11 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Tax Accountant 

The task of choosing a tax accountant for many Perth business owners can be daunting.  Trying to sift through the masses of marketing and promotional material and getting a true understanding of the capacity and skills of your tax accountants around Perth is no easy feat. 

To assist business owners choose their new tax accountant we have drafted up the following question. 

What are of tax and accounting do you specialise in? 

Many firms typically offer everything to everybody – if you pay them they will happily do it. 

If your tax accountant can do everything under the sun for every type of client you should be concerned.  Try and engage with a tax accountant with a specialty and single focus in your niche area. 

At Westcourt – for example we only help founder-led family-owned businesses.  So, we don’t do government consulting, not for profits, public companies or charities.  Engaging with a focussed target client demographic will generate better solutions for you as the training and technical research by that firm is all directed at people like yourself.  

Are you independent? 

If your tax accountant service is basically a loss-leader for more lucractive cross-selling of home loans, managed funds, migration agents, insurance product or real estate sales you will inevitably end up with a firm more interested in promoting those investments and insurance.   

You should ensure that your tax accountant is acting only for you and not some other motive.  If they enjoy fees as a percentage of funds under management, broker fees or some other type of commission (or commission-like) income you are potentially in trouble. 

At Westcourt we only give independent, impartial and unbiased advice.   

Do you attend Xero-Con? 

Every tax-accountant across the country is aware of and uses Xero.  However if your tax accountant you are moving across to is truly committed to applying technology in the most innovative way they will have made an appearance and an investment in Xero Con. 

Last year by way of example Westcourt sent 4 of our teams members to Xero Con so we have the latest technology in-house for better client solutions? 

When did you last present a tax keynote presentation? 

Every tax accountant around Perth will attest that they are great at tax – but how do you understand the mediocre form filling tax advisor to the leading edge technical advisors. 

If your tax accountant is great at tax and great at generating value to you through their tax advice they will be respected across the tax profession.  And looking back at the number of tax keynote presentations within the tax industry will give you a clear understanding of how recognised and admired the tax advisor really is. 

At Westcourt for example we will ordinarily do 3 to 4 tax keynotes a year together with a raft of tax lobby papers through our representation on The Tax Institute and GGI Global. 

Do you keep timesheets? 

If your tax accountant runs timesheets they basically are being paid more if they go slower.  And there engagement with you will always have one eye on the clock to make sure they will get the hours up – often with irrelevant waffle. 

At Westcourt we have not run timesheets now for over 6 years.  Our firm is committed to the upfront billing system so that there are no surprises and no confusions over how we get paid. 

Have you started a business? 

Incredibly many tax and business accountants have never run a business – they are working in a large franchise model of accounting where the day to day management of the business is run by some faceless individual. 

If you want an entrepreneurial and creative accountant you are not likely to get it from an old franchise accounting firm that inherits clients from the brand. 

At Westcourt we started our own business.  We understand what it takes to take the first step and the pressure on a family it can take.  That experience translates to real world value for other like-minded business professionals.  

How long have you and your partners been together? 

It is surprising how many partners in an accounting firm and tax advisory firm move around from place to place. 

If you are looking for a long term relationship with a great tax accountant in Perth you need to feel comfortable that your potential accountant will be around for a long time.  

Do you have an offshore network? 

As business becomes more global it is essential that your accountant has the technical skills and network to give advice across tax jurisdictions.  It might range from looking at structuring your international share portfolio, structuring a branch office in another country, relocating families or dealing with offshore real estate – but getting advice covering all angles across jurisdictions is important in a long term relationship. 

If your accountant does international tax advice they will have an international network to back it up.  At Westcourt we are members of GGI Global – a network of over 29,000 independent professionals. 

What is the turnover or wealth of your largest clients? 

You want a firm that can grow with you as you grow.  So getting a feel for the firms biggest clients will help you understand the stretch ability of your accountant if you have growth plans. 

Many firms will understandably not give names of some clients due to respect and privacy – but they can roughly let you know the net assets or turnover of those clients.   

If you anticipate aggressive growth, and you will become the firms biggest client already, you need to investigate how the firm will handle the additional complexity of your affairs as you change. 

How do you invest in the people skills for your business?  

Every firm will say that they are committed to communication, relationships and client service.  However the question remains – how does your accountant make sure that every person in the firm is great at communication, relationships and client service?   

The skills of empathy, listening and teamwork are critical to a great relationship with your tax accountant – and they can be improved with training and development.  So if your accountant is committed to relationships, collaboration and client communication – do they actively invest resources into training themselves and their team on these skills? 

At Westcourt we have an independent critical thinking coach meet every team member for an hour privately to improve their personal skills – which is critical for out team to provide great service.  

What is your biggest mistake in business? 

Your advisor needs to relate to you and show vulnerability.  If your advisor does not have the ability to own up to a mistake or acknowledge that they are not perfect – you might find the relationship difficult long term. 

The process of changing your tax accountant can be intimidating.  And there is always the risk that the new operator will end up being worse than your former accountant.  At Westcourt we are happy to work with you on a graduated approach so we can show you our style to see if it is right for you.  And we engage and deal with your former accountant with respect and professionalism to make sure that it is as painless as possible.  

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