Help, I think my accountant / bookkeeper is charging me too much?

Do you know how many times we hear/see this question? Oh at least 3 times a week. We get it, you need to be getting value from your accountant/bookkeeper. And what your accountant or bookkeeper charges you needs to be reasonable.

However, what are you factoring in when you get your answers to that question?

Skill? Service level? How many people touch your data file? The scope of work included (or more importantly the scope of work not included), how quickly the work is done, whether deadlines are being met, whether the accountant is actually a registered accountant/tax agent/BAS agent, how comfortable you are in asking them questions, the accuracy of the work – I mean the list truly goes on and on.

“Are you qualifying the people who are giving the answers? I mean do they even know if they are getting value before they through out random amounts at you.”

Let me show you some examples of what we hear from clients when we start asking them a few questions:

Are you signing your BAS each time before it is lodged? Seriously, this is not as strange as it sounds. The ATO stipulates that Tax agents or BAS agents are unable to lodge any BAS or tax return with the ATO unless you give consent to do so. This can be via email approval or via electronic software programs. Yet this business owner who was paying $200 a month for all bookkeeping and BAS work had never once seen, sighted, viewed, signed nor approved a single BAS. Yet the accountant had lodged them all. Cheap yes, value HELL NO.

Who has access to your information? Recently we spoke to a large construction client (well potential client at the time). I am talking sales of over $1m each month and payroll upwards of 130 people depending on the contracts they have. They were paying over $1000 a month for bookkeeping and BAS work. Yet 6 people from the bookkeeping firm had access to the file, nobody knew the job inside out as everyone had their fingers in the pie, the Balance Sheet was a dogs breakfast and BAS was always (and I mean always) lodged on the very last day. Expensive yes, value HELL NO.

Who is giving you advice? We truly love our clients, but sometimes they seek external advice to help improve their bottom line and they get caught up in the hype that some business coaches create. We had a client hire a business coach and pay them $1200 a month for their advice. Do you know what the business coach asked us to do? Print out a Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet every month for them so they could discuss it with the client as they had no idea how to log into Xero (um hello, its online, log in with the user name and password you created). They also gave incorrect advice around super on directors fees.

Impact on the bottom line for the business for the extra spend every single month. NOTHING. Not a single thing changed, sales didn’t improve, margins didn’t get better. Nothing. Expensive yes, value HELL NO.

Is your accountant/bookkeeper qualified to lodge your BAS? I know you can get bookkeepers on Gumtree for about $20 an hour. I know they exist. They ain’t going to go away. But are they qualified to handle your data? We took over a client in the hospitality industry who was using a contract bookkeeper. Now I use the term bookkeeper very carefully here as she didn’t have any formal qualifications and according to the Tax Practitioners Board she legally was not allowed to invoice for her services.

Didn’t stop her though. Also didn’t stop her stealing $35k of the business owners funds as she made fraudulent transfers to her mum overseas. Bank investigations, filing police reports and a court date later, the business owner never got his $35k back (nor did he say thanks to me for figuring it all out). So whilst her invoices were cheap, it cost the client a whole lot more in the long run.

Have you ever checked your Balance Sheet? Nope, not a trick question. I dare you to go and run one right now. Do you see any strange clearing accounts? Do you see any suspense accounts? Any amounts in Wages payable. Does super payable reconcile back to the quarter/month? You need to know if there are gremlins. Well, let me rephrase that. Your BAS agent and accountant should be fixing any gremlins each month. As generally those gremlins don’t belong and the impact will most likely be a hit to your Profit and Loss.

A new client recently came to us and payment summaries were not lodged (and this was end of August – well past the due date), clearing accounts existed for no reason, wages didn’t reconcile, the company director had a debit loan account (big no no), there was a credit card from 2017 which had a balance in Xero but in reality didn’t exist. I mean where on earth do we even start. Yet tax returns and BAS’s had all been lodged. Funny thing is, we are less expensive than the old bookkeeper and have already fixed all of those issues.

So are you getting value from your accountant or bookkeeper? 

That question can only be answered by you in conjunction with your accountant and bookkeeper. Understand what they are doing, understand what work is being done, understand what the expectations are, understand their qualifications, understand their skills, understand what work you are required to do, understand the health of you accounting software (we offer a free review of your data file #justsaying), and understand if you have gremlins hiding in your Balance Sheet.

“Your financial information should be able to propel your business forward, help in decision making and ensure your cash flow is not heading down the toilet.”

But your numbers (all of them) need to be accurate and reliable. Until then, you are not getting value from your bookkeeper or accountant. Don’t be afraid to ask your bookkeeper or accountant questions. If you are scared, embarrassed or don’t want to look silly – then you probably don’t have the right bookkeeper / accountant on your team. Seek value in all that you do.

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