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How to quiz an accountant?

Discussion in 'Accounting & Tax' started by bread_boy, 2nd Aug, 2016.

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  1. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    Hi Everyone,

    **This may have been covered on another thread so apologies in advance if it has. Please direct me to a link if this is the case.

    I'm in search for new (better) accountant. Nothing wrong with my current one but I think I've outgrown him as he's more of the simple tax return guy (PAYG and that's it).
    Got some shares and heading onto my 3rd IP (and looking to aggressively expand) so I think it's time to start getting serious about building my A-team.
    Just in the process of setting up appointments and wondering what would be the best questions to ask during the interview(s).

    I've got the following (feel free to add or comment):

    1) Are they financially secure themselves?
    2) How many properties do your clients own?
    3) What is their personal experience with property investing?
    4) What are the advantages of buying in a trust and when should this be done?
    5) What is an SMSF and is it right for my situation?

    Would be interested to hear any other questions that's helped anyone here weed out the great from the good?
    .....Or even the good from the bad for that matter :confused:

    Cheerio,

    BB
     
  2. eskander

    eskander Well-Known Member

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    @Paul@PFI does a great job if you need any recommendations :)
     
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  3. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the reco but I'm more interested in the types of questions you guys ask to determine who is right for you.
    What information do you try to seek out and what do you feel is most important?
     
  4. D.T.

    D.T. Adelaide Property Manager Business Member

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    Same as every profession - accountant, broker, PM, lawyer, doctor whatever. Discuss with them your situation and what you're looking for and see if / how they can help with that. Takes a bit of instinct to see / feel who you'd get along with in the future. Most professions need long term relationships to blossom.

    Rattling off a premade list of template questions doesn't help either party. Anyone can say they have x number of years experience, x number of clients, etc. All counts for nought if they don't actually know what they're doing.
     
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  5. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    Agreed, but I think the aim of asking these template questions is to see how they react rather than the actual answer. E.g. If asking these questions is met with a glazed over look, it's probably time to move on. There's probably no point asking what they can do for me if they can't even handle the most basic questions.

    Yes, I understand a good talker doesn't make a good accountant, but by and large I would like to see they can competently answer the template questions (based on their experience) before moving on to the client (me) specific stuff.
     
  6. Greyghost

    Greyghost Well-Known Member

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    I think you should just move straight into the "you stuff"..

    A good accountant will advise and help right from the start. Although a tax return is a bunch of boxes to tick and fill in advice is specific to that client. So if they add value right from the first meeting I think that should be your gauge..
     
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  7. HUGH72

    HUGH72 Well-Known Member

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    Have you asked your current accountant any questions relating to your current situation? What was the response? Some accountants are very task focused and unless he knows you are looking for more he can't help.
     
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  8. chylld

    chylld Well-Known Member

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    This exactly. When I first went hunting for an accountant I used the template question approach but all that achieved was make everyone feel uncomfortable (my wife was asking the questions while the accountant and I were squirming in our chairs.)

    After I realised the template questions did nothing to help me pick an accountant, I went to my business-minded friends and asked for a referral. This netted me an accountant who didn't know what an offset account was, then claimed that it was worse than paying P&I, then emailed later to say it was better, then charged me $770 for the privilege.

    Then I received a referral from these forums (somersoft back then) and have been extremely happy ever since. Never met them in person, never asked them useless template questions, but they know their stuff through and through. They are as much my educators as they are my accountants.
     
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  9. Peter_Tersteeg

    Peter_Tersteeg Finance broker and strategist Business Member

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    Those questions will only help you eliminate the most entry level accountant or other professional. Anyone with a bit of experience will have been asked those questions many times before and have answers ready.

    I generally find that accountants respond best to specific questions about your circumstances. Most don't do a huge amount of forward planning unless you're specifically employing (paying) them to do that. It helps if you go into the meeting with some ideas of what your options might be and gauge their responses to those ideas.

    As to finding the accountant to interview, a referral from someone you look up to goes a very long way.
     
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  10. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    I've mentioned to him I want to expand my property portfolio and want advice on what is the best way to move forward. I suspect we will talk about trust structures?
    I've been with him the last 2 tax returns but they were quite simple so to be honest I'm not too sure how to pick a good accountant from a bad one.
    Based on the replies I guess the template questions aren't the best way to go about things so might have to go into the meeting with an open mind and see where it goes.
     
  11. wogitalia

    wogitalia Well-Known Member

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    Agree with the others on this, the template questions aren't going to really help, a remotely decent accountant will be able to answer those and you're going to get basically the same answers from them all and not really learn anything, heck the guy who answers them best might not be the right guy for you.

    What you need to do is outline where you're at, where you want to be and then ask them how they can help you get there and what strategies and changes they'd recommend and listen to the answers, find the one that can make you understand something that you don't at first and why it would be a good idea for you. Any accountant worth their salt could blow off your socks with technical jargon and you walk out thinking "that guy knows his ****" and then you realise you don't actually have a clue what or why he said what he did, you want someone you can build a relationship with and that will understand your position and enhance it.
     
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  12. ramblin72

    ramblin72 Active Member

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    I'm not sure about questions 1-2 as they border on 'none of your business'. Besides they could be very financially secure but only because of a windfall as opposed to their own financial decisions.

    I'd focus on your specifics and see if they are well versed in various options as opposed to a cookie cutter response.

    Maybe you could ask the common mistakes they see property investors make as they try and build their portfolio.
     
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  13. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, this did cross my mind. But because I'm relatively new at this, I was just going off what I read on a site for property investors.
    Seems the overwhelming sentiment is these questions are a time wasting exercise.
     
  14. Colin Rice

    Colin Rice Mortgage Broker Australia Wide Business Member

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    That would be a good option ^^^^ and someone above has already suggested someone. You could do the rounds or just bite the bullet.

    I recently changed accountants based on a recommendation from a buyers agent. My current one would suggest ideas we can implement but would never follow through which is my pet peave.

    In the initial appointment he asked me some key questions and made good suggestions that would allow me to pay less tax and create more wealth. This was based on a fact find that I sent before the appointment. He is not cheap but if he saves me tax and assist me to structure my affairs effectively and efficiently Im not fussed as I should be better of in the long run.

    I would personally find someone that is proactive rather than reactive and that you gel with on a personal level, not mandatory but will help imo. Also with he template questions this may be off putting to someone who may already be successful and may not want you as a client :)
     
  15. Peter_Tersteeg

    Peter_Tersteeg Finance broker and strategist Business Member

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    Part of the problem many people have with a prepared list of questions is they don't often know what the right answers are. Asking a general question about trusts will get you some general answers, which might or might not be applicable to your needs. Some might not even be technically or legally correct.

    How many people have an investment loan cross collateralised not knowing it's one of the worst things you can do for a larger investment strategy and is completely unnecessary in 99% of scenarios? Most of the reasons people give me why this was done are completely irrelevant (cheaper rates, improves borrowing capacity, better LVRs, avoids LMI - all complete rubbish).

    People have indicated they wouldn't take advice from a financial planner/mortgage broker/accountant if that person hadn't already achieved their own financial independence. If these people have achieved that independence, you've got to wonder why they're still working 80 hours a week meeting new clients with big dreams and limited resources? Keep in mind that this doesn't mean that these people don't have a plan to get there, just don't judge someone if the plan hasn't fully played out yet.
     
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  16. larrylarry

    larrylarry Well-Known Member

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    sounds like an interview. :)
     
  17. Colin Rice

    Colin Rice Mortgage Broker Australia Wide Business Member

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    Good point Pete as their are some excellent technicians out there who are "works in progress".

    I would be more concerned with quality of advice (does it save you money or help create more) and responsiveness to your phone calls and emails as nothing worse that waiting around for someone to take their sweet time getting back to you, especially if you need to move quickly!
     
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  18. Paul@PFI

    Paul@PFI Tax Accounting + SMSF Business Member

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    Two of the best skills an accountant will possess are
    1. Intensive property experience gained personally and through client matters. The personal is far less an issue. While I own two I would think that the knowledge from the thousands of clients over the years would outweigh what I learned personally.
    2. A solid capacity to communicate clearly without selling to you. They should guide, educate and explain and while they should be intolerant to doing anything dodgy they should be able to explain how and why to avoid such issues.

    You may want someone who is easy to access as one of the biggest complaints I hear is thet they never speak to their accountant and they never reply. Most good accountants are very very busy. To overcome this we ensure all clients always have access by email and or phone. I'm happy for clients to have my mobile - Its on my card. We prioritise access to all inbound matters no matter how busy. I avoid taking messages as I want every client to feel they can access me directly. And they do.

    Also, IMO a referral from others is usually worth far more than anything.
     
  19. sanj

    sanj Well-Known Member

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    Agreed. If youre talking an absolute gun advisor that a high net worth individual is scoping out then sure its reasonable to want the advisor to have a level of financial success and experience but for a good accountant to advise on IPs and general tax issues i dont think he or she needs to be a multi millionaire and i dont rhink they even need to own resi IPs, just be experienced and competent.
     
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  20. Paul@PFI

    Paul@PFI Tax Accounting + SMSF Business Member

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    One of the key issues to understand is that the accountant should not make your property decisions. They can guide tax outcomes and knowledge and that may in turn affect your property decisions. I am always careful to ensure I do not offer or provide financial advice on property.

    Tip : Be wary of some (not all) accountants who sell or introduce you to those who sell property. You cant do this and be independent IMO. I never ever do this to ensure I act in clients best interests. (This comment always pi55es off some others but I stand by it)