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Should you ‘divorce’ your accountant?

When it comes to failed relationships in marriage, it seems people nowadays have no hesitation in heading for the divorce courts.

I’ve often heard people say it’s harder to leave your hairdresser than it is your partner!

While this may be somewhat of an exaggeration, one relationship that can often be very hard to break is that of the client and their accountant.

The client-accountant relationship is a very sticky one, in that it’s very hard to break – or at least, it may seem very hard to break.

However, just as in marriage or relationships, there could come a time when the ‘chemistry’ is just not there anymore, and you may find yourself seriously contemplating wanting to ‘divorce’ from your accountant.

First of all, how or even why would you ever get to this point of wanting to separate from your accountant?

Some of the more common reasons may include;

  • The accountant isn't acting in a professional or ethical manner. Your accountant is asking you to do things or telling you he/she is going to do things you feel are not ethical. If this is the case, then you most definitely should not be working with this individual or firm.

  • The accountant may not be responsive – they may not be responding to your specific needs and/or concerns, they may not be giving you clear-cut answers to your questions and/or they simply don’t communicate with you – e.g. not returning phone calls or emails in a timely manner.

  • The accountant has not made any attempt at trying to understand your business and industry so that that any advice they offer is specific to your business and not just general.

  • The accountant has a habit of over promising and under delivering – whether it’s meeting deadlines or their ability in a particular area of speciality or even worse, guaranteeing end results without fully understanding your situation.

Speak with your accountant first

Your accountant is working for you – so you have every right to have an open and frank conversation with them.

Surprisingly, this can be a very difficult and sensitive discussion.

Explain your concerns and why you’re not happy and even more important, outline your expectations for the relationship.

Talk about how both of you can work to make communications better.

If your concerns relate to a specific tax or financial issue, talk about expectations and ask your accountant to be honest about the outcome.

I want a divorce!

So, after your open and frank discussion with the accountant – if you’re still not satisfied and/or have lingering doubts, then it is time to start looking for a new accountant.

Steps to finding new accountant

First, ask around for other accountants – speak with other business owners, associates, local chambers etc.

Meet with the accountant – and be thoroughly confident that you and them are a good business fit.

If good – then engage your new accountant.

Both you as the client and the accountant need to be clear as to what you expect of each other

And be clear on payment terms – do they work on a retainer or a ‘do and charge’ basis. This will be spelled out in the engagement letter and terms.

Notify your current accountant in writing of the termination. If you’re in the middle of a tax preparation or other matter, then you need to weigh up the pros and cons of terminating halfway through the matter.

Your new accountant will request from your old accountant, all your file information be handed over in a timely and orderly manner. In the event your current accountant is reluctant to pass over your details to the new accountant, sometimes it’s just best to leave it be and move on.

However, in some cases, there may be documentation or information about your business that is crucial for your new accountant. The types of documents or information will vary from client to client, so discuss with your new accountant and if it’s really needed, they will know the best way to get their hands on this information.

Set Expectations

One of the most important discussion items will be expectations.

This works both ways – what do you expect from your accountant and what will the accountant expect from you.

Many times, a client-accountant relationship forms only to be strained because the client may be pushing some boundaries of requirements that may not have been factored into the arrangement in the first place.

When this happens, the perceived outcome tends to be; my accountant is not doing their job and is ripping me off!

Remember, you are both in the relationship to make it work as well as to make some money! Fairness and equity will be your best step forward.

Once decided to move on with a new accountant

Finally, change all of your passwords for all files your previous accountant has access to.

This includes not only your accounting software, but any payroll records, electronic funds transfer passwords, billing accounts, and apps (e.g. vehicle log book apps, receipt trackers etc) that your account has.

While the decision and consequent actions of changing your accountant are not easy, it may however be the best move you make for both you and your business for the long run.

Aperture Accounting, 1300 273 788

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