HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR ACCOUNTANT

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2 HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR ACCOUNTANT Do you find dealing with your accountant confusing? Not exactly sure what services an accountant can provide for you? Do you have expensive accounting fees but you re not sure what you re paying for? Many small- business people hire the same accountant year after year without getting the service, advice and interest they deserve. There are so many ways an accountant can help you and your business. This e- book will help you cut through the confusion surrounding accountancy by outlining the many services accountants can provide and how you can get the best value for money when hiring one. Accountants: what sort of animal are they? An accountant is someone who has completed an accredited course in accountancy and is qualified to deal with your financial accounts. Accountants can perform a number of areas of financial management such as tax, book- keeping, audits and insolvency. Some of these services require special registrations. For example, an accountant may not provide taxation services unless they are a Registered Tax Agent. Likewise, a person may not offer book- keeping services to the public unless they are a Registered BAS Agent. What services does an accountant provide? There are a number of different services your accountant can provide you with. They include: Book- keeping Accounting (analysis of figures) Business coaching Business advice New business start- up assistance Tax returns Audits Supply and set up of accounting systems, including training and support Administration of self- managed superannuation funds What sort of advice can an accountant give to help me with my business? An accountant can help you plan how you run and administer your business to make the most of your resources and help you turn a greater profit. For example, your accountant could to give you advice on: whether to bring forward or delay expenditure and income for the next financial year whether to buy or hire an asset whether you are eligible for any relevant government assistance programs

3 where to find other professionals who can give you relevant advice or other services how to arrange your income (or loss) to get the greatest tax advantage how to structure your business to protect your assets in the event of being sued, or facing insolvency how to set up your business operation by preparing a business plan or budget what the tax implications of your business decisions are, and what your Profit and Loss Statement and Balance Sheet figures mean in terms of the performance of your business What are some concrete examples of how an accountant can help my bottom line? A good accountant can add value by analysing and interpreting your business movements and making suggestions to help you improve performance. Take these examples: Say you had a gross profit margin of 25 per cent and you decided to discount your prices by 10 per cent, did you know you would need to increase your sales volume by 67 per cent to maintain your current level of profit? And again, with the same gross profit margin of 25 per cent, did you know a five per cent increase in your price means your sales could fall up to 16 per cent before your current level of profit is reduced? And from yet another perspective, did you know that with a gross margin of 25 per cent and fixed costs of $200,000, you would need sales of at least $800,000 to break even? Imagine the effect that any of these three scenarios could have on your business if you got the numbers wrong. Your accountant can shed light on other areas of your business activities to help you manage your debtors, creditors and inventory. What is business coaching and do all accountants provide it? Business coaches can help explore ways to achieve your business goals by identifying where your business is at and decisions you might need to make in order to achieve those goals. As with other forms of coaching, a business coach does not necessarily give you the answers, but supports you in the process of finding the answers yourself. A few accountants also provide business coaching and finding one that does can give you the edge when it comes to driving your business and achieving things you didn t think were possible. How do I go about choosing an accountant? There are lots of places you can go to find an accountant. Online directories and the Yellow Pages can be a good place to start, as well as accounting body websites such as One really good way to find an accountant you can trust is talk to friends, family and especially other business people to see if there s anyone they can recommend to you.

4 When talking to an accountant and deciding whether to hire them, ask yourself the following questions: Do I feel comfortable dealing with this person? Are they answering my questions in a way I can understand? Are they making me feel like a valued client? Are they tailoring their service to my needs and timeframes? Are they able to complete all the jobs I am asking for, or only part of them? Are they reasonably priced and transparent when giving a quote? Am I getting to speak with the person who will actually do my work? If you find when you re talking to someone that you re not getting satisfactory answers to any of these questions, move on and find another accountant who will provide you with the service you re looking for. When should I talk to my accountant? A good time to talk with your accountant is if you re about to make a major decision for your business. If you plan to make changes in your business structure or direction, or make any major purchases, check if your accountant has any advice on the best way to do things. And of course, you should routinely speak with your accountant around April- May, before the end of the financial year. Remember, even the best accountant can do little to help your tax situation after the tax deadline has passed or after you have already locked in a business decision! How do accountants charge? Most accountants charge the hour, and you may be charged differently depending on the skill of the accountant assigned to your job. Some accountants prefer to charge by the job, so you as the client have certainty as to what your work will cost. When an accountant quotes you, always ask how you are being billed and whether there is a more cost efficient way they can work with you. For example, you may be able to present your papers and books in a way that saves the accountant time. Why is my accountant s bill so high? If your accountant hits you with what seems like an excessively high bill particularly if it s much higher than similar work done the previous year you have a right to ask questions. It s true that accountants overheads can be quite high and sometimes certain jobs need more complex attention that you may not be aware of which can add to the cost. However, your accountant should be able to explain their charges in advance so you are not surprised with a far larger bill than you were expecting. If this happens, and your accountant can t explain the extra charges to your satisfaction, find a new accountant.

5 How do I go about changing my accountant if I m not happy with the service I m getting? First and foremost, don t let yourself feel intimidated. You don t owe your accountant anything. If you have tried to explain to them why you re unhappy and they still haven t improved their service, feel free to move on. Once you find a new accountant that you are happy with, they can arrange to transfer all your details to them so you won t have to confront your old accountant. Remember, you are the customer and you don t have to justify your decision to take your business elsewhere. What is the difference between a book- keeper and an accountant? While an accountant may specialise in many areas of accounting, a book- keeper is someone who specialises in one particular area of accounting, and they may not be a qualified accountant. Their job is to take all your transactions, put them in a ledger and give them some order. There are many excellent book- keepers around who can work very efficiently to tidy up your books and hiring one can be money well spent. However if you choose to hire a book- keeper, make sure they are a Registered BAS Agent. If they aren t registered they are working illegally and it might mean they are untrained and uninsured, and could leave you with a bigger mess than the one you started with! I hired a book- keeper to get my books in order but still my accountant charges just as much as before and takes as long as ever why is this so? There could be a couple of reasons for this. It may be that your accountant is inflexible or greedy and have nothing to do with the efficiency of your book- keeper. On the other hand as we pointed out earlier not all book- keepers are the same, so ask your accountant if your books were in order when you brought them in. If you hired a registered book- keeper with a good reputation and it hasn t made a difference to your accounting bill, you might want to think about changing your accountant. Ask your book- keeper if they can recommend someone to you. How can I save on my accounting bills? There are a number of ways you can save money on accounting bills. Here are some good tips to keep your fees down: Ask your accountant what records they need before you give them anything. This will save them time sorting through records that aren t needed.

6 Present your books in an organised fashion, either paper or electronic. If you provide paper records, make them easy to access. Don t leave every bill in its original envelope! Present all your papers for the period and only provide records that are relevant to that period of time. Don t hand in every transaction you ve had since day one as sorting out irrelevant papers can use up a lot of billable time. Ask what parts of your book work you can do yourself, or hire a good book- keeper to ensure your records are in good shape. If you give your books to your accountant in electronic form, tell them which program you use and which year and version it is. My accountant takes so long how can I get my work done faster? If time is dragging by and your work isn t getting done, remember this could at least partly be because all your accountants other clients have tax returns and BASs due at the same time. However, there are things you can do to help your accountant get your work done faster if you re not getting it back in the time you d like. Contact your accountant before you send them your work, ask them about their availability and book your job in. If you just send in your work without calling first and your accountant already has a backlog of work then you may have to wait longer than you wanted. Ask how long your accountant expects to take with your job. Let your accountant know in advance if you need the job done by a certain date. Follow up if your job it taking too long. Don t be afraid to ask when your job will be ready other clients certainly will and may end up getting your place in the queue! Be responsive when your accountant contacts you for further information about your work. The sooner you get back to them, the sooner you will have your work delivered. The main message You are entitled to get the service you pay for and have the right to feel your accountant is interested in you and your business. If you re not satisfied, let your accountant know. If they still don t deliver, exercise your right shop elsewhere. Remember, you are the customer and your accountant s first priority should be to make sure you re happy! Prepared by No Fuss Tax & Book- keeping Pty Ltd Telephone: (toll- free) E- mail:

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