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Money / Financial management

Find an accountant that is right for you

Working with a good tax accountant can be critical to the success of your business. So how do you find an accountant that is right for you?

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Once you’ve established a relationship with a tax accountant you’ll typically be very reluctant to switch to another, even if you’re not satisfied. There are numerous hurdles involved, including manoeuvring around the tax calendar and having your new accountant contact the old one to request all the information relevant to your business.

Changing accountants is not a decision you’ll want to make very often, so it’s best to make an informed decision and find an accountant that is right for you.

Why bother with an accountant?

If you run a small business, you’re not legally required to work with a tax accountant. Even as a Pty Ltd company, you can deal directly with ASIC and the ATO if you so choose.

Wisely, that’s a burden many small business owners prefer to avoid. Given that the fees are fully tax deductible, there’s little downside to working with an accountant – especially if you choose the best person for the job.

"Given that the fees are fully tax deductible, there’s little downside to working with an accountant – especially if you choose the best person for the job."

What will your accountant do for your business?

Your accountant should form an integral part of your business advisory board.

When you’re in start-up mode they’ll advise on the optimal structure for your business and assist in setting it up in the way that best suits your requirements and goals.

As your business develops, your accountant can also:

  • Develop tax minimisation strategies
  • Keep you abreast of any changes to financial legislation that affect your business
  • Help you identify business goals, and the targets, budgets and cash flow forecasts to achieve those goals.

In addition, many accounting practices offer assistance in setting up accounting software and record-keeping systems.

Want more articles like this? Check out the financial management section.

How do you find an accountant?

Good accountants are in high demand, so they can afford to be fussy about their clients. Many accountants have closed books, and only take on new clients based on qualified referrals, so if you network with people whose businesses are similar to your own, it’s worth asking around for recommendations and introductions.

Accounting and Tax Associations can provide lists of accountants that work in your area. Alternatively you can head to the Flying Solo directory for more financial experts.

Check their credentials

Visit your prospective accountant’s website, or ask for their company material to be sent to you.

How long have they been established? What are their qualifications? Do they meet your needs? Read their client testimonials to determine whether their existing clients are in a similar position to you.

Does the accountant have experience and understanding of your industry or field? If you’re involved in import, export, e-commerce, gambling or any other unique category, check whether the accountant is familiar with the idiosyncrasies of that world. If not, keep hunting until you find one who is fully aware of the opportunities and potential pitfalls your business faces.

Make sure you feel comfortable

Accountants whose books are open to new clients will usually offer a free initial meeting, which gives you the opportunity to gauge whether you’ll feel comfortable working with them.

Go to the meeting prepared to ask lots of questions. What are their fees? What services does this price include? How will they communicate with you? What software do they use?

Time invested to find an accountant can have enormous benefits to your business. Although I’m renowned for encouraging soloists to think very carefully about their business expenditure, this is one area where professional advice can deliver a very healthy return on investment!

Are you an accountant addict, or do you prefer the DIY approach? We’ll be interested in your comments.

Heather Smith

is a Chartered Certified Accountant & Xero Accounting Advisor specialising in moving businesses to the cloud, improving productivity and profits. She's written six books including Xero for Dummies & Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days.

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