As much as this post seems like self-promotion, it’s not. In more than one occasion, on taking on a new account, I’ve been confronted with books left in disarray by the previous bookkeeper. So I thought I’d help clarify the things that you should look for so that you get it right the first time.
So what should you look for when you engage a bookkeeper?
1. Do you like them? I had point number 2 first, but then I realised that the most important thing when finding a bookkeeper is finding one that you like and would consider working with. Credentials, certificates and experience are all well and good, but if there’s no rapport there, then it just won’t work. There is a lot of confidential information about a business that a bookkeeper is privy to, so you do need someone that you feel that you can trust.
2. Make sure they are accredited – there are a couple of industry groups in bookkeeping (much like the ICAA and CPA for accountants), such as the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers www.icb.org.au and the Association of Accounting Technicians www.aat.org.au. Members of these groups have proven their competence and experience, so checking out their sites for members in your area is always a good place to start. Bookkeepers accredited by these organisations also have post nominals like MICB after their name to show their affiliation with these groups.
3. Ask for references – when you hire a new employee, you always ask for a reference from a previous employer. Why not here? Ask for a reference or testimonial from an existing client. If the bookkeeper you are about to engage has a good relationship with their clients, it should not be an issue to provide you with a contact (or two) that you can speak to.
4. Confirm that they are registered BAS Agents – this is a must if you will need your bookkeeper to lodge the BAS for you, or if you will be relying on their advice in relation to a BAS service. The Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA 2009) requires that any individual or business who performs a BAS service must be registered under the Act to provide these services. The Tax Practitioners Board have an agent register for you to check if your bookkeeper is registered to provide a BAS service http://www.tpb.gov.au/TPB/Subsidiary_Content/Register.aspx
5. They should offer a trial period before a long term engagement – a good bookkeeper understands that their role is one of trust. As a bookkeeper I try to make sure that my clients are comfortable working with me and offering a trial period is always a good way for both of us to get a feel for how each other works. Just to make myself clear though, this is not a free trial period. It’s more like a probation period for a new employee.
6. They should document the agreement between the two of you – a letter of engagement is pretty standard for any bookkeeper/client arrangement so always ask for one. This will lay out all the terms and conditions so that you are clear about what you’re signing up for.
So, if you’re in the market for a bookkeeper, keep the above points in mind. And remember, if you’re not happy, keep looking until you find a bookkeeper that you can work with!