As the business climate has changed enormously over the recent years, the role of your accountant has become more important than ever before. In order to optimise your relationship, I suggest the following:
1. COMMUNICATE. Do you need quarterly reports on profitability during the year to avoid any nasty tax problems, or can you determine your tax position from your own observations and experience? Are you totally confident in your point-of-sale system, or would you like independent management reports to compare with those generated by yourself? Would you like to prepare your own cashbook on your computer, or can you use your time on more profitable activities etc?
2. SET SHORT, MEDIUM AND LONG-TERM GOALS, TOGETHER. The more background your accountant has the better quality advice you will receive. They must be aware of your current activities and associated goals, as well as future plans. As your plans change, make your accountant aware, as this may have a significant effect on the financial strategy employed.
3. COST / BENEFIT OF FEES. If you want the cheapest accountant, then expect service and advice commensurate with fees. Whilst many accounting functions can be maintained by implementing solid systems and procedures, much of the management or tax advice can be invaluable. For instance, you may save thousands of tax dollars when negotiating a finance deal, such as evaluating a lease decision on a shopfit, computer or vehicle. Another example is capital gain implication on purchase or sale of a business or rental property, considering the CGT “roll-over” provisions etc. And of course, GST can be a minefield unless you have advice based upon the latest rulings and updates.
4. DON’T SAY “I ONLY WANT YOU TO DO MY TAX”. Tax work is only one of your needs, but there are areas where your accounting dollar can have greater returns, i.e. cashflows, business plan, finance applications, financial planning and investment advice etc. You would never ask your doctor to treat only one of your ailments at the exclusion of all others, would you? Your finances are no different, so respect the synergies.
5. ORGANISATION AND ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Reduce any unnecessary time spent by your accountant having to attend to menial tasks (such as reconstructing lost or inaccurate records, ringing banks to arrange copies of documentation etc.) and allow accurate management reports and tax returns to be prepared on a timely, cost effective basis. It should also help avoid any surprises at tax time.
6. IF YOU ARE NOT SATISFIED, SAY SO. You have the right to be critical, but don’t expect someone to be able to read your mind. When a client/customer walks into your business, you have to rely upon their input to provide the correct solution. Tell your advisor:
· Keep it simple
· Tell it like it is
· No nasty surprises
· Cut out the jargon
· Don’t be a stranger – Be involved with my major financial decisions
· Help me pay less tax, and grow my assets
· Show me how to add value to my business
Overall your accountant must be intimate with your specific needs, to help generate ideas and be better equipped to review your financial affairs on a regular basis. As there is far more emphasis on the need for strategic business and financial planning these days, you must be aware of what you REALLY want from your professional and personal life and ensure you are on track to achieve your goals. Your accountant should be the person in the best position to advise you on all aspects of your financial strategy.