Is it Critical to Have the Right Accountant?

Yes, a million times yes.

Just because someone is labelled an accountant, does not necessarily mean that person will be suitable for your business. Just because you work in a garage doesn’t make you a motor car. Just because you clean airplanes doesn’t make you a pilot.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit silly – but you get the point. Ignore the label and look inside.

Most accountants have their own area of specialty.

Some specialise in management work, others specialise in business rescue, others specialise in taxation. It is vitally important for you to seek and find the right specialist that suits your type of business.

Start by asking business associates or business owners you deal with for a recommendation. Alternatively approach the various accountants’ associations for a referral to suitable candidates for you to approach.

While in general it is good to deal with a qualified accountant who is a member of a professional body, the reality is there are many excellent accountants out there who do not belong to a professional body at all. They have the experience and knowledge to be able to help you - sometimes at a lower cost.

Being a member of a professional body however has its advantages for you.

The accountant concerned is accountable to that body and must meet certain standards and follow accepted ethics. This gives you, the business owner, a certain amount of protection and confidence. An accountant who is a member of a professional body is thus highly recommended.

Nevertheless, select an accountant because he or she appears to be someone who could help you and who you feel you could trust. Don’t select simply because they have letters behind their name or belong to this association or that.

Remember that at the end of the day you need to find someone that you are able to work with, someone who will take an interest in your business, someone with your interest and not theirs at heart, someone whose goal is that your business will succeed and grow, and someone that you like and can get along with.

Some of the points to consider include:

  • SMALL -If your business is small, make sure the accountant specialises in that size of operation.  Your accountant should have experience in your type of industry and it is an advantage if the accountant has other clients who are also in the same industry.  For example, an accountant experienced in the retail sector may not be so comfortable advising on matters to do with manufacturing or wholesaling or franchising. Find “the right peg to fit the right whole” is a good rule to go by.
  • TAX - Be sure your accountant knows his or her tax “inside out”.  Your accountant must keep up with the latest tax law changes and be fully aware of strategies that ensure your business pays the minimum tax legally required under taxation law.
  • FEES - Be clear on the fees you are going to be charged by your accountant.  Are you being charged on an hourly basis, or an assignment basis?  Is there a fixed annual fee levied that covers all your annual work, plus calls for advice etc.
  • INCURANCE - Make sure your accountant carries professional liability insurance.  You will need to be compensated for any damages or losses that your business suffers because of errors or negligence by your accountant.
  • SERVICE - Make sure your accountant is available for you.  It’s no use having an accountant who is not there when you need him or her.  You need an accountant who is more than a “bean counter” as they need to be able to guide you on all aspects of your business.  Anyone can complete forms and tax returns, but a good accountant needs to have the expertise that will enable the highlighting of areas of concern as well as developing ongoing improvements to your business.
  • COMMUNICATE - Make sure you get along with your accountant and that you can understand what he or she is saying.  Don’t stay with an accountant who can’t speak English properly. If you can’t communicate you won’t connect. Many accountants speak in accountant’s jargon and while this sounds impressive and can seem to justify the large fees charged, if you can’t understand what your adviser is saying, what is the point of being with them. The solution is very simple – drop them and find one you can understand.

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