Buying a business | 3 min read

Top questions to ask when choosing a small business accountant

Last updated: November 22, 2019

When looking for an accountant to help with your small business purchase, you’ll want to make sure you ask them the right questions up front.

Amanda Newton, a specialist from cloud-based accounting software company, Xero, lets us know three great questions to ask.

Question 1 – How would I use your services to get the best value?

It’s always best to start with an open question such as “How do you recommend I best use your services to get the best value?” and then work back from there.

Giving your prospective accountant the opportunity to recommend the types of services they can offer and how best to engage with them will pave the way for a better relationship than if you go to an accountant with specific tasks that you’re hoping they will fulfil.

“Accountants are a wealth of extraordinary information, which is why when you go to them and say I just want you to do my tax, you might be missing out on a much more valuable opportunity to engage and get more information that could help you run your business better,” Amanda says.

Question 2 – How do you price your engagement and what value will you deliver for each of your services?

Accountants can offer many services, so it’s good to find out from the outset whether these services will be charged separately or if they are part of broader engagement offering.

Accountants can deliver a great deal of value for your small business beyond completing your tax returns. Value can also be obtained from services such as carrying out due diligence before making the purchase and setting up your small business with the right accounting software.

They might also help with compliance, collecting GST, or with registering your business, as well as  advice on how to structure your business (i.e. Sole trader, Partnership or Pty Ltd company), as well as budgeting and cashflow.

Question 3 – Can you give me some examples of where you have helped other businesses in the past?

Amanda encourages anyone looking to consult a small business accountant to ask them for examples of the different types of engagements they have had with different types of businesses.

“Finding out how the accountant has helped other small businesses will really help you to work out whether they’re the right fit for you. Most accountants don’t have a one-size-fits-all offering – they engage with different types of businesses at different stages based on their needs. They should be able to provide a variety of concrete examples of the different ways they have serviced other small businesses in the past, such as changing payment terms to maintain better cashflow.”

Helping you get off to the right start

Ultimately a good accountant will help to make sure you’re off to a successful start by helping you to understand what your obligations will be when you purchase the small business.

“They can be a really important sounding board throughout the business purchase process, helping to make sure that your vision is well-funded. Accountants can also be a great source of referrals for other professionals, such as who to go to if you need finance for the business, or who to go to regarding insurance and work cover.”

Want to find out more about buying a business? Check out our ultimate guide on how to buy a business.