Interviewing a potential bookkeeper
IF YOU’RE LOOKING TO start your own bookkeeping business, or looking to hire a bookkeeper to help you with your bookkeeping, you might be wondering, how does a bookkeeper assess a business’s bookkeeping needs?
As it’s a legal requirement for every business to file a tax return and, sometimes, a quarterly business activity statement (BAS), it’s necessary, then, to keep accurate records of the business’s income and expenditure.
The process of keeping this up-to-date and, if the person is also registered to do so, complete any activity statements, is the role of a bookkeeper.
A bookkeeper, unless they’re just providing a business with general data entry services – reconciling accounts, paying invoices, chasing late payers – should be registered with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) as either a tax agent, BAS agent or both. If they’re not, and they don’t hold a bookkeeping or accounting certification, either, then they’re only qualified to charge for the general data entry services.
But, assuming they are TPB registered and qualified to prepare and lodge tax returns and activity statements, then there are a number of things you can typically expect of a bookkeeper during the first consultation with a prospective client.
Free consultation with bookkeeper: what to expect
1. Accounting data file health check
If a business already has an accounting package, a bookkeeper will perform what’s called a ‘health check’. This is a basic check to ensure the accounts have been set up properly in MYOB, Xero, Quickbooks or whatever accounting software the business happens to use – though it’s generally only these well-known packages that a bookkeeper will work with. If a business is using a lesser-known package, like Zoho books, for instance, they may not be able to work with it.
2. Recommend an accounting package
If a business doesn’t already have any accounting software – or maybe they do, but it’s not a package the bookkeeper is familiar with – they may recommend certain software for the business to use, typically MYOB, Xero or Quickbooks.
Generally, the bookkeeper will recommend that someone in the business is trained in whatever software they recommend, as there are some functions — invoicing for example, and even sometimes bank reconciliations — that the business will still need to take care of themselves to reduce their costs, unless the business wants to pay the bookkeeper to do this. Some bookkeepers provide this training so there’s a uniform approach to managing a business’s books.
3. Review of current systems/procedures
The bookkeeper may make recommendations to your general account keeping procedures or systems to improve or streamline them. This could involve, for instance, a recommendation to open a business bank account or using a certain credit card for payments; invoicing clients on a particular day of the week or as jobs are completed to improve cash flow, et cetera.
4. Draft a tentative action plan
In that plan, the bookkeeper will include a confidentiality agreement or letter of engagement which both parties need to sign; they’ll also make recommendations as to how the business should provide information, such as source documents which will differ based on the working arrangement. For instance, virtual bookkeepers may suggest uploading documents to Dropbox, while a local bookkeeper may go to the business’s premises or request the business to come to theirs.
The bookkeeper will also make suggestions as to how regularly their services would be required — once a week, month, and so on.
5. Answer any questions or queries
If the bookkeeper is registered tax agent, they should be able to tell you what sorts of expenses count as a tax deduction. Many people mistakenly believe that only an accountant can provide this sort of advice, but that isn’t true.
An accountant can only lodge and give tax advice if they’re a registered tax agent, and the same goes for a bookkeeper. Thus, should be well versed in Australian tax law.
Why a free initial bookkeeping consultation?
Typically this initial consultation is free and should take an hour or less and it also gives the bookkeeper an opportunity to see if you are the right fit for the client base they would like. Generally the initial consultation occurs in person, even if the bookkeeper will work from home or remotely once their services have been engaged.
In the case of virtual bookkeepers working in a different city or state to their clients, it’s now possible to carry out the initial consultation using Skype, Google Hangouts or any other video conferencing apps – or even just over the telephone.
If the bookkeeper finds that your circumstances are not ideal for their skills or time capacity they should have a network of other bookkeepers/accountants who they can refer to you.
Start a bookkeeping business today
As a licensee with National Bookkeeping, you’ll have access to EzyLearn training courses (which also means the license fee is one hundred percent tax deductible. Visit the National Bookkeeping website today and register your interest online.