Choosing the right accountant


17th May, 2021

Choosing the right accountant for your small business

While the business landscape changes and new tax laws are implemented, small businesses need to work closely with the right accounting professionals.

As your accountant is usually involved in every aspect of your business (and to some extent your private life), you need to have one who you can relate to both professionally and personally.

You also need to feel that the accountant will have a genuine concern for your business and its success.

As for whether or not you need to consider switching, it’s less a matter of loyalty and more about whether you’re seeing value from the relationship. Changing accountants is a relatively simple procedure and shouldn’t cause any disruption to your business.

This article aims to help you decide what’s best for your business needs, as well as the key questions you’ll want to cover with any potential advisor.

Is the firm qualified?

When selecting or evaluating an accounting firm, an important issue to consider is whether or not the firm is a member of a recognised professional accounting organisation. This is an important factor as the title ‘accountant’ is not regulated in Australia. In other words, anyone can call themselves an accountant, even if they don’t have the educational and professional qualifications.

The three principal and most widely recognised professional accounting organisations in Australia are:

It’s important to always check the qualifications and experience of your accountant, as being a member of a professional organisation doesn’t guarantee that the firm has the expertise required to meet your needs as a business.

How to make the right decision

Start by selecting about three firms you feel might be suitable. You can do this by asking for a recommendation from your professional network.

There are also several good directories of business advisors you can use to begin your search, such as MYOB’s Find An Advisor page, the Tax Practitioner’s Board, or our directory of accounting firms on the Australianbiz website.

You should then contact each firm to make an appointment and take along a list of the questions that you want answered at the meeting.

13 questions to cover before getting started with a new accountant:

    1. Is the accountant a member of a recognised professional accounting organisation?
    2. What is the size of the firm?
    3. Who will be handling your affairs and what are their professional qualifications?
    4. Does the accountant have knowledge of your particular industry?
    5. Is the accountant able to provide business advice and assist in the financial management of your business?
    6. Does the firm provide advice on investments and assistance with business and personal financing?
    7. Will the accountant return your calls within a reasonable time?
    8. How long will the accountant take to complete your work?
    9. How accessible is the partner looking after you? A common complaint from business owners is that accountants sometimes lose interest in them over time.
    10. Do you feel that the accountant has an extensive knowledge of income tax and GST law and keeps up-to-date?
    11. Is the accountant familiar with the accounting software that your business operates?
    12. Does the accountant have a newsletter or some form of periodic communication to inform you of issues that are of interest to your business?
    13. What is the accountant’s hourly rate and the basis upon which fees are charged? For example, will you be charged for every phone call and also for travelling time?

It might be a good idea to get confirmation in writing on some of these matters (particularly with respect to fees) to avoid any disputes in the future.

Further due diligence in obtaining the contact details for three of the firm’s business clients should be considered, so that you can ask further questions about the firm and its services.

Finally, take time to make your final decision carefully and don’t be afraid to consult a friend or business colleague.

This article, while written by accredited tax agent and practising chartered accountant Joe Kaleb of the small business portal Australianbiz, does not constitute financial advice. For advice on your specific situation, MYOB recommends engaging a qualified professional directly.