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Should you shell out for an accountant?

by Penina

Do you file your own taxes each year, or do you pay for professional assistance? With helpful tax software and a good filing system, you may be able to handle it on your own. After all, the Tax Office offers an E-filing system that’s fairly straightforward. However, there are a few benefits that go beyond tax help which might cause you to consider hiring an accountant.

Reasons to hire an accountant

One of the primary reasons that individuals and businesses alike hire an accountant is to assist them with tax returns. Look for a registered tax agent in your area if you’re having problems filling out your annual return. Large accounting firms specialise in this, with branches often located in the suburbs for convenience. For those who have more complex finances, such as investments or inheritances, it might be a good idea to hire a personal accountant to be sure that you’re not paying more or less than what you owe. Accountants can also give you advice regarding investment issues if they hold an Australian Financial Services Licence. Beyond this, if you work from home in any capacity or have a side source of income you’ll probably need help with bookkeeping. Even selling products on eBay requires accurate record keeping, and may be reason to hire a pro to keep from getting in trouble with the Tax Office.

Going it alone

On the other hand, there are now more resources than ever that can let you file your own taxes and keep your own records for a small business. You can use training.com.au to find a financial planning course that can teach you the basics of accounting and keeping a budget – this type of course can be useful in many different situations. As mentioned above, the ATO allows you to file your returns online, and there are also a number of accounting apps and tax prep software to choose from including Mint.com and Quicken. Many of these products and courses also cost money, however, so weigh the cost of an accountant vs. the DIY approach carefully.

Finding an accountant

If you do decide to go with a pro, you’ll want to shop around first. Search from the list of chartered accountants in your area or ask for word of mouth recommendations from your social networks. Take the time to chat with a few different accountants to discuss your needs and what services you’re looking for, whether it’s setting up a bookkeeping system for your home business or help with investments. Ask about which services they offer, and if there are areas that they specialise in over others. Be sure to look at the list of fees upfront, and ask when the money is due to be paid. A good accountant should be easy to get in touch with and make you feel comfortable. As we all know, discussing personal finances can be a rather touchy subject!
There are pros and cons to hiring a personal accountant, so be sure to weigh your options carefully. If you have a straightforward financial situation, it’s probably easy enough to file your own taxes online. But when the time comes to invest or start up a business, the money that an accountant can save you can make it well worth the cost.

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