Whether it’s for your business or for your personal affairs, you’ll probably need an accountant at some point. It’s very important to choose the right accountant: good ones can save you a lot of money, which can be decisive in achieving your business or personal goals.
At FirmChecker, it’s our business to use data to match you with the right accountants who are trusted and valued by others. In this post, we’ll look at key qualitative factors to consider when hiring an accountant, drawing on the wisdom of experts in the accounting field.
ASIC’s Guide to Choosing an Accountant
The Australian Securities & Investments Commission provides this handy guide to (1) What accountants can do for you and (2) How to choose the right accountant.
In terms of locating and compiling your lists of prospective accountants, ASIC refers to professional societies (IPA, CAANZ and CPA) each of which have directories of members. Which of these organisations you use is neither here nor there. FirmChecker’s data doesn’t indicate one is especially better than the other, but they are useful resources.
Most valuably, it also outlines how to vet accountants for your needs once you’ve compiled a shortlist. Firstly, you should ask for what services their offer and whether they regularly deal with people with the same needs. FirmChecker’s ‘Work Types Reviewed’ data can assist with this on a firm’s profile, but you should also ask them for case studies.
Secondly, consider how well they communicate. Are they responsive? Do they speak in plain-English to make sure you understand? This is a key driver of whether clients end up happy, which is backed up by thousands of reviews we’ve collected. Similarly, fee transparency is a very significant driver of whether clients are satisfied with their service – so, if possible, you should ask for fee estimates up front, and agree to them on a fixed fee basis if you can. We indicate what fee structures firms typically use on their profile.
Finally, ASIC recommends that you verify their registration and qualification. This is important not only to be sure of quality, but also because of the implications with respect to Professional Indemnity Insurance – quite simply if they give you bad advice, it’s good for you if they’re insured.
SMH on how to choose the right accountant
Alexandra Cain has additional helpful pointers in how you can make sure you’re getting the right accountant. Beyond the pointers that ASIC gives, Cain indicates the following things to look for whether they:
- Understand your business/needs
- Are up to date with the latest legislative changes
- Are proactive in getting in communication
- Flexible in using different accounting software
- Ask you intelligent questions
The point is made that if you’re switching accountants, it’s important to communicate this to your old accountant in a professional manner to ensure a smooth handover of your affairs.
5 Key Tips
To make sure you choose the right accountant, follow these key tips:
- Search Smart. Use online directories such as the professional societies or FirmChecker to create a shortlist;
- Make Sure You Understand What They Say. If you don’t understand anything they’re saying, you should steer clear. They should be trying to help you understand what’s going on.
- Choose Proactive, Not Reactive. Ensure that they ask you questions and make efforts to understand your business. They should also be proactive in emailing you with updates and making sure your expectations are managed effectively.
- Get Evidence of Experience. Ask them to provide you with examples of similar work and check their FirmChecker profile to see what work types they’ve most commonly performed. Also, verify their qualifications.
- Fee Transparency. If possible, choose an accountant who agrees on fees with you up front. We’ve analysed thousands of reviews and people who get fixed fees upfront tend to be happier. To be fair, ensure you provide as much information as possible so that you’re not wasting their time.
Finally, if you’re managing a transition from one accountant to another, make sure you communicate this in a respectful and professional manner with your own accountant. It’s uncomfortable, but it will help ensure a smooth transition. Providing feedback to them can also help them improve!
By following these steps, you should be able to choose the right accountant.
About the Author
Ben Farrow is the Managing Director of FirmChecker. He holds commerce (economics & finance) and law (Juris Doctor) degrees from the University of Melbourne and digital marketing certifications from Northwestern University. Ben helps small business owners and individuals find the best professional advice. He also gives tips and tricks on how to run your business more effectively.
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