If your accountant "died" tomorrow, what would you look for in a new one?

Aside from the obvious (company reports, tax, BAS, PAYE etc.) compliance issues, what special things does your accountant bring to your business? And how would you choose between all the firms on offer if forced to select a new one? Where would you start – referral, industry expertise, area of specialisation, online search?

Top voted answer
Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

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Although the question was a bit morbid your certainly got my attention. If my accountant died and went to heaven (Yes I'd hope they didn't do anything "creative" with my accounting) I'd look for another accountant with the following criteria: Experience with my industry - I'd prefer someone who has had experience with my type of income stream and deductions, although it seems very obvious, I still haven't found an accountant that truley specialises in income for digital revenue streams. Apart from my employment income I also derive income from online sources such as adsenses and YouTube ads and sponsorship - very new types of income. I'd want an accountant that can understand that and that can (which leads to my next criteria) Get me the most deductions! Of course I want as much deductions as legally possible, and also advice on how I can spend to get the most deductions. Not only do I want an accountant to play damage control, I want them to also give me advice on how I can shape my expenses to get the most out of my income too :) In terms of how I would find them, I would most likely ask people I know in the same industry area that I'm dealing with and ask them if they were happy with their accountant and whether they'd recommend them. My original accountant was found based on search and locality as well as a recommendation.  In summary I'm looking for an accountant that can also play the role of business advisor if need be and knowledge of my industry is one of the most important criterias :)

Steve Osborne

Steve Osborne , director at

Thanks for your comprehensive answer Wendy. Could I summarise by saying you would look for high level industry specialisation amongst the people who would most likely be using similar services?
Micha Wotton

Micha Wotton Head of Development at SavvySME

Tolerance, patience and long-suffering.

Steve Osborne

Steve Osborne , director at

Thanks Micha for your accuracy and brevity. Aren't they all the same thing? Are you really asking for forgiveness?
Jacob Ross

Jacob Ross Authorised Representative at

I tend to agree with Wendy, an accountant that understands my industry would be the first priority followed by how proactive they are, which to do this, they would need to spend time reviewing my business to then be able to advise me on what I could do better.

Hitesh Mohanlal

Hitesh Mohanlal , Director at WOW! Advisors & Business Accountants

Hi Steve.

I don't have an accountant - i am one myself - so i guess i cannot really answer your question directly. However, we have undertaken extensive research on the matter and the problem with accountants in Australia is that accountants have no idea what businesses want or need. Generally business owners want their accountant to be:

- contactable, approachable and plain speaking - no techical jargon
- be timely - get the work done on time
- have good tax knowledge - preferably in their industry - but not necessarily. Most tax rules are similar no matter what industry you are in.
- willing to meet at least quarterly to discuss current and future trading and see where problems will be going forward.
- Can give business or strategic advice - ie not just year end tax or tax planning. They should be able to advise on all kinds of things from staff matters to marketing. They do not need to be experts - just enough to advise and if necessary get other experts in.

A good accountant will do all the above and if i was choosing one i would want the above as a minimum. Exceptional ones will go further.

- some now give fixed fees so there are no unexpected surprises
- Find one that is willing to give a no quibble full money back guarantee not just on tax work but on all work including business advisory
- be able to undertake a strategic plan and follow through for the next two to five years.

Many may think the above is required for large businesses. We find that those that undertake business advisory and stragic plans with an exceptional accountant will far outperform their expectiations and the best ones are small business because they can react quicker and are willing to accept advise. Hope this helps
Hitesh Mohanlal

Hitesh Mohanlal , Director at WOW! Advisors & Business Accountants

Sorry need to add a bit more - to find a good one try to get a referral. If you cannot do a websearch and see what words they are using - if it is all tax avoid them. There should be business advisory information and lots of testimonials. Then call them to see how they talk and once comfortable you should meet them. Then take it from there.
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