A good accountant is one of the best investments a business owner can make. As the end of the financial year and the dreaded tax return approaches, it is worth asking whether you have chosen the right one for your business.
To choose the right accountant you need to be clear on what level of service you want from them. An accountant is different to a book-keeper. Many business owners see their accountant once a year to complete their tax but an accountant can be a source for ongoing business and tax advice. Some accountants are also licensed to give investment advice on specific products and some can help you in developing a business plan or evaluating a business before you buy it.
Once you know what you need from them look for an accountant who has demonstrated experience in those services. Ask your local business chamber or business colleagues for recommendations. There are three main professional bodies including the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Certified Practicing accountants Australia and the National Institute of Accountants, and they all have lists of members in your area.
A good accountant can save you time and money so it is worth interviewing several of them. We often get three quotes for other services that cost less and have less impact on business. Ask them about their rates and if they do work for similar businesses. Bring recent tax returns so they can give you realistic estimates. Check their qualifications and licenses. They need to be registered with the Tax Agent’s Board to be able to legally prepare your tax return.
Accountants don’t come cheap. You get what you pay for. You may be able to save on fees if you use their preferred program and provide information in a way that reduces the time they need to spend servicing you.
Greg Taylor is Chief Financial Officer for the Hunter-based Greater Building Society. This article appeared in the Newcastle Post May 23.