Your relationship with your accountant should be based on trust and respect for their expertise and advice. And while this includes leaving the daily financial matters of your business up to them, it does not mean you shouldn’t take an active interest in those matters. As a business owner, it is important to know the state of your books and understand what your accountant is doing for you on a regular basis.
Been with your accountant for a while and don’t check in as often as you should? Here are five essential questions you need to ask your accountant today:
- What is the financial state of my business? A professional accountant can use the financial data they have collected over time to show you how your business is faring. And this goes beyond making a profit.
By analysing your business in financial terms, your accountant can tell you where you receive most of your income from, what you spend your money on, and make suggestions for better money management, cost savings, and streamlining business processes such as invoicing and supplier payments.
- How can we improve our cash flow? Cash flow (the cycle of money in and out of a business) is the lifeblood of any business. It doesn’t matter how much you invoice if that money isn’t in your business, on time, to keep it functioning. Many business owners aren’t aware of the importance of cash flow or how to manage it within the bounds of their business.
A good accountant will be able to show you what your cash flow looks like and point to any problem areas, for example, highlighting a client that doesn’t pay on time or in full. Your accountant should also help you review your budget, make suggestions for reducing overheads that impact too heavily on cash flow, and help you with collection processes so that you receive your money more quickly and easily than before.
- What taxes will we have to pay this year? Tax is one of the primary reasons businesses hire accountants. A good accountant will ensure that you and your business are always compliant when it comes to paying tax, from keeping accurate records, completing and filing the necessary paperwork, and planning ahead for upcoming payments. They should be able to tell you what taxes you need to pay, the amounts, and the deadlines for the upcoming financial year. This will ensure that you don’t miss payments and suffer unnecessary penalties. In addition, they should take the time to explain how your income and expenses will affect your tax and how to minimise your tax payments.
All the better if your accountant has master and general tax practitioner status and is affiliated with SAIT (South African Institute of Tax Professionals)!
- How can you help me grow my business? While bookkeeping is an essential accounting task, a professional accountant should offer services and professional advice that go beyond the everyday handling of your business’ finances. They should be able to offer you solid business advice, based on collected and analysed figures.
Your accountant should take the time to consult with you about your financial plan, for the present and the future, laying the groundwork for successful financial growth over time. This plan should be updated, in line with your real time financial results, on a regular basis.
- How often should we be in touch and what is the best way to contact you? Communication is essential to any successful relationship. The lines of communication between you and your accountant should be open and they should not be difficult to reach if needed. Your accountant should take the time to keep you up to date with your financial status and that of your business. This shows that, as a client, you are top of mind, not just another number that needs to be dealt with at month end.
This question is especially important if you choose to outsource your accounting tasks. Outsourcing has many benefits (including saving you time and money in the long run) but it does mean that you might not speak to your accountant on a daily or even regular basis. Set up a regular meeting or form of communication (for example, email reports or Skype calls). This will ensure you don’t waste valuable time chasing down your accountant and that, when you do speak, they are prepared with relevant information and questions.
A professional accountant should add value to your business, beyond completing basic financial tasks. If they’re not giving you adequate answers to the above questions, it might be time to look for a professional and reputable accountant who can and who will ultimately be an asset to your business, rather than just another expense.