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TIPS FOR CHOOSING AN ACCOUNTANT


Finding and choosing the right accountant for your business can mean the difference between success and failure. You need the right match for your exact needs. Unfortunately, once you've selected an accountant, it's often a hassle to switch due to the detailed knowledge that person gains of your business. Therefore it pays, when selecting an accountant, to 'get it right the first time'. And, if you are considering changing accountants - doing it sooner rather than later.

Listed below are some pointers you need to consider to make the right choice.

 

Accountant Qualifications

Accounting has a wide scope of functions and levels. It is often difficult to decipher what all of the different accounting qualifications mean. Our Table detailing the most common accounting qualifications in South Africa should help.

Certain accounting qualification requirements are governed by law, the most common being who can sign off Annual Financial Statements and who can complete an auditor's report for companies (Pty) Ltd's

 

Proximity

The advantages of having an accountant "close to home" are obvious, but if you don't find somebody suitable in your area, don't rule out searching further afield. It is more important to have the right accountant for your business than the closest to your business. Ninety-five percent of your dealings with your accountant will take place over the internet anyway, so don't limit your area of research.

 

Services Offered and Areas of Specialisation

There are many niches within accounting ranging from day-to-day bookkeeping and record-keeping all the way up to forensic audits. Although most accounting firms will offer a range of services, it is best to get the perfect match for your exact business needs. If it is bookkeeping you need, appointing a Chartered Accountant may be overkill. If it is complicated tax advice you need, it is worth getting an accountant who does most of their work in tax planning and tax advice. Few accountants turn away new clients, even if the client requires services that they are not necessarily very experienced in, so it is important for the accountant seeker to do their own homework properly, and find out what the accountant's exact area of focus is. Our accountant directory is particularly strong on this, and on each accountant's personal profile page, you will see a section dedicated to the accountant's focus. Pay close attention to this section.

 

Industry Sector

Often, accountants have many clients conducting business in the same sector of industry (E.g. Manufacturing businesses, Medical Practitioners, IT businesses). It can be extremely beneficial to employ an accountant that has a good knowledge of your particular industry. Look for the "Extensive Industry Experience" section on our listed accountant's profile pages. (please bear in mind though, that there are also plenty of excellent accountants that service a wide range of industries and can offer broad insights, so don't rule out these accountants either).

 

Accountant Fees

It is a good idea to get a quote upfront for whatever accounting service you require. Fees will obviously vary according to the complexity of the work to be done. As in any industry, it is not always possible to estimate upfront how long a particular job is going to take, and in these cases, many accountants will quote you an hourly rate. Needless to say, the hourly rate can also vary according to the type of work. In larger accounting firms some tasks can be done by junior firm members, whereas more complex matters may require a senior partner. The fee bands that appear on our accountant website are therefore only generalisations and the actual fees charged may vary.

Whilst on accounting fees - we cannot stress enough, that cheapest is not always best. Your accountant selection should never be based on price alone.

 

Who You Are Going to be Dealing with

Accounting firms range in size from multi-national businesses to one-person operations. Both have advantages. Large firms can often provide more extensive back-up and specialists in different areas, whereas smaller firms often offer more intimate and personalised service. With larger firms especially, it is important to ascertain who you will be dealing with - the person that you initially meet, or somebody else in the organisation. Although we list accounting firms on our directory the primary listings are all individual accountants allowing you to know exactly who you are dealing with. On each individual accountant's profile page, you can see the "Number of Staff" in their accounting firm.

 

Accounting Software supported

The accounting packages (e.g. Sage, Pastel, Xero, QuickBooks) that your accountant supports is critical. Whilst many accountants and bookkeepers will work with any accounting package it is usually better to work with an accountant that is very conversant in the package your firm is using.

 

FURTHER POINTERS

Locating a suitable accountant, auditor, tax-practitioner or bookkeeper on this website is not, in itself, the end of the journey. Once you make contact with the accountant you need to ensure that their communications with you are on your level. Financial information can be complicated to non-accountants so ensure that there is a good understanding between you. Trust is obviously key too, and often this is more of a gut-feel thing and better ascertained through a meeting (in person or on a video call), or phone-call. Whatever you do don't just go with social media recommendations. Yes word-of-mouth is often helpful, but sometimes all that Facebook Pages reflect are how many close friends the accountant has and how many of their businesses he or she has "liked".

You should be looking to create a long-term relationship with your accountant and it is important to establish upfront things such as:

  • How often you will meet with each other
  • What will be the primary method of communication e.g. Phone, email, skype, slack
  • Who you will be dealing with (the accountant personally or an assistant)
  • What sort of ongoing accounting charges should you be budgeting on?

Last but not least, if you find an accountant on our accountant directory, please don't forget to mention to them that you found them on this website. It will help us stay in business and improve our future services to both the South African accountant and you, their client.

See also:

Compared: All the ways to search for an accountant.

Qualities to look for in a good accountant

 


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