If you’re picking an accountant for your business, you’d be forgiven for being confused at the terminology and language used in marketing by firms. Because, unlike the medical and legal profession, there are no strict laws prohibiting people from calling themselves an “accountant”.
Today I’ll try to explain the different groups in the industry and whether or not a Chartered Accountant is best for your business.
There are only two internationally recognised professional accounting groups in Australia. The Chartered Accountants (CA) and Certified Practising Accountants (CPA).
As a word to the wise, a lot of accountants will try to imply qualifications by using titles like “qualified accountant” or “registered accountant”. These generic terms don’t actually designate any special training or qualification.
How Chartered Accountants are Made
After completing the right university degree, CA Candidates are required to be formally supervised for three years by a senior CA while specialising in at least two technical areas. CA hopefuls in public practice will often work 60 hour weeks to gain practical experience.
In addition to work, candidates complete a gruelling two year, five module technical program through the institute. Failure rates are high due to the sheer volume of material and process to commit to memory. However, it’s because of this technical program that CAs are so adept at handling technical matters and analysis.
It’s no secret that the program is the hardest accountant vetting process in Australia. In fact, that’s pretty much how it’s marketed to students.
Why is this Important for Your Business?
Quite frankly, it doesn’t have to be. You don’t care if your accountant studied 30 hours a week or swam the English Channel. You just need the work done.
For those businesses that just need someone to do bookkeeping and lodge taxes, a tax agent is more than sufficient. Price is also a factor when small businesses opt for non-CA practices.
Where businesses do need a CA are in technical areas or where a growing business needs a proper financial advisor. For small businesses, having a CA as an external advisor means that they have a go-to advisor who will provide them with the right information and lodgements at the right time. Where the business faces problems or is undergoing change, CAs shine at negotiating through legal disputes, expert reporting, valuations, audits, business sales or any other number of extraordinary events.
Chartered Accountants tend to charge a bit more than agents and bookkeepers. However, there’s a reason why all of the top 200 companies in Australia use CA firms as their external accountants and advisors. Where a business is serious about growing and seeks the best advice, a Chartered Accountant is the best option.