Get the best accountant for your needs

An accountant might be great at what they do – but they may not be the 'right fit' for your business.

To find an accountant who can take your business to the next level and help you avoid costly mistakes, use the questions we've provided below. Check out the accountant's website – you might find some of the answers there.

What are your qualifications?

Make sure they have an accounting qualification and are a member of an accounting body. Your accountant can only give you tax advice if they're a tax agent. They can only provide financial planning advice if they have an Australian Financial Services licence or are an authorised representative of such a licence holder.

How long has the practice been operating, and how long have you been with the practice?

Find out what the practices succession plan if it's mature. You don't want to start a relationship with an accountant and then have them leave you in the lurch if they sell or retire.

What kind of clients do you see, and what services do you provide?

Find out if they have clients like you and experience in the services you need? Ask to talk to a current client to see if they're happy with the service provided.

What other services do you provide?

If you want an accountant to help you grow your business, they'll need expertise in:

  • estate planning
  • business planning
  • strategic planning
  • budgeting
  • cash flow management

Think about what issues are important to your business, such as bookkeeping, IT support, and industrial relations assistance.

How do you keep track of changes in client's circumstances?

Services should include check-ups on how any plans are going.

Who will look after my business most of the time? What is the size of the practice?

Consider choosing a practice comparable in size to your business. Sometimes smaller practices suit smaller businesses.

How will your practice help me develop my business?

Consider choosing a practice that will partner you in the development of your business.

What has your growth rate been like in the past three years?

If you want to grow your business, an accountant who knows how to grow theirs could be a great place to start.

What sort of access will I be given to the data you hold about my business?

Make sure you'll be given full access to all your business data. Accountants can provide you with information to update your business plan or a tender document.

Can you provide business advice and assist in the financial management of my business?

Consider practices that provide regular financial reports on your business – with additional commentary.

Will you return my calls within a reasonable time, and how long will you take to complete your work?

Clear processes should be established to keep you well informed.

Are you familiar with the accounting and/or software package I use in my business?

If they're not, establish how information will be accessed and shared.

Do you have a newsletter or some form of communication to inform me of issues of interest to my business?

Find out how you'll be informed, particularly of any changes to legislation?

How do you bill and what will I get for my money?

Find out:

  • what basis fees are charged
  • if you'll be charged for every phone call and also for travelling time
  • their billing cycles, such as monthly or annually
  • how they conduct their research
  • what services they use

What research journals and services does the practice subscribe to?

Even if you've never heard of the journals, flick through them.

When should I contact an accountant?

At a minimum you should contact an accountant:

  • before starting, buying or selling a business
  • before acquiring or replacing property, plant or other assets
  • sometime between January and June 30 each year to plan for the end of the financial year – so there are no tax surprises
  • if you're planning future expansion
  • if you're having problems with creditors, debtors, finance, expenses or stock

What financial tasks should I do myself?

Don't rely on your accountant for everything.

You should still know the financial basics and have checks and balances in place – it's your business and you need to know what's going on.

Use our financial policies and procedures template below to get the right processes in place.

Try one of our financial management workshops if you don't know the difference between a cash flow and a balance sheet.