Searching for an accountant at tax time is like scrambling for a last minute date on Valentine’s Day. You’re desperate, needy and after anyone! But this year will be different, armed with our facts you won’t just settle for any accountant, you’ll find the one that’s right for you!

1. Figure out your needs

Just like finding the right doctor or hairdresser deciding on an accountant is not a short-term decision. Ask yourself what you’ll most commonly turn to them for? Do you need help with your BAS? Would you like them to assist you grow your business? Or are you after a specialist service? Being clear about what you want is the first step to finding the service you need quickly and simply.

Some important assistance an accountant could provide that you may not have thought of includes:

  • Help with setting up budgets;
  • Assistance with prepared customer and cashflow reports; or
  • Guidance on setting up KPIs.

2. Make sure they’re qualified

Everyone knows someone who’s savvy with numbers but a qualified accountant, (bookkeeper or financial adviser) can make a real difference to your business. When looking at potential accountants check if they’re member of a professional association (ICAAIPACPANZICA etc). Not only are they required to meet certain qualification standards to be a member but also the association can address any concerns you have about your accountant. Bookkeepers have similar associations and standards so be sure to check if they’re a qualified BAS agent.

3. …And registered

While you’re looking at qualifications, if they’re going to handle your tax return it’s probably a good idea to check if they’re registered at the online tax and BAS agent register. If you’ve decided you need assistance with your BAS be sure to ask if the accountant you’re turning to is qualified. If you’re after financial planning advice, take a moment to check if they hold an Australian Financial Services license or are an authorised representative of such a license holder. You wouldn’t let an unregistered doctor practice with your health so don’t take a chance on the health of your finances.

4. Have the fees and charges talk early

Nothing sours a new business relationship faster than unexpected (or undiscussed) fees and charges emerging. Accountants are in the business of assisting you make the most informed financial decisions but if you require a specialised or niche service it may cost you more to get that expert advice. Be sure to find out how your potential accountant bills (monthly or annually) and the exact services you’re paying for (phone calls, travelling time). Always ensure you understand exactly what you’re getting into to avoid disappointment.

5. Question everything!

Without sounding paranoid it’s essential to question everything when you’re searching for an accountant. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that may sound silly, most accountants are happy to lend their time and assistance. Be sure to ask if you’ll be billed for an introductory meeting and although your connection is professional, don’t hesitate to ask (appropriate) personal questions. For example, find out how they handle similar tax Eliminate any ambiguities in your mind and take notes if you need to. Online forums, blogs and help lines are also great resources for information.