How to Find a Great Accountant

Question


Scott,

I am 51 and newly divorced, and for the first ever I feel the need to get some tax advice from an accountant. But how do I find one who is trustworthy and not just after as much of my money as they can get?

Janelle

Scott's Answer


Hi Janelle,

The cost for basic compliance work — like tax returns and SMSF auditing — has fallen dramatically.

Why?

Because pretty well everything is now data-matched and automated, so there’s honestly very little value they can add.

However, in your case it sounds like you’re looking for an accountant who can act as a money mentor as you start your new life. That’s a very smart idea (even better, unlike many financial advisors, accountants charge by the hour).

So how do you find one?

The same way you find a good hairdresser: ask your friends.

That being said, bad tax advice is worse than a bad haircut, so I’d also suggest you jump on to the Tax Practitioners Board website (www.tpb.gov.au) and search for a few accountants in your area.

When you have a few options, send each of them the following email:

Hi,

I’m looking for a caring, experienced accountant. I’m newly divorced and need help making sure my tax and assets are structured correctly. Moreover, I need you to explain the basics so I can have a better understanding of the financial decisions I make. To make sure we’d be a good fit, I’d really appreciate you replying on the following:

First, could you send me a short bio about yourself.

Second, could you send me an engagement letter explaining your terms and how you charge: is it by the hour or can you provide a fixed-fee quote — and what is and is not included in this fee?

Then you wait.

What do you want to see from their response?

That they get back to you quickly (preferably under 24 hours), that they sound polite and professional, and that their expertise lines up with your needs.

Good luck.

Scott