For many when they hear the word accountant automatically ones brain will generally associate this with tax time, however professionals such as accountants offer a wide range of services beyond just a standard tax return and also have the ability to assist with your finances should your situation be on the complex side and therefore be able to provide advice around it. An accountant’s role is to measure, process and communicate financial information about businesses, personal finances, organisations, governments or any party that has some form of financial property.
Four main areas which an accountant is responsible for are;
- Financial Accounting
- Management Accounting
- Tax Accountants
Accountants do have the ability to complete your tax return providing they are registered to do so, this can be checked via the Tax Practicioners Board Government website. Providing your accountant has an Australian Financial Services (AFS) license they are legally allowed to assist with providing advice around specific investments of your Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF), assist with establishing SMSF’s, provide advice on investment issues or answer any queries you may have. It is important to check to make sure they are legally allowed to provide you with the specific level of requested advice. Accountants have the ability to assist with business related matters along with bookkeepers who assist with ensuring the legal financial records are kept up to date and correctly filled out.
The difference between a Certified Practicing Accountant and a Chartered Accountant:
An accountant is a practitioner of accounting or accountancy, which is the measurement, disclosure or provision of assurance about financial information that helps managers, investors, tax authorities and others make decisions about allocating resources. To become a Certified Practicing Accountant you must have a recognised undergraduate degree and complete the CPA program.
Professional accounting bodies maintain high standards of practice and evaluations for professionals. Accountants who have demonstrated competency through their professional associations’ certification exams are certified to use titles such as Chartered Accountant or Certified Public Accountant. Such professionals are granted certain responsibilities by statute, such as the ability to certify an organization’s financial statements, and may be held liable for professional misconduct.
Chartered Accountants are those who are certified with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia. The requirements are much the same as that of CPAs; they have to have a university degree, undertake postgraduate studies, as well as three years of industry experience under an ICAA mentor. Chartered accountants work in all fields of business and finance, including audit, taxation, financial and general management. Some are engaged in public practice work, others work in the private sector and some are employed by government bodies
How to make your selection?
A good way to start your selection process is to talk to family and friends to see if anyone has any referrals they are happy to pass on as this will give you a good picture about what type of experience you will be up for and what to expect. It is important to ask the referrers about some of the good points about the particular accountant or accounting firm. Generally families and friendship groups will utilise the services of a particular firm or in most cases a particular individual as they all found a great experience was had without any headaches.
As with most professions, not all accountants are equal. Just as you may interview a shortlist of real estate agents or conveyancers to sell your house, it will only benefit you if you choose to go through the same process with accountants to ensure the best experience is had. You will also need to work out what level of accountant services you will need for your situation.
Cost is to be considered
While cost is a factor to consider if you talk to someone who is charging double the amount for their service compared to what others are quoting, you will need to sit back and think why they are charging such a high amount. In many cases you will find as with most things in life that you do get what you pay for but it will pay off for you to ask accountants for a copy of their fees and charges sheet which will give you a rundown of how you will be charged. It’s not advisable to go for the cheapest or the most expensive accountant however, it’s still important to compare accountant costs to help you refine your budget and end result. By talking to a number of different accountants you will soon get a good idea of what is standard practise for the use of the services. David Venables from Venables Accountants notes that different accountants will price more competitively dependent on their preferred client type – so it’s important to find an accountant which works well with the type of work you need completed.
Some questions you can ask when meeting with an accountant for the first time:
- Are you a registered Tax Agent?
- What services do you offer and what areas do you specialise in?
- Do you regularly deal with people in similar situations to me?
- Do you have the right experience to help with my specific needs and what is the cost for this service?
- Do you respond to phone calls and emails promptly?
- What is your response time?
- Are you a Chartered Accountant or part of an association?
- What type of accounting software do you use?
- What fees will be charged, how will I be charged and when will I need to pay the fees?
- Do you have an AFS licence or are you an authorised representative of an AFS licence holder?
Time to decide
If you’re happy with the answers to all of the above questions this will make sure you feel more confident working with the chosen accountant and it is then up to you to notify the chosen individual you are happy to proceed with their services. A couple of important things to consider is the location of your accountant and the type of software they are using as this can mean lower costs as less time is having to be input into the process and overall being cost effective for you or your company.
It is important to employ the services of professionals from the desired fields to ensure the smoothest path is achieved for the desired process. If you need recommendations for a real estate agent or other professional or have a question regarding anything spoken about in this article please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Gerry today.