Engaging a Bookkeeper? Here are 10 questions you should ask

Are you tired of always feeling stressed about your bookkeeping and keeping up to date with lodging your BAS, or just having your financials ready for your Tax Agent to do your return makes you shudder and shove it all to the back of your mind?

Well sounds like you need some help! Bookkeepers are everywhere, and like all things, there are fantastic ones and some seriously bad ones.

To help you narrow it down when researching who you want to entrust your sacred numbers to,  here are 10 important questions, some helpful hints, and also what my answers for each are!

1 – What qualifications and professional memberships do you hold?

The TASA2009 (Tax Agent Services Act 2009) requires as of 01/03/2010 every single person or company providing BAS services and charging a fee, has to be a registered BAS Agent. You can search the Tax Practitioners Board here to find if your prospective bookkeeper is registered. And nearly all bookkeeping services are BAS services, there is very little you can do in the bookkeeping realm unregistered.

At a minimum (and a BAS Agent requirement) your bookkeeper should have qualifications such as Certificate IV in Financial Services. It would be a huge benefit that they hold a professional membership with a Bookkeeping association, such as The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB).

I have an Associate Degree of Commerce. I majored in Accounting and my minor was HR. Down the track, I will add to this, in my spare time. I am obviously a BAS Agent and hold a membership with the ICB as a ‘Member in Practice’.

2 – What insurances do you have?

At a minimum, Professional Indemnity is required under TASA2009.

I hold both Professional Indemnity and additionally – Cyber Insurance, which is super important these days with most software and add-ons online.

3 – What experience / references do you have?

You can ask for references sure, but you know they’re not going to give you a bad one, so it’s not always a great measuring tool. I would always ask for them as it can still give a good indication. Where you can, try and do some background research, such as FaceBook reviews and other online resources.

If you would like to check out some of my references, just let me know. I have testimonials online and on my FaceBook page. I also provide references in all my quotes, so you can have complete peace of mind.

4. Who will undertake the data entry and BAS preparation?

Check if your work will always by done by the same bookkeeper or any one in the team (do they all have the same experience etc) and what reviews of the work take place.

I have an amazing team who help me with various tasks depending on their role, experience & training I’ve given them.

A thorough review is carried out on everything (even my own work) before any financials are sent to you and any BAS preparation carried out. I personally review and lodge all BAS.

5 – Where will the work be done? will the bookkeeper work onsite, offsite, or remotely?

All work carried out by my practice is done remotely. This is the most cost/time effective option, with no travel time involved. If you are a local client you may want to catch up face to face – which I love doing. With clients all over Australia, it’s just not physically possible to be onsite, I have clients in VIC, NSW, SA, WA and spanning each end of QLD!

6 – If the work is done in an accounting package, who retains ownership of the datafile?

Sometimes practices use their own software saving you the cost, but will you own the data? What would happen if you wanted to change bookkeeper? Also, some software companies have a transfer cost involved. What is their procedure for transferring ownership to you should want it.

My clients all use online software and I am proud to be a Xero only practice. Most of my clients own the subscription to the file and pay the subscription directly to Xero. There are some versions that are partner only – where I hold the subscription and invoice you. But these files are still owned by you and in Xero’s eyes (and mine) it always will be legally yours. There is no fee to transfer between subscription owners for Xero. I also don’t withhold ownership for any reason, if you want it transferred over, just an email request and it is done!

7 – Who will be responsible for rectification work?

Issues can sometimes go back many months, even years, meaning items have to be redone, BAS amendments lodged etc. Would this be free of charge or will it cost you the client?

If I made the error, all my work is guaranteed and fixed at absolutely no cost to you. But, if I’m doing rescue work (catching you up when you’re very behind), or taking over from another bookkeeper, or checking over work you did, that will need to be charged to you. Fixing errors, redoing work is much more time-intensive than doing it right the first time. That’s why finding an awesome bookkeeper is so important! I will always go through what’s happened and let you know the plan and some cost estimates where needed.

8 – What does the bookkeeper require to process the work?

You will need to work out with your bookkeeper what they need from you and when also how to provide it to them. If additional information is needed, where do they want it? Ie if you want it allocated to a particular event or client does it need to be written on the receipts, etc.

For brand new clients, where I am also creating their software, I have a checklist sent out detailing what is needed to create the file, it’s sent securely online my triage system Karbon. For all clients, I need:
• regular bank statements
•copies of all invoices for expenses – lodged via an expense app (HubDoc) which is integrated with your software
• any further information you want to tell me (which client job it’s for, which cost of sale account etc, can be written on the invoice or in the comments in the expense app
• copies of payment provider invoices – most of my clients, fees are deducted from settlements, so these fees need to be entered
There are many other items, but all provided to me securely and electronically. My engagement letter also details that I will need specific system access etc and any other information that might be needed.

9 – How will the bookkeeper communicate with your accountant?

It is very important that your bookkeeper and accountant have a great working relationship. So you need to find out how your bookkeeper will keep in touch and what charges if any relate to this.

I love all the accountants I work with. I have one that I work with as a team and share the majority of my clients with. We keep in touch on a regular basis. For small queries, I don’t charge to contact an accountant, and I would not ever request your accountant to carry out any work that would cost you, without you being involved. As part of my engagement letter, I request your accountant’s details, letting you know that I will contact them to introduce myself so that I can get in touch at any point needed. Also so they know me and get to know my work.

10 – What will it cost?

The million-dollar question! The range is very wide and varied and you often will get what you pay for. Going with a super cheap option, chances are it’s too good to be true and you’ll end up spending way more $$$ to get it fixed. We are in a skilled trade and highly trained, you are paying for that knowledge.

Each and every one of my quotes are customised to suit you, the client. You can check out my starting or base packages here. Then you can book a FREE 15 minute chat to work through what you need in order for me to put together a quote for you or simply get in touch via email.

Got any other questions for me? Feel free to email I’d love to hear from you.

Referenced from ICB Australia.

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