Prison and fines—probably the two best reasons or motivations anybody needs for taking the time to choose, and choose carefully, a good accountant.
Where many of the turns our lives take hang upon the earth-shaking decisions we make, the accountant we engage to handle our business’ finances is easily one of those decisions. You don’t have to look far to find an example or two of what could happen, but the important thing to note is that it doesn’t have to come to this.
To help you make that all-important choice, we offer you this guide for choosing a good accountant in Singapore who will help you achieve your business goals.
First, figure out what your business needs.
Before you even begin to start looking for an accountant, make a list of what your business needs, or what you’ll be needing accounting services for. Only then will you be able to find an accountant with the right skill set to match your business’ requirements.
One thing to consider would be whether you want someone in-house or to outsource your accounting duties. While some business owners see in-house accounting as a way to save on costs, outsourcing can actually cost less than paying a full-time accountant on your staff, as well as be far more efficient in terms of processes.
Now that you know what you need, here’s what you should look for.
Make sure your prospective accounting firm will be able to do everything on the list you made of your business’ accounting requirements—and then some. Because your requirements are bound to scale alongside your business, you’ll want your accountant to be able to handle those requirements as they come along.
A good accountant should be well-versed in taxation law as well as tax relief to help ease the burden on your business. Do take note that it’s the business owner, not the accountant or accounting firm, that pays the penalties for tax filing and payment errors, so choose your accountant wisely.
The more knowledge your accountant has, the better the advice you can receive as regards your finances. Check whether the accountant you’re considering is a Chartered Accountant of Singapore or CA (Singapore), a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or is accredited by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants or ACCA.
How long has your prospective accounting services provider been in business and who is on its client list?
Take note of the industries that the clients of your prospective accountant belong to. It’s advisable to engage an accountant who is familiar with your industry, and is used to working with businesses that are the same size as yours, so that you can receive relevant advice that can help your business grow.
Some business owners prefer having their accountant within easy reach of their own headquarters, also because they may want to take the accountant to meetings with them. This has, however, become much less of an issue lately with the rise of cloud accounting and online communications.
It’s important that your accountant is not resistant to new technology, unless you are not intending to leverage on technology to grow your business. Even something as simple as using the same accounting software as your prospective accountant would simplify matters greatly. Or, if you have yet to start using accounting software, find out if the software the accounting firm is using is registered with the IRAS, up to date, and easy to use.
Does the prospective accounting firm’s fee schedule seem reasonable and will your business be able to meet it? Always remember, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get” Very often if the price is really low, you are probably not going to get much value out of it.
Get to know the accounting team and see whether you would be comfortable working with them. Are they proactive or project a genuine willingness to help? More importantly, do you feel that you can trust them to not only help you manage your finances, but find ways to save or even generate income?
Having made a shortlist, here’s how you can choose.
Look them up on social media
Pay close attention to the way these accounting services providers present themselves as well as to their connections. Look for reviews or testimonials and assess the quality of what is being said.
Ask their clients
Reach out to the clients, past or present, of your prospective accountant and see what they have to say. If it’s a past client, ask them why they discontinued the accountant’s services.
Ask your social media networks
See if anyone you know has worked with the accountants on your list and ask them for feedback. Bear in mind, however, that just because an accountant worked well for them, doesn’t necessarily mean that that same accountant is the right fit for your business.
Refer to government or business associations
The Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC), Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) are just some of the associations you could check with.
Prepare for the interview
Even though you’ll be the one asking questions, it’s important to know the right questions to ask—not just about the accounting firm itself, but also questions like “Is there anything I don’t know about that could save me money?” Make sure the accountant isn’t the only one who’s doing the talking.
Ask them about fees up front
Even though you may have already found out what the accountant charges, this is the time for you to negotiate on the payment structure, and to ask for a written quote. Be sure to compare the quotations you’ve collected from your other prospective accountants carefully.
Ask them how the work will be divided
Now is also the time for you to identify or clarify exactly what you expect your prospective accountant to do and vice versa. Will you be doing the basic data entry or billing and invoicing in-house and then handing it over to them, for instance, or do you only expect them to take care of your taxes?
Ask them who you’ll really be doing business with
It often happens that the person you talked to during the getting-to-know stage isn’t the same person you end up coordinating with on a regular basis. Find out who it is and whether you can expect the same level of service every time you make contact.
In the end, a good accountant is much more than someone who just balances your books. A good accounting services provider is a partner who will support your business through every stage of its growth. If you need advice for finding a good accountant for your business, talk to us at U Ventures, today.