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Best to use your Accountant’s Bookkeeper or hire a junior to save money?

Junior level 1 bookkeepers good cheap local bookkeeping services - Natbooks

What’s Your Bookkeeper Preference?

Recently, I wrote that a lot of bookkeepers are losing out to accountants because business owners prefer the cheapest and easiest way to stay compliant. Rather than employing a bookkeeper AND an accountant to lodge their tax returns and activity statements, many business owners choose to hire an accountant only so they can deal with just one person but are they really getting value for money? When it comes to finding a good bookkeeper at this skill level business owners have the choice of hiring: 

  • Registered BAS Agents,
  • Their accountant’s internal bookkeeper,
  • An external, independent finance manager

Many good bookkeepers these days have trained as qualified BAS agents, which allows them to complete and lodge activity statements for their clients and other BAS services. The skill sets of a BAS agent and an accountant performing BAS tasks are the same, so they usually charge the same, but does your accountant really do your BAS or basic bookkeeping work?

Accountants perform higher level duties, such as financial planning, and their fees for this service are inline with what some experienced finance managers charge but when it comes to basic bookkeeping tasks they often hire a junior bookkeeper and charge them out at a lower rate but this rate is often much higher than if you hired this type of bookkeeper directory – so what are you paying for?

Pay for what you need, not what you don’t

Junior level 1 bookkeepers good cheap local bookkeeping services - NatbooksThink about your business needs. Most micro and sole trader businesses will rarely need the expertise of an accountant. But hiring one means that you’ll need to stay on top of your bookkeeping (reconciling your account, etc) because accountants won’t perform these tasks — they may outsource it, which can be costly because your accountant will be managing the bookkeeper and adding a margin to their rate as a management cost.

These businesses should instead hire a BAS agent, who can also perform bookkeeping work as well as lodge activity statements and in this situation they could just use a tax agent like ITP or H&R Block. Depending on the amount of work to be completed you could directly hire a junior or Level 2 bookkeeper and have that person perform a lot more of the bookkeeping function and office administration work and with cloud-based software like Xero & QuickBooks and Office productivity tools like Google G Suite the work can be done remotely.

If you want someone to manage all of your finances — keep track of inventory, credit management, etc — and also provide financial reporting and planning services, a finance manager is the way to go as this person can also provide guidance to your office admin and junior bookkeeping staff. 

Who does an EzyLearn course?

Lots of EzyLearn students complete an MYOB, Excel or Xero course because these software programs are demanded by employers, but we also receive enrolments from lots of bookkeepers and accountants who want to learn the cloud-based accounting software programs as well as up-skill in MS Office and Digital & Social Media Marketing. If you are a bookkeeper or accountant and need CPD courses check out our Bookkeeping Academy.

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Different Ways to Find Work as a Bookkeeper

How can you earn money from bookkeeping?

different ways to find work as a bookkeeper online myob xero excel quickbooks training
It isn’t essential to become a registered BAS agent in order to find regular work as a bookkeeper.

BAS AGENTS PERFORM MANY of the same tasks as a basic bookkeeper, which includes entering receipts, coding financial transactions and generating invoices, but there is just one key difference: registered BAS agents are allowed to prepare and lodge activity statements on behalf of their clients.

In order to become a registered BAS agent, you must have completed, at a minimum, a Certificate IV Financial Services in either bookkeeping or accounting through an accredited and nationally recognised training provider.

Most people don’t have much trouble completing the Certificate IV, but the requirements set out by the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB) that often present a barrier to becoming a registered BAS agent. See the list of blogs below for more information about becoming a registered BAS agent.

Tax Practitioner’s Board BAS agent requirements

In addition to completing a Cert IV, in order to become a registered BAS agent the TPB also requires you to have at least 1,400 hours of work experience. This work must be done under the supervision of a registered BAS agent or accountant in the past 4 years (it’s 1,000 hours if you’re a member of a professional association).

You also need to have completed a board-approved course in basic GST/BAS taxation principles (this course may be included in your primary education). There are also mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) requirements that each BAS agent must keep up with in order to remain registered.

There’s a lot to do, but becoming a registered BAS agent isn’t the only way to carve out a successful career for yourself. Depending on how you want to work, there are plenty of other options you may also consider, such as:

Work for other bookkeeping businesses

If you work as an employee of a bookkeeping business, you can perform all the same tasks and duties as a registered BAS agent can, as you’ll be covered by their BAS registration and oversight.

As long as you are on the bookkeeping business’s payroll, you can provide BAS services — that means, you can also work as a casual or temporary worker providing you don’t invoice for your work using an ABN, but instead use your tax file number. This may also have other benefits, too, as the business will be required to withhold tax and contribute to your superannuation.

Work directly for a business as a wage earner

Again, as long as you’re on the business’s payroll, you don’t have to be a registered BAS agent to provide BAS services. The only difference here is that, while you can prepare the business’s activity statements, you won’t be able to lodge them. They will need to have their accountant do that last step, instead.

You can still work under a similar arrangement as mentioned above, either as a part-time, casual or temporary staff member, and, so long as you’re drawing a wage from the business, you can perform BAS services.

Carry out basic bookkeeping from home on the side

You may even choose to provide basic bookkeeping services to small businesses remotely from your home office, and still invoice them using your ABN. Many bookkeepers work as virtual assistants and some work a combination of casual and part-time hours for bookkeeping or accountancy practices, or as an employee of a business, and supplement their income with some basic bookkeeping work on the side, which offers both flexibility and stability at the same time.

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Thinking of expanding your bookkeeping skills? Considering becoming a BAS agent? Check out just some of the blogs we’ve featured on BAS agents:

Want more advice and information? Subscribe to our blog.


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Our Xero online training courses include EVERYTHING for ONE LOW PRICE. Furthermore, if you select our Lifetime Membership option, you’ll have LIFETIME access to our ongoing course updates. All EzyLearn courses are accredited by the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) and can be counted towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points. Find out more about our Xero online training courses. 


 

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When Do You Need to Register as a BAS Agent?

Making the effort to specialise reaps rewards

becoming a registered BAS agent
Without BAS agent registration you may be limiting your options for employment as a bookkeeper.

BECOMING A REGISTERED BAS agent means you are permitted to lodge a client’s business activity statements (BAS) on their behalf, each month or quarter, or as determined by the ATO.

BAS agents are really bookkeepers; but they’re ones who have done some extra training and applied to the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB) for a BAS agent’s accreditation.

Not every bookkeeper has to register as a BAS agent, but those who do typically earn more as a registered BAS agent than a straightforward, no-frills bookkeeper does. That’s largely due to the way cloud-based software, like Xero and Quickbooks, has made it a lot easier for businesses to manage their own bookkeeping. But even just speaking generally, bookkeepers who have specialised skills always tend to earn more.

So when don’t you need to register?

You don’t need to register as a BAS agent if:

  • You’re an employee of a registered BAS agent, who pays you wages to help them with BAS services
  • You’re an employee of a business doing its BAS
  • You do the books for your own business – you prepare the activity statements for your own virtual assistant business
  • You don’t receive a fee or reward for the BAS services you provide – you’re helping a relative or in-law prepare their activity statements.

You may still need to register, however, even if the client lodges their own activity statements, simply because they relied on your advice or work relating to their BAS.

Who needs to register, then?

In a nutshell, if you provide BAS services that you are paid for – that is, you receive a fee or reward – then you need to register with the TPB.

Even if you’re being paid for your BAS work as part of other types of work (like a freelance office manager whose duties include providing BAS services, along with other duties, like customer service and general administrative tasks), you still need to register.

You’ll also need to register if you’re a contractor, providing BAS services to another registered agent. This applies even if you work at the registered agent’s office or premises and you’re not considered an employee of that agent (for further info, see the ATO’s guide to determining when someone is a contractor and not an employee).

Why register to be a BAS agent?

As we’ve said, there’s the legal requirement to register to be a BAS agent if you’re deriving an income, or some other form of remuneration, for providing BAS services to another business. But there are other reasons why a person with the knowledge and know-how of BAS should register as an agent.

Example:

Say you’re someone who doesn’t need to register, but you’d like to pick up extra work as a contract or freelance bookkeeper, being a registered BAS agent makes you more valuable to businesses; not just because you can complete and lodge their activity statements, but because you can also advise them on their BAS.

As noted above, even if you don’t lodge the activity statement because your client does, you may still need to register if they relied on any part of your work or advice. For your services to be clearly delineated from your client’s BAS, you’re only able to provide very basic data entry services.

becoming a registered bas agentIf you don’t register, it means you can’t:

  • Work out the codes for GST or FBT collection
  • Provide reconciliation, because it involves deciding on the tax codes to apply
  • Manage your client’s payroll

You wouldn’t even be able to set up a client’s accounting software for their business.

If you don’t register as a BAS agent

A bookkeeper that’s only able to provide very basic data entry services – which isn’t even a huge component of the bookkeeping job now that most accounting packages have the bank feeds feature – isn’t very valuable to a business, simply because they don’t add any value to their client’s business.

When people hire a freelancer or a contractor, they tend to hire someone who can fit one of two criteria; either they’re:

  • Highly skilled in their particular field; or
  • Inexpensive

If they want someone highly skilled, it’s usually because the project they’ll be working on is very important to them; if they hire someone inexpensive, it’s because the project isn’t particularly important, but does need to be done nevertheless.

You can probably see where we’re heading here. We happen to think bookkeeping is extremely important, because it indisputably has many far and wide ranging implications for all of our businesses.

How and with whom you need to register

First you need to have completed, as a minimum, a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping at a TAFE or another registered training organisation. Then you need to register with the TPB, which requires registrants to meet a certain criterion before they can be accredited as BAS agents.

Although it’s not a requirement, you’ll also need to know how to use some of the most popular accounting packages. At the moment, the three most popular accounting packages with both accountants and most business owners, are QuickBooks, MYOB and Xero, of which we offer online training courses in. All of these packages have pros and cons.

We say it’s not a requirement to know each of the above, because a Cert IV in Bookkeeping trains you in the intricacies of Australian tax law, but doesn’t teach you how to apply that in any accounting software; that’s something you have to learn yourself if you’re going to put your education into practice.

To read more about becoming a bookkeeper, and in particular how to start a bookkeeping business, continue reading or subscribe to our blog. Alternatively, to learn how to use MYOB or Xero, you can enrol in one of our many training courses online.

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Read more about being a BAS agent

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Starting your own bookkeeping business can provide a lucrative and flexible career option. As a BAS agent you can lodge Taxable Payments Annual Reports (TPARs) which are used in the construction industry. Also, don’t fear that you should automatically choose to affiliate with one accounting software application over another — oftentimes having a qualified BAS agent is far more valuable to a business than a certified consultant or advisor.  


 

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BAS Service deadline looming – BAS Audits, self assessment and benchmarks

BAS Service, compliance anxiety and cash-flow

MYOB GST, reporting and BAS training coursesIt’s that crazy time when the end of financial year TAX and quarterly BAS periods combine to cause compliance anxiety for business owners and managers if they don’t have a handle on their bookkeeping processes and accounts. This is often caused by not having the best team available for all the tasks required and I spent some time during the week speaking with Tracey our MYOB, Xero and Quickbooks Trainer from Rockingham in WA about the different levels of bookkeepers and whether they could complete tasks relating to a BAS Service. Here’s some of the information that I thought you’d find useful.

Getting receipts as evidence

The biggest issue that many bookkeepers experience is getting information from business owners, particularly small businesses that are stretched between:

  • the work they need to do every day
  • Keeping and filing the financial records like receipts
  • Getting the financial records to a bookkeeper or accountant

I’ve written in the past about the ways that small businesses file their receipts as well as cloud technology like Shoeboxed (who now seem to prefer selling their services to accountants and bookkeepers and have removed the educational video that demonstrated how the software works!), but Quickbooks Online has a downloadable app that enables business owners to capture a photo of each receipt for each transaction and if business owners utilise this function they can save a lot of money in data entry and evidence of expenses that could be expected as part of a BAS audit by a BAS agent.

BAS Audits, red flags and tricky GST codes

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that you can hire a cheap bookkeeper to take care of your data entry and only use the services of a more expensive bookkeeper (ie. BAS agent) for purposes of confirmation of expenses and the GST components of these expenses. In this case a simple BAS audit involves witnessing these source documents to confirm that there is no error in calculating the money owed to the ATO. If you’ve had any of the following transactions you’ll probably need to pay close attention to the information in your BAS lodgement and mention them to your bookkeeper:

  • Purchasing a motor vehicle
  • Motor vehicle expenses
  • Real property purchase
  • Any purchase coded as a GST-Free transaction
  • Low value purchases (under $82.50) that are coded as GST free
  • Purchase of second hand trading stock
  • Hire Purchase contracts
  • Local fees and handling charges for imp

Learn more about BAS Audits by BAS Agents and the benchmarking and self assessment that ATO use and recommend

TIP!: Bank feeds can cause more work!

I’ve written a lot about bank feeds in the past and included a blog post about how bank feeds work in MYOB and Xero. Bank feeds can be a real time saver because they automatically bring your bank transaction records into your accounting software, but Tracey mentioned that in MYOB you should bring them in BEFORE you do any reconciliation tasks otherwise you may need to undo any reconciliation work you’ve already done so watch out for that!

Need One-to-One training or a QuickFix on MYOB, Xero or Quickbooks?

We did a lot of one-to-one training when we operated our physical training centres in Sydney and the training was often completed at our training centre (because we had it!). Now I’m thrilled to advise that we’re helping local bookkeepers in your area deliver MYOB and Xero training according to our profession course structures! To learn more visit the National Bookkeeping training page. You’ll also discover that our bookkeepers area also available to fix problems or lack of knowledge with the QuickFix service so check that out.

Coming up..

Here is what we are currently working on and what will soon be published or made available at our LMS.

  • Guide to Credit Management (aspects of a business and your accounting software where you can tighten your credit management processes). We’re creating this guide in conjunction with the local bookkeeper at National Bookkeeping
  • Xero Course training material update (workbooks and videos are being updated and added as we speak so stay tuned for more announcements soon
  • Wholesale training course and partner offer – we’ve beefed up our Enrolment Voucher system to help more business buy cheap courses
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What Type of Education Does The TPB Accept For Its New CPE Requirement

Type of Education for CPE Requirements of the TPB

What Type of Education Does The TPB Accept For Its New CPE Requirement

Earlier this year, the TPB changed the requirements of the tax and BAS agent registration renewal process, now making it essential for all BAS and tax agents to participate in some form of education under its new continuing professional education (CPE) requirement.

According to the TPB, tax agents must participate in a minimum of 90 hours of CPE over the standard three year registration period, while BAS agents must participate in a minimum of 45 hours over the standard three year registration period. The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers have enabled completion of our Microsoft Excel Training Courses be accepted for CPD points.

Types of study approved by the TPB

As you’ve probably guessed, for your study to be recognised by the TPB and go towards your CPE registration requirement, the study has to relate to your area of work as a BAS or tax agent. While a short course on DIY home maintenance wouldn’t be covered, a seminar conducted by a qualified accountant who specialises in the building industry would be recognised by the TPB, even if it’s being led by a colleague at the firm where the BAS agent works.

The TPB has specified a number of activities that they consider relevant to tax advice, BAS and tax agent service you may provide:

  • Seminars, workshops, webinars, courses and lectures
  • structured conferences and discussion groups (including by phone or video conference)
  • tertiary courses provided by universities, registered training organisations (RTOs), other registered higher education institutions or other approved course providers
  • other education activities, provided by an appropriate organisation
  • research, writing and presentation by a registered tax (financial) adviser, tax or BAS agent of technical publications or structured training
  • peer review of research and writing submitted for publication or presentation in structured training
  • computer/internet-assisted courses, audiotape or videotape packages
  • attendance at structured in-house training on tax related subjects by persons or organisations with suitable qualifications and/or practical experience in the subject area covered
  • attendance at appropriate Australian Taxation Office (ATO) seminars and presentations
  • relevant CPE activities provided to members and non-members by a recognised professional association
  • a unit of study or other CPE activity on the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA) including the Code of Professional Conduct (Code).

If you’re a member of a recognised professional association

The second-to-last activity included in that list, you may have noticed, accepts any relevant activity provided by a recognised professional organisation. There are quite a few professional organisations recognised by the TPB, as you can see on their website, but the one probably most relevant to bookkeepers is the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB), with which EzyLearn is also a training partner.

The ICB is an association established to support bookkeepers and BAS agents by regularly holding seminars and training workshops, giving members access to marketing materials – such as customisable e-newsletter templates and unique email addresses – listings on the ICB directory and IT support, among many other things. Because they’re also accredited with the TPB and recognised by the ATO, they also possess a fair bit of influence with both organisations, making the lives of its members much easier.

In this case, being a member of the ICB, gives you access to a number of TPB-certified continuing professional education courses, seminars, lectures and workshops that can be counted as part of your CPE quota; members can also access a CPE register within the ICB dashboard to record their CPE activities.

Courses you can study as an ICB member

As a member of the ICB, you’re able to take any of the courses that they consider relevant to your profession as a bookkeeper and BAS agent, and which they consider to be continuing your professional education. This would include any of our MYOB or Xero training courses, but would also include our Excel and Word training courses as they’re both used to assist you in doing your job as a bookkeeper and BAS agent.

If you’re a BAS agent and your registration with the TPB will come due on or after July 1, 2016, you will be required to have participated in CPE to be eligible for renewal. Joining the ICB and taking advantage of the many free and discounted seminars, workshops and courses, like one of our online training courses in MYOB, Xero, MS Excel or Word, is a good way to ensure you remain compliant with the TPB’s tax and BAS agent registration terms.

To find out more about joining the ICB, visit their website. Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about starting your own bookkeeping business or working as a home-based bookkeeper, subscribe to our blog for all the latest news and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

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You Can Still Be a Valuable Bookkeeper Without a Cert IV

Cert IV Bookkeeper
You don’t need a Cert IV to be a valuable bookkeeper for small businesses.

In our last post about getting bookkeeping clients for free, we mentioned how the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (the ICB) only adds bookkeepers to its Practice Directory who are Cert IV-qualified. Having a Cert IV qualification in bookkeeping enables you to apply to the Tax Practitioners Board to become certified to provide BAS services to your clients.

Only Needed for Lodgement of BAS

However, most of the work carried out by a BAS agent is work that can be completed by a bookkeeper without a Cert IV; it’s just that only registered BAS agents can lodge a BAS return for their client.

So while it may be useful for some contract bookkeepers to get their Cert IV qualification so they can lodge their client’s BAS returns among other things, it’s not necessary if you only want to manage the data entry for your clients.

Bookkeepers Needed for Data Entry

In fact, bookkeepers carrying out data entry is one of the core functions required by a lot of small businesses and sole traders because they have become too busy to look after it themselves and because it takes them away from their core work.

An experienced bookkeeper that can look after a business’ books is still an incredibly valuable asset to any business, and as more and more Australians go into business for themselves, the demand for bookkeepers is going to increase.

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So if you’ve completed our LIFETIME access MYOB Training Course with the certificate option, contact us today to arrange to have your profile placed on the MYOB Bookkeeper Directory.

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Tax and BAS: How to Register with the Tax Practitioners Board

Bookkeepers Who Want to Provide BAS Services Need TPB Certification

start a bookkeeping business
Don’t stress: The TPB certification requirements may actually kick-start some people’s bookkeeping businesses.

Whether you are a bookkeeper who uses Xero or MYOB or one of the other accounting software packages that we offer training on, you are probably aware that Australian tax legislation has changed recently. As a result, providing BAS services to clients is not as simple as it once was. 

All bookkeepers who wish to provide a BAS service for a fee, must now hold a Certificate IV in Financial Services (Bookkeeping or Accounting) or higher to be eligible for registration.

What makes up a BAS service?

The BAS services page on the ATO website can provide you with information about the qualification requirements and the education requirements for BAS agents to become certified with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) so you can offer tax and BAS services to clients.

Becoming certified with the TPB is a lot like getting your drivers license: you need to be able to demonstrate the relevant experience of at least 1400 hours, or 1000 hours if you’re already a member of a professional organisation — like the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers — which you can become a member of for free when you complete an applicable EzyLearn Training Course.

If you’re working under the supervision of another registered Tax or BAS agent, you cannot provide any Tax or BAS services to any clients you may pick up of your own. In other words, you must only provide tax or BAS services to clients known to your supervising Tax/BAS agent.

For some newcomers to the industry, this may seem daunting. But that’s just because conventional wisdom suggests that you must take on some form of permanent employment, working for a bookkeeper or accountant who is registered with the TPB and can supervise you while you gain the necessary skills to go out on your own.

But that’s not actually the case. While this is an option — and a good one if you’ve never worked as a bookkeeper before — it’s not the only one. You can still work with another registered Tax/BAS agent as a contractor, providing these services to the registered Tax/BAS agent’s clients until you’re eligible to go out on your own.

Kick start your own business

This is a great way to get a start on your own business — perhaps just offering non BAS services to start with — while you gain the skills to become registered to offer GST and BAS services. Contract bookkeeping jobs of this nature are actually easier to find that it may seem — often by striking up a working relationship with an accountant or another certified bookkeeper.

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Find out more information on how to register with the TPB so you can provide tax and BAS services. And remember: you can become a member of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers for free when you complete an applicable EzyLearn Training Course.


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