Choosing an accountant

How to find a tax professional

Choosing an accountant is much like choosing any other professional, such as a lawyer or plumber. The key is to shop around.

What accountants can do for you

For most of us, the word 'accountant' makes us think of tax time but accountants offer a range of services.

Accountants can assist with your tax return

An accountant can do your tax return each year, provided they are a registered tax agent. You can check their registration on the online tax and BAS agent register. This type of accounting service is offered by suburban accountants and large accounting firms with local offices.

If your finances are straightforward (for example, your only income is from an employer and you have few or no deductions to claim), try doing it yourself online via myTax.

How Australians spend their tax refund

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Take a look at our tax refund infographic to find out the average refund and how people spend it.

Accountants can deal with complex tax issues

If your finances are more complex you may want to engage an accountant to give you accounting and tax advice. Accountants may also be able to help you with investment issues provided they have an Australian financial services (AFS) licence. You can check if they have a licence on ASIC Connect's Professional Registers.

If your accountant gives you advice about the investments of your self-managed super fund, they must have an AFS licence. ASIC's financial advisers register can tell you where a financial adviser has worked, their qualifications, training, memberships of professional bodies and what products they can advise on. 

Check your accountant is licensed to provide investment advice.

Financial advisers register

To find out more about the licensing of accountants who give financial advice, visit the ASIC website.

Choosing an accountant for your business

Accountants can also help with your business. If you own or run a business an accountant or bookkeeper can help you keep the necessary financial records required by law which will also tell you if you are making a profit.

For more information, check out the Australian Taxation Office's record keeping essentials. Also look for your local government business advisory service, they can help you find a local business adviser or mentor.

How to find an accountant

You can find accountants in your area by searching online.

You can also ask for recommendations from family and friends.

Questions to ask your accountant

After you have created a shortlist of accountants, contact each of them and find out:

  • Specialisation - What services do they offer?  Do they regularly deal with people in similar situations to you? Do they have the right experience to help with your specific needs? If not you may have to pay for a more specialised service
  • Customer service - Do they respond to phone calls and emails promptly? Do they communicate in plain language with limited use of financial jargon?
  • Fees - What will you be charged, and when?
  • Registered - If they are going to do complete your tax return, your accountant must be registered, check the tax and BAS agent register. If they are providing investment advice, they must have an AFS licence or be an authorised representative of an AFS licence holder, check the financial advisers register.
  • Qualified - Do they have appropriate tertiary qualifications and are they a member of a professional association? Examples of professional bodies include the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, Certified Practicing Accountants Australia and the Institute of Public Accountants. Professional bodies impose certain standards on their members and can deal with complaints if you're not happy with your accountant.

If you're happy with the answers to all these questions you'll feel more confident working with the accountant.

Good accountants can help you maximise your income and minimise your tax. Take some time to shop around and choose an accountant that meets your needs.

Related links

Last updated: 21 Jun 2018