Accountants can offer a wide variety of services to individuals and businesses, depending on the accountant’s particular areas of expertise and qualifications. Below are some of the common tasks your accountant can undertake that will almost certainly save you time and money.
Tax advice: the first thing you need to know is whether your accountant is qualified to do your tax. To do so, they must be a qualified tax and BAS agent, which you can find out here (you’ll find us by searching ‘Total Tax’). While you may feel confident in doing your own tax return, there is a good chance that a tax agent will be able to offer advice on possible deductions that will more than offset the cost of their services. More complex returns, including business returns, will cost more, but also have the potential for greater savings (businesses can usually claim a much greater number of deductions on their return than wage earners). If your accountant has a financial services license, they can also provide investment advice.
Auditing: with the rapidly increasing number of Self Managed Super Funds (SMSF) in Australia, it is important to know that as a trustee, you are required by law to undertake annual external audits to maintain your fund’s compliance (failure to maintain compliance can result in fund income getting taxed at 47% rather than 15%, so this is vital). As with tax returns, certification is required, so ask your accountant whether they are qualified as a SMSF auditor before proceeding. You will also require the services of an accountant if you are hoping to set up a SMSF.
Business advice: In addition to completing business tax returns, many accountants provide business development advice – how to improve processes and recordkeeping, as well as how to how to reduce bad debts and the threat of fraud. They should also be able to supply ongoing advice on Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT), Goods and Services Tax (GST) and other changes to legislation that could impact your business. Finally, they may be in position to undertake bookkeeping services (day-to-day recordkeeping) and offer advice on suitable financial software systems.
When choosing an accountant, you should be asking about their fees and specialty areas as well as their qualifications -are they a Chartered Accountant (CA) or Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA)? Ideally the firm will have at least one member of each organisation.
Finally, in your initial dealings with an accountant, are you happy with the service they provide, because an accountant can have a significant impact on your future financial prosperity, so you really need to know that you have chosen an accountant that you trust.
By Jennifer Lowe