On this page
- Get the best accountant for your needs
- Contact an accountant
- Financial tasks you can do yourself
Get the best accountant for your needs
An accountant might be great at what they do – but not the right fit for your business. Ask these questions to find an accountant who can take your business to the next level and help you avoid costly mistakes.
You may be able to find some of these answers by checking the accountant's website.
What are your qualifications?
Make sure they have an accounting qualification and are a member of an accounting body. Your accountant can only give you tax advice if they are a tax agent. They can only provide financial planning advice if they have an Australian Financial Services licence or are an authorised representative of such a licence holder.
How long has the practice been operating and how long have you been with the practice?
If the practice is mature, what is their succession plan? You don't want to start a relationship with an accountant and then have them leave you in the lurch if they sell or retire.
What kind of clients do you see and what services do you provide?
Do they have clients like you and experience in the services you need? Ask to talk to a current client to see if they're happy with the service provided.
What other services do you provide?
If you want an accountant to help you grow your business you will need expertise in estate planning, business planning, strategic planning, budgeting and cash flow management.
Think about what issues are important to your business, e.g. bookkeeping, IT support, and industrial relations assistance.
How do you keep track of changes in client's circumstances?
Services should include checkups on how any plans are going.
Who will look after my business most of the time? What is the size of the practice?
Consider choosing a practice comparable in size to your business. Sometimes smaller practices suit smaller businesses.
How will your practice help me develop my business?
Consider choosing a practice that will partner you in the development of your business.
What has your growth rate been like in the past three years?
If you want to grow your business, an accountant who knows how to grow theirs could be a great place to start.
What sort of access will I be given to the data you hold about my business?
Make sure that you will be given full access to all your business data. Accountants can provide you with information to update your business plan or a tender document.
Can you provide business advice and assist in the financial management of my business?
Consider practices that will provide regular financial reports on your business with additional commentary.
Will you return my calls within a reasonable time? How long will you take to complete your work?
Clear processes should be established to keep you well informed.
Are you familiar with the accounting/software package I use in my business?
If not, establish how information will be accessed and shared.
Do you have a newsletter or some form of communication to inform me of issues of interest to my business?
How will you be informed, particularly of any changes to legislation?
How do you bill and what will I get for my money?
What is the basis on which fees are charged? Will you be charged for every phone call and also for traveling time? Will they bill you monthly? Annually?
How do you do research? May I look at some of the services you use?
What research journals and services does the practice subscribe to? Even if you have never heard of them, flick through them.
When should I contact an accountant?
At a minimum you should contact an accountant:
- before starting, buying or selling a business
- before acquiring or replacing property, plant or other assets
- sometime between January and June 30th each year to plan for the end of the financial year so there are no tax surprises
- if you're planning future expansion
- if you're having problems with creditors, debtors, finance, expenses or stock.
What financial tasks should I do myself?
Don't rely on your accountant for everything. You should still know the financial basics and have checks and balances in place. It's your business and you need to know what's going on.
Use our Financial policies and procedures manual template to get the right processes in place.
Try one of our Financial Management workshops if you don't know the difference between a cash flow and a balance sheet.