I recently saw a news article about Glenn Wheatley. You may recall he was John Farnham's manager, and went to jail for tax fraud back in 2007.
I was surprised that he was sent away for what, in the scheme of things, was not a lot of money. Tax evasion is tax evasion though, and without knowing all the background information, I did wonder what his relationship with his accountant was like – both before the indictment, and after.
As an accountant, and now principal at WHK, I understand what clients look for in an accountant. I also know what I look for in a client. A strange thing to say perhaps, but a few key components can have a dramatic impact on the relationship between client and accountant.
Firstly, a potential client looks for an accountant who is qualified, experienced, knowledgeable and committed to doing the job well. Compliance is a must. However, given the complex and ever changing nature of our tax laws this is not always an easy task. It is therefore critical to find an accountant who meets the above criteria.
Beyond compliance, a client wants an accountant who will help them to grow wealth. An accountant can play an important role in relation to wealth creation by providing on-going advice and guidance in relation to business matters. He or she can also work closely with your existing financial and legal advisers to ensure that all relevant matters are carefully considered. To achieve this, two things – beyond the accountant having the appropriate skill set – are required. The accountant should have a solid understanding of the client's goals and priorities, as should the client of his or her own financial situation.
This leads me to what I look for in a client. The most rewarding clients I have are those with whom I have strong relationships. As the client you play a vital role in the overall process of managing your financial affairs. As an involved and curious client, you can partner with your accountant to clearly identify and work towards achieving your financial goals.
A strong relationship and good communication between accountant and client creates the best possible outcome. Once goals are identified it is important to understand how your accountant will assist you to achieve those goals and also what part you will play. It is important that each party has a clear understanding of each other's expectations. Ultimately, my success as an accountant is determined by the extent to which I have assisted my clients to achieve, or ideally exceed their goals, and met their expectations.
So, get involved. Communicate your expectations and ask questions.
This is one of the most important relationships you will ever have, so find someone with whom you can be open, who can answer your questions and assist you to understand and manage your financial matters and grow your wealth. Otherwise, instead of retiring early in the Bahamas, you could find yourself under house arrest.
Craig Coetzee specialises in small business accounting and specialised reporting and is a business services principal with WHK.