When you're setting up a small business, you've got a lot on your plate and much to think about. However, one of the biggest decisions you can make is in the selection of a good accountant. What should you be looking for?
Look for Credentials
In Australia, anybody is allowed to call themselves an accountant, as this title is not regulated. However, if the accountant is to prepare and submit your tax returns, then they must be registered and belong to a professional association. This is one of the first questions to ask.
Considering the Bigger Picture
Always look for an accountant who is flexible, committed and willing to go the distance. In other words, they should be really passionate in their endeavour to help you. They need not know everything that there is to know when it comes to tax law as this is such a complex subject, but they must certainly be willing to use their professional application to find answers to your business problems as and when they arise.
Do they Bring Value?
Many people simply use accountants for tax preparation, but they can give you a lot more value than that through the course of the year. Use a good accountant to help you analyse your cash flow, apply for finance or in other areas such as planning for succession. Remember that you can make all of your information available to the accountant on a real-time basis these days due to cloud-based applications.
Are They a Systems Analyst?
Whereas software and technology have taken front and centre stage in business development, your new accountant must have the relevant technical knowledge to be able to take advantage. The accountant should be able to set up a system using the right business software and cloud accounting tools for your particular application and maintain the system through the course of your contract.
Do They Have Fair Division of Time?
Look for an accountant that is good at managing their time and is willing to devote the appropriate amount of time to your affairs, regardless of your business size. It may be a tendency for certain accounting practices to devote their best effort only to their bigger clients.
How Are Fees Charged?
Work with an accountant who is aligned to your way of running your business and your cash flow. Different accountants have different approaches when it comes to charging their professional fees. Some like to charge on an hourly basis, while others have a fixed-price mentality and may be looking for a portion of their fee up front before work begins.
Will They Challenge You?
Finally, avoid an accountant who is a "yes man." Accountants that may be looking for the easy life may want to avoid challenging conversations and only tell a client what they think they want to hear. It's important for the accountant to advise courses of action even when they are less palatable.