5 Things to Consider When Choosing an Accounting Firm

Not all accounting firms are born equal. When choosing an accountant, you want to ensure you’re dealing with a professional rather than a number-crunching cowboy.

Whether you’re a business requiring a complete accountancy service or an individual in need of tax advice, choosing the right firm is important.

If you’re trying to decide between the hundreds of accounting firms in Melbourne, here are five points to consider:

 

What qualifications do they have?

Every accountant should be qualified, no exception.

It’s important to check the qualifications of those working at any prospective firm. Most accountants have undertaken a finance-related bachelor degree, and some have postgraduate degrees too.

 

Additionally, accountants in Australia should belong to one of the three main accounting bodies:

  • Certified Practising Accountants (CPA)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia
  • Institute of Public Accountants (there are three different levels – AIPA, MIPA and FIPA)

To become a member of these bodies, an accountant needs an undergraduate or postgraduate degree to begin with. In order to gain membership, they undertake a course to demonstrate their skill level. (Please note that this certification method varies slightly between each of the bodies.) When your accountant holds one of these memberships, it provides you with greater security. If there is an issue, you’re able to lodge a complaint with that body directly.

Additionally, any accountant that does your tax return should be registered with the online tax and BAS agent register.

 

Who will be handling your account and what’s their availability?

It’s important to clarify exactly who will be handling your accounts. Is it the well-qualified head accountant with years of experience, or is it the new junior? Small to mid-sized firms tend to have a couple of experienced accountants who handle the work, while some of the larger firms may have many junior accountants looking after clients – particularly smaller clients.

For businesses especially, it’s also important to have a clear understanding of your accountant’s availability. Are they able to meet or chat over the phone when you need assistance, or are they only available at very specific times? At the end of the day, you need an accountant that will answer their phone when you need them most!

 

Do they offer a range of accounting services?

For businesses in particular, you want an accounting firm that offers a range of services – such as financial management, auditing/reporting, cash flow analysis, and succession planning.

This type of firm will do far more than complete your tax return; they’ll be able to provide you with advice regarding your business’s financial situation. It’s also far more efficient to be dealing with one firm for all your financial needs.

 

Are they familiar with your industry or individual situation?

When you speak with a prospective accounting firm, ask about their current clients. Have they dealt with businesses (or individuals) that are similar to you? Ideally, you want to find an accounting firm that is familiar with your industry or individual situation, as this means they will have the experience necessary to provide you with the right advice.

For example, different industries have differing ‘standards’ regarding what you can claim on your tax return. Therefore, if your accountant has a strong understanding of the industry, they are better positioned to maximise your return.

 

What are their fees like?

Fees are an important consideration – after all, your accountant’s fees need to fit in with your business or personal budget.

Most firms calculate their fees in one of two ways – either per hour or at a fixed rate. The way in which fees are calculated and the overall amount charged depends on the firm, so make sure you clarify how much everything is going to cost before agreeing to move forward.

 

Conclusion

When hiring an accountant, remember that they’ll have access to sensitive information regarding your finances. Therefore, it’s important that you partner with one of the most trustworthy accounting firms Melbourne has to offer.

Gut instinct also plays a part; you should choose someone that you like. After all, matters of finance are dry enough as it is – the last thing you need is an accountant that can’t even crack a smile!