Every business has them, the car yards refer to us as tyre kickers. As a shopper you are “just browsing”. What ever the term, we all need to look around to see what is out there and judge the market for ourselves. So how do you judge an accountant?
Often one of the first questions I hear is “how much to do a set of accounts”. In our opinion, this is the worst way to judge an accountant. If the first question you have is how much, perhaps you should also ask who will be doing my work? Accountants have a number of options that we can use to complete compliance work. We have offers to send the accounts to India to complete them, in larger firms there is slave labour (sorry, “junior accountants”), work can be outsourced to other accounting firms in New Zealand that are not so busy or just have more resources. Is there a difference in the work quality? Often the answer is not really. However, the real difference is how well does your accountant know your situation. You may have heard the saying ‘knowledge is power”, this is just as true for your accountant. When your accountant personally does your accounts there is a good chance they know the little things about your business (or at least your industry) and they probably know when things are missing.
Services offered? In the past 12 months I have seen a number of new clients that want regular contact and management reporting. Great for us, as this is one area of business that we take real pleasure in. However, I sometimes wonder did the client talk to their existing accountant about this service first? It was not until one of our clients left, and talking with them about why they changed. They had no idea that we could offer them all the management reporting that the new accountant was going to do. I asked them why they didn't ask us for it. The answer was simple, they didn't know about it and what it could do for their business. One of their colleagues in a similar business mentioned what their accountant was doing for them so he booked a meeting with his friend’s accountant. Rather than talk to us about it, he signed a three year engagement with the new accountant.
We have established a couple of poor ways to judge an accountant. So how should you shop around for a new accountant? You shouldn't. I'm not saying to stick with your current accountant. I'm saying don't shop for an accountant. Woman don't go shopping for clothes that cover them the most, or that are the cheapest. They generally go shopping for something to wear that works well for their body shape and makes them feel good about themselves. So why not look for an accountant that goes well with your industry and you get a good vibe from? If your current accountant is not cutting it, maybe you just need to ask to speak with someone else in the firm. Alternatively, you may need to start tyre kicking and get a feel for what other accountants are like, we are not all robots and our specialisation and attitudes are as different as anyone else.
I implore you to talk with your accountant first if you are looking to change only because of fees or because they do not offer a service. These are often the easiest problems to resolve, especially if the relationship is still good.
Be aware of the cowboys, these days almost anyone can be an accountant, all you need is the IRD website, some accounting software and a basic computer. How will you know the difference between someone that has the ability to do your work to a professional standard and a cowboy. Look for membership, IRD has three approved advisor groups. NZICA, ATAINZ (Accountants and Tax Agents Institute of New Zealand, formally TINZ) and CPA. And for good reason each of the three groups has internal standards and ethics that are monitored. Each group is a little different in the way it is run. It would be unfair for me to make any comment on how NZICA and CPA firms operate as I am not a member (although I personally did work within a couple of CPA firms for a number a years) However, ATAINZ works very much on a strength in numbers as our motto reads. Unlike the other groups ATAINZ members meet regularly and often discuss our businesses, systems used and specific industries based on recent experience rather than having to wait months for training seminars and conferences.
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Posted on Sat, 1 February 2014
by Shawn O'Grady