.

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