Accountants are accountants - right?
Accounting is one of the most diverse areas of business. Some of my friends are accountants with over 25 years experience - yet never prepare their own tax return!
And I have a Tax Accountant friend who readily admits that he is not in a position to properly advise his clients about the best way to purchase an investment property.
Accounting is a specialist industry where people concentrate of their areas of expertise - and you need to know that. Selecting the right person for the job is critical and you must never just accept something or someone because they are there.
So how do you select the right accountant?
Well the steps that I believe you should follow are:
- Ask your friends and family for a referral to a good accountant. My experience is that people will tell you the good and the BAD advisors so that you at least have a point of reference. This will provide a short list to start your exercise.
- Make sure that they are registered. CPA (www.cpaaustralia.com.au) or ICA (www.icaa.org.au) accreditation is the applicable level in my opinion. Accountants with these qualifications have continuous learning requirements and it means something very special to them to have reached that accreditation.
- Ask them for a couple of references so that you can ask existing clients about what they do well and any downside to their advice.
- See if they hold a Tax Agents registration - this means that they can provide taxation services for a fee.
- Tell them what you want to achieve and ask them if they have done this before. Get them to run through a scenario off the top of their head about how they would prepare a solution for you. Compare this between the people you see to try and understand if the advice sounds correct.
- Ask them whether they do all the work themselves or whether they partner with other professionals. A good accountant will have a network of associates that they can get advice on tricky matters - we all can't know everything.
- It is horses for courses - select an advisor who specialize in what you are after - if you are a small business owner you want someone capable of assisting with the operations of your business and who can challenge you - but who also has access to a good tax agent for providing advice and taxation services. THESE ARE NOT THE SAME PERSON.
Finally, don't expect your accountant to be able to provide everything that you need. Would you go to a family law solicitor if your were charged with fraud? I think not.