How to find a small business accountant
A great accountant is one of the most valuable relationships a small business can have. A study of Australian small businesses found that where businesses viewed their accountant as a trusted advisor, this relationship most often had a positive or very positive impact on their operations.i But finding the right accountant for your business isn’t always easy. In this article, we discuss some of the best ways to find a small business accountant, and then what you should look for when you’re making your choice.
Where to find a small business accountant
Finding a small business accountant is easy, but finding a great small business accountant can be a little bit harder. When deciding which accountant you will choose it’s best to start your search by asking for recommendations from business colleagues, or others who share your industry or business size.ii If you don’t find the accountant you’re looking for through referrals then it’s time to branch out to trustworthy online resources.iii
Word of Mouth Recommendations
The first place to start when looking for an accountant is word of mouth recommendations from people you trust.ii If you know any other small business owners, whether they be family, friends or former colleagues, ask whether they would recommend their accountant. Remember, accountants have different experience and fields of expertise – the accountant who does a great job with your cousin’s small plumbing business might not be the right choice for your growing legal practice.
Government Networks and Business Associations
If you’re part of a government network or industry business association, take advantage of your membership and reach out to find accountants that they will recommend.ii The organisers of such groups are often ready to help and can offer advice from experience. It is also worth reaching out to other business owners who are part of these organisations.
Finally, if your search for an accountant continues you can take advantage of available online registries of accountants.iii The following are useful directories compiled by industry bodies:
- Find a chartered accountant - Search the list from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia.
- Find an accountant - Search the list from the Institute of Public Accountants.
- Find a CPA - Search the list of Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia.
What to look for in your small business accountant
So you’ve compiled a shortlist of names, how do you know which accountant is right for you? Here are some important factors to consider:
Their registration and qualifications
If you are looking for an accountant who can submit your tax return, they must be a registered tax and BAS agent.ii If they will provide you with investment advice they will also need an AFS licence.iii You also may wish to look for a chartered accountant or a certified practicing accountant. These accountants have additional qualifications that enhance the experience and knowledge they can bring to your business.ii
Check whether the accountant you are planning to use has experience in companies of similar size and revenue to yours.ii If you are in an industry with specific accounting needs such as trust accounting or property arrangements, it’s worth asking if they have experience with your industry as well. You may also want to check if they can work with your accounting software.iv
Their reviews and other clients
The best way to get the scoop on a potential accountant is to talk to two or three of their current or former clients.ii Ask these clients similar questions to those you would ask an accountant, and see if the answers line up. If you can’t talk to any of the accountant’s clients, look for online reviews, preferably from a third-party website.
Understanding an accountant’s fees is not just a question of how much they charge. You should also find out on what basis fees are charged, whether you’ll be charged for phone calls and travelling time, and whether you may be liable for disbursements or ancillary costs.iv
In this article, we’ve discussed some of the best ways to find a small business accountant, and what to ask when you’re considering moving forward. Finding an accountant is an important decision, so do your research and talk to multiple professionals before making your choice.
This article contains general information only about topics of general interest to small businesses and does not, nor does it purport to, provide financial product advice. Readers should make their own enquiries, which may include but not limited to the resources noted in this article, and to seek advice from the relevant professionals before making any decisions about the subject matter of this article. To the extent that there is financial product advice on this website, any such advice does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Terms, conditions, limits and exclusions apply. Before making a decision about a financial product please consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement for that financial product.
i ,Australian Financial Review, Majority of Small Business Owners Don’t See Accountants, Lawyers, as trusted advisors, April 2017 https://www.afr.com/business/accounting/majority-of-small-business-owners-dont-see-accountants-lawyers-as-trusted-advisers-20170403-gvccey
ii Xero, How to choose the right accountant, accessed August 2018, https://www.xero.com/au/resources/small-business-guides/accounting/how-to-choose-accountant/
iii ASIC, Choosing an Accountant, accessed August 2018 https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/life-events-and-you/life-events/choosing-an-accountant
iv Business Victoria, Checklist: find a good accountant, accessed August 2018 http://www.business.vic.gov.au/money-profit-and-accounting/financial-management-set-up/checklist-find-a-good-accountant