10 questions to ask when hiring a bookkeeper
Your business is growing and you’ve made the wise decision to take on a bookkeeper / BAS Agent on board so you can focus your time and energy on growing your business.
The relationship you have with your bookkeeper / BAS Agent is as important as the one with your accountant and it’s critical to ensure that you work well together to ensure the books are always healthy and up to date.
- Are they a registered BAS Agent? What qualifications do they hold?
The Tax Agent Services Bill 2008 that took effect from 1 March 2010 means that anyone providing BAS services for a fee will need to be a registered BAS agent (we are).
At a minimum, your bookkeeper should have qualifications such as Certificate IV Financial Services and a member of the various professional bookkeeping associations in Australia such as The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) or the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).
We are a member of both, have been working in accounting & tax services since 2001 and in the throes of applying for our tax agent license.
Finally, ensure the candidate has had vast experience in all accounting software platforms like MYOB, Xero, Quickbooks, etc and has used payroll and inventory options.
We are software agnostic – we use a wide variety of accounting software (and certified in most) and add-on solutions to help form an overall business operational suite of services.
- What insurance do they have?
Professional Indemnity is the very minimum insurance requirement. We hold PI insurance.
- What is the scope of the work?
This question is not as simple as it seems. There is a big variation from bookkeeper to bookkeeper and BAS Agent to BAS Agent – partly due to experience, partly due to specialisations, and perhaps other reasons. What you need will also vary depending on your own capabilities and the scope of work that the accountant is responsible for.
Some bookkeepers are also management accountants (like us) who can help interpret figures whereas other bookkeeper’s skills are limited to data entry.
This list is not exhaustive of the services we offer but you will need to consider who will do the following:
- Regularity of work to be performed
- Reconciling bank transactions (and how often? Daily / weekly / monthly)
- Entering supplier bills
- Paying suppliers
- Raising sales invoices
- Debtor follow up
- Checking the coding of transactions to ensure they have been coded to the correct account and with the correct tax treatment
- Lodging / filing GST and PAYG Withholding
- Prepare reports such as Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet
- Help to interpret the reports and tell the story behind the numbers
- Prepare a budget to monitor performance
- Prepare a cash-flow forecast to help plan cash inflows / outflows in the future
- Measure and report on business KPI’s
- How familiar are they with your industry?
If the bookkeeper hasn’t worked with your industry before, there may be a bit of a learning curve. Due to our extensive experience, we have worked with a rather large variety of industries and happy to work with you. We will tell you if it’s something we haven’t come across before.
- If the work is done in accounting package, who retains ownership of data file?
Generally speaking, the business owner will hold the subscription. Even if we held the subscription to set up the file, we would then transfer it to you. We do own some intellectual property, but we would rather you own the subscription.
- Who will be responsible for the rectification work?
Mistakes may date back years; corrections can be costly exercises, involving re-keying data, reworking BAS, and reviewing end-of-year financial statements. We will often take responsibility for the work we do from the date we are engaged to start but we are not responsible for the quality of work that was done prior to our agreed start date (or if others have altered our work at any point in time).
- How is communication managed?
In the digital age, email is an amazing tool as often, the conversations are not urgent but we also need to ensure our queries are written on file for our own compliance purposes. However, if you prefer phone calls, we can do this too!
We also need to ensure that your accountant is on the same page as us but don’t want them to charge you an arm and a leg to talk with us about your business. It would be great if we could all meet (or phone conference) to discuss your business and start off on the right foot. We are your team of experts and are here to help your business grow. This is assuming your accountant isn’t GJ North & Associates or one day soon, us directly.
- What will it cost? Or rather, what is the investment in hiring a bookkeeper?
Ultimately, fees will vary from client to client, project to project, job to job. But let’s just say that if you pay peanuts, expect to get monkeys. But once you have found your Rufus, don’t ignore them – utilise them and look at your management reports on a regular basis and incorporate them into your decision-making processes.
Our fees are listed on our website which are subject to change without notice and we enjoy management reporting.
- What expectations are set around delivery times and response times?
A common complaint about bookkeepers is that they can be slow to respond to emails and that the bookkeeping isn’t completed to a set schedule.
As part of your scope of works, this will be incorporated as you may be requiring weekly accounts work, quarterly accounts work or even monthly accounts work. Of course, there is no stopping you calling or emailing, and ideally, we will be in touch within 24 business hours.
- Where will the work be performed?
Some bookkeepers offer on-site services whilst others are purely remote. We offer a hybrid service – it just depends on where your offices are in relation to us, what your requirements are and whether or not there is room to streamline processes to enable us to work remotely. So while we do prefer to work remotely (hence nationwide in our name), we do love meeting our clients, so we try to do this a few times a year which allows us to get some travel around Australia which is always fun. If you really are that bit too far remote, if your internet service allows, we would be happy to set up a Zoom meeting.
As you can see, it’s not really simple and even if a bookkeeper sells themselves well, you may not necessarily be happy with their services – but unfortunately, bookkeeping is one of those industries where you really don’t know the quality of the work until a few months into the engagement. We of course, believe that we will be a great fit for most businesses but are happy to address any concerns you may have along the way, if there even are any.
Give us a call or email firstname.lastname@example.org to have a chat about your bookkeeping requirements today.