Choosing an accountant is an important decision. The right accountant can help you save time, money and grow your wealth. Your accountant could have a significant impact on your personal finances or on your business. It’s vital to work with a practice that is trustworthy and experienced.
WHAT CAN A GOLD COAST ACCOUNTANT DO FOR YOU?
Everyone knows accountants help with tax, but few know the diverse roles accountants perform. There are many ways an accountant can help you sort out your personal finances or help you grow your business. An accountant in a private practice can help you foremost with compliance work and complete and file your tax return. They can also help you with:
- Starting a business: Your accountant could suggest what form the business should take and help you with your business plan, as well as give you specific legal and tax advice. Later on, they could also assist you with business acquisition and financing asset purchases.
- Setting up a bookkeeping system for your business: They could help you set up a computerised bookkeeping scheme so that you can keep easy track of sales, debtors, cash etc. An accountant can also prepare audited accounts and financial statements.
- Commonwealth and state tax planning: Your accountant could help you with tax planning to minimise your tax bill. They will also keep you informed about changes to tax and superannuation legislation.
- Financial planning, advice and auditing starting a business: Accountants can work with you to anticipate growth and change. They can help improve your business through better financial management.
- Personal finance: They can guide you on matters of personal wealth. For example, estate planning, advice on wills and inheritance tax.
WHEN DO YOU NEED AN ACCOUNTANT
There will be many times throughout your career when you will benefit from the services of an accountant. You should find an accountant when:
- It’s tax time
- You’re getting started in the workforce and need a long-term financial strategy.
- You want to invest your money but don’t know where to start.
- You’re earning multiple income streams and need advice on how to organise them efficiently.
- You’re dealing with finance, expenses, creditors and debtors.
- You’re planning your retirement.
- You’re looking to expand your business or investments.
- You wish to buy or sell a business.
HOW TO EXPLAIN YOUR BUSINESS
Your Gold Coast accountant will be able to do a better job for you if they understand how your business works. There are a number of steps you can take so that your accountant can give you a good idea of fees and how they will proceed.
Take a summary of your current financial standing or business plan to the first meeting to discuss, or even forward them a copy in advance.
It’s a good idea to have a business plan before going into the meeting. If you don’t have one, summarise the following issues for your accountant:
- What your product is and what your expansion plans are.
- What the annual sales are likely to be.
- How many staff you require.
- What type of accounting system you will use.
- Who your suppliers will be, how much you will purchase each quarter and what you will pay.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN ACCOUNTANT
- Qualifications: Your accountant should have a suitable qualification and be a member of an accounting body. You can contact these bodies to make sure the accountant you are meeting with is genuinely qualified.
- You Should only deal with an accountant who is a member of a professional body. That way, you have more protection and remedy should anything go wrong.
- Licences: Your accountant should have different licences for the different advice they offer. For tax advice, they must be a registered tax agent and for financial planning advice, they must have an Australian Financial Services licence or be an authorised representative of a licence holder.
- You should find out whether your accountant is qualified and licenced before you consider giving them your business.
- Size: It may be worth considering a firm that is comparative in size to your business. Small firms often specialise in small business work and large firms are usually the first choice for big businesses.
- Personnel: Find out the number of staff employed at the firm and how many of them will be looking after your concerns. It’s important to know that your accountant will keep in contact with you and that they will keep you informed about your assets.
- It is also a good sign if members of the firm regularly attend industry conferences and classes. Your accountant should be up to speed with industry developments.
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR ACCOUNTANT
Organisation: Make sure you have a good record keeping system worked out with your accountant so it’s easy to review advice and how to work progressing. Make sure you keep files of all documents received. Even ask to see how your accountant’s filing system works, so you can be confident they are considerate of your business.
Feedback: You should be able to have an open relationship with your accountant. Tell them when you’re happy with their service and when you’re not. If you are mutually informative, your business will benefit.
Bills: It is, of course, important to pay your accountant promptly, and not let that become a source of tension. If you receive advice, you have to pay for it. Talk with your accountant and determine suitable payment terms.
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK AT YOUR FIRST MEETING
When you’re looking for an accountant, it’s a good idea to bring a list to the meeting, to remind yourself of your specific requirements. You should think about what your needs are, what areas of expertise you require and how much you are willing to pay. Your accountant will see that you are serious about your business
Here is an example list which you may consider using:
- What is the fee system?
- On what basis do they charge fees, is it fixed or monthly billing?
- What are the billing terms?
- Is the introductory meeting free?
- Are there any free-reductions for repeat business?
- Will I be charged for small encounters such as a phone call?
- How long has the practice been in operation?
- What other clients do they have and what sectors do they work in?
- Would you be able to contact their biggest client and request a work testimonial?
- Is the practice experienced in your area of business?
- Are they a member of any professional accounting body?
- What is the history of the practice?
- Which professional associations are they members of?
- How does the firm keep up-to-date with industry standards?
- Does the practice have an emphasis on training and staff development?
- What seminars does your accountant attend, and what accounting publications do they read?
- How will the firm keep you abreast of important filing dates?
- How will you be kept updated and informed?
- Do they have a process for regular personalised updates
- Do they have a newsletter to inform you about issues of interest to you and your business?
- Are they familiar with the accounting software you use for your business, and if not, how will information be shared?
- Which staff members will look after your business?
- How big is the practice?
- Will the partners oversee your portfolio?
- What are the qualifications of the accountant who will look after you?
- Do they visit clients at their home or business?
- Do they provide any services for your specific business needs?
- Is the practice able to fulfil your specific needs? For example, bookkeeping and industrial relations assistance.
- Do they offer a secretarial service?
- Do they have a benchmarking service to compare your business to others and make suggestions for improvement?
SEEK AND TAKE ADVICE
Why do you pay someone to put together new computers? It’s simple enough to put them together yourself and a wealth of information is available to help you, however, it is time-consuming, difficult and often frustrating.
The same logic works for seeking professional advice. Often overworked managers get out textbooks and try to teach themselves everything about business, land and tax. There is nothing wrong with trying to solve these problems yourself, and you need to be an expert in your own business to understand your issues.
With so much information available, it can be difficult to find the right solution for your specific need. Seeing an expert will help you deal with your matter efficiently and effectively, freeing your time to deal with the day-to-day running of your business. External advice may also cost less than you think, and more importantly, may save you from making mistakes that could lead to further costs.
When was the last time you had a good look at the way you run your business? You may be your own boss, but occasionally it’s helpful to have someone critique your performance. Your accountant can do a management audit for you to ensure you’re maximising your opportunities.
Similar to a financial audit, a management audit can give you a chance to reflect on your own set of skills and practices. This audit aims to detect potential managerial problems and find effective ways of addressing these issues.
The business owner should create a plan for improving the company and evaluate strengths and weaknesses in a candid and honest manner.
There are some difficult questions that come with a management audit; here is a list of what you can expect to hear:
- Are you qualified to manage a small business effectively?
- Do you listen well? A manager can learn a lot from listening to others.
- Do you monitor and adapt to changes in the market that affect your operation?
- Do you belong to a trade association or other business organisation?
- Do you have a written description of your firm’s target market?
WORKING WITH YOUR ACCOUNTANT
The more your accountant is involved with your business, the more likely they will be able to offer solutions to increase your wealth. Here is a breakdown of what you might expect to discuss with your accountant at six different times of the year.
January/February: Its time for employers to assess their current business status and plan for the year ahead. Your accountant can help you set financial goals, make improvements on last year’s achievements and map out your business plan.
March/April: Employee review time. Make sure you’re using the most effective employee payment package to avoid paying extra tax. Use this time to discuss any salary sacrifice arrangements your employees may want to put in place.
May/June: Revise and update your paperwork before the end of financial year to make sure you don’t miss out on any benefits or get caught in any tax traps. The Federal Budget has been released; ask your accountant how it might affect your personal and business situations.
July/August: End of Financial year. Your accountant can help you get the most from your tax return. Now is a good time to assess your budgets – are you meeting or exceeding them?
September/October: Take time out to give your accounting strategies a spring clean, set up a savings plan or a self-managed super fund, or even a trust. Prepare yourself for any possible tax audit by the Australian Taxation Office, especially if your industry has been singled out for inspection this year.
November/December: Time for a yearly review. Was this year all you expected it to be? Can you do things better next year? Write down some key points to discuss with your accountant and then take a break, maybe even a holiday.