As an ADF member you may be entitled to certain tax and other benefits, and may want to engage a professional accountant to help you with your taxes or other financial arrangements. Choosing an accountant is much like choosing any other professional, such as a lawyer or plumber. Take some time to shop around and choose an accountant that meets your needs.
What accountants can do for you
Accountants offer a range of services.
For most of us, the word ‘accountant’ is closely associated with tax time. This type of accounting service is widely used and typically offered by suburban accountants and large accounting firms with local offices. Look out for the advertisements come tax time. Make sure your accountant is a registered tax agent by checking online at the Tax Practitioners Board website: www.tpb.gov.au.
If your finances are straightforward you can fill out a paper tax return or use the Australian Tax Office’s (ATO) online E-tax system. If you have more complex finances you may want to engage an accountant to give you general advice on specific tax situations.
Accountants may also be able to help you with investment issues, provided they have an Australian Financial Services Licence. Check if they have a licence on ASIC Connect’s Professional Registers.
If you or your family run a business, you’ll need the services of an accountant or bookkeeper because there are specific laws about the records that businesses must keep. Search the ATO website for information on record keeping essentials.
How to find an accountant
Once you’ve decided on the type of accounting service you need, the next step is to find an accountant in your area. You can search the websites of professional bodies such as the Certified Practising Accountants of Australia, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, or the Institute of Public Accountants. You can also ask for recommendations from family and friends.
Questions to ask
- Specialisation – what services do they offer? Do they regularly deal with people in similar situations to you? If you have specific needs, make sure your accountant has experience in that area. If not you may have to pay for a more specialised service.
- Customer service – do they provide a good service? Make sure your accountant responds to phone calls and emails promptly. You may also want an accountant that communicates in plain language, not financial jargon.
- Fees – what will you be charged, and when?
- Qualified – are they a member of one of the professional associations mentioned above? If they are, they have to meet the standards of the association. It also means you can complain to the association if you’re not happy with your accountant or the service provided.
If you’re satisfied with the answers to all these questions you can feel confident about working with your accountant.
For more information on choosing an accountant go to www.moneysmart.gov.au.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission