Finding the right accountant while you’re setting up your business can be crucial to its success.
It’s important to find someone who suits the needs of your business and who you can develop a good working relationship with.
When you might need an accountant
Seeking the advice of an accountant is beneficial at many key points in starting and running a business. You are likely to need an accountant when:
- starting, buying or selling a business
- expanding your business
- you have problems with creditors or debtors, or managing finance, expenses or stock
- you employ staff
How an accountant can help you
The services of an accountant are essential to ensure:
- your business is financially sustainable
- you receive qualified advice before making financial decisions
- you can meet financial compliance requirements
How to find the right accountant
- Find an accountant before you start or buy a business so you have the right advice and structure in place to ensure a smooth business launch or takeover.
- Create a shortlist of accountants and rate their services against your priorities, like quality, reliability, price, location, and terms of business.
- Understand that only registered tax agents can lodge returns on your behalf with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Check if your accountant or their firm is registered on the Taxation Practitioners Board. Likewise, only Australian financial services (AFS) licence holders can provide financial planning advice. You can find licence holders at asic.gov.au
- Ask for recommendations from family, friends and other small business owners. Also research online, including asking for recommendations through our Facebook group I’m a small business owner in Western Australia.
- Help is also available through the Curtin Tax Clinic where eligible small businesses can access free tax advice and assistance from students, under the supervision of experienced tax practitioners.
- Make a list of the services you want from an accountant. Do you want your annual accounts and tax returns completed, help with your business structure, or regular advice?
- Keep looking and interviewing until you find someone you feel comfortable with.
- Don’t rely on your accountant for everything. As a business owner, you need to understand the financial basics of your business and have the necessary checks and balances in place so you know what’s going on in your business’s financials.
Action to take
Questions to ask an accountant
What are their qualifications? Are they a member of a professional association?
Can they explain their business and how it operates? Why should you choose this practice?
Their style of operating should work well for the needs of your business and they should be able to clearly articulate how they’re best placed to assist with your particular circumstances.
What other services do they provide?
For example, do they have a regular newsletter or hold information sessions to provide advice for small business clients?
It’s important you keep up to date, particularly in relation to changes in legislation.
What are their fees and how are they calculated?
Find out the basis on which fees are charged, whether you will be billed monthly or annually, and if they bill for every phone call.
Do they have other clients in a similar industry to yours or that have recently started a business?
The advice they provide will be more relevant to your business if they are aware of issues impacting your industry and how other businesses, similar to yours, are overcoming these challenges.
Can you speak with current clients and businesses similar to yours?
This is an opportunity to see if clients are happy with the level of service provided.
Do they have examples of how they’ve been proactive with other small business clients?
For example, have they helped draft financial forecasts, such as cash flow?
Find out if they are they able to practically assist with your needs and how their services will add value to your business.
Can they advise which business structure is best for you?
When advising which structure best suits your business, an accountant should take into consideration your personal assets, financial circumstances and the potential for future growth.
Are they familiar with the accounting software you plan to use?
Find out how they plan to access your records.
Can they recommend a bookkeeper?
An accountant should be able to recommend someone who can provide practical assistance to help you to manage your books on a regular basis.
Can they visit you at your premises?
How flexible are they about fitting in with your needs?