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Questions to Ask an Accountant When Starting a Business in Australia

Starting a new business can be quite exciting; however, it takes more than just a good idea. You will want to know that the business will make money, and you will also have to convince investors and lenders that it will. Having an experienced accountant ensures that you can do this efficiently.

Accountants also do tax and compliance work and are very viable troubleshooters and strategic advisors for small businesses. Without experience, it can be quite challenging to know the right questions to ask an accountant. Have it in mind that knowing the right questions to ask an accountant will ensure that you get the right information that will guarantee you start your business with less stress.

Owing to that, you must build a rewarding relationship with them over and above filing an annual tax return. Whether you’ve worked with a professional for years or it is your first meeting, it is pertinent you know the right questions to ask your accountant. Here are the top questions to ask an accountant when starting a business in Australia.

20 Important Questions to Ask an Accountant When Starting a Business in Australia

  1. How Should I Structure My Business?

When starting a new business in Australia, you have to decide whether to set yourself up as a sole trader, a limited company, or a partnership. Have in mind that each of these business structures comes with its own advantages and disadvantages and an accountant can easily point you in the right direction. Your accountant can also assist you with filling out the correct documents for the legal structure you select. 

  1. What Are the Costs and Benefits of This Business Set Up?

A good number of entrepreneurs only consider the initial costs of forming the structure when discussing this point. However, note that the costs tend to go beyond the initial formation costs. Take into consideration the ongoing maintenance costs such as accounting fees, annual lodgement fees, etc.

You will also want to discuss what protection the business structure offers if anything goes wrong and if it will protect not only the business assets but more importantly your assets such as your house and investments.

  1. What Records Should I Keep?

In Australia, you must keep track of business records to make it more convenient to file taxes, measure profitability, and secure funds. Aside from that, you should always keep records handy in case of an audit. An accountant can tell you the exact records your business should keep. Some typically include:

  • Business tax returns
  • Financial statements
  • General ledger
  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Check registers
  • Receipts
  • Contracts
  • Business agreements (e.g., operating agreement)
  • Business licenses and permits
  • Insurance documents
  • Payroll records (e.g., payroll tax forms, pay stubs, etc.)
  1. What Insurances Will I Need?

Most often, businesses are mandated to obtain some form of insurance. According to reports, some of the most common types of insurance a business may have in Australia include:

  • Professional indemnity;
  • Product and public liability;
  • Income protection or key man insurance.
  1. What Are My Tax Obligations?

Without doubts, your first tax season as a business owner in Australia will be very tasking. As a new business owner, you may not even know precisely your tax obligations. To ensure you understand your tax obligations, remember to ask your accountant. Depending on your business, you may need to file and remit:

  • Corporate income taxes
  • Personal income taxes
  • Payroll taxes
  • Employment taxes
  • Sales taxes
  • Excise taxes
  • Self-employment taxes
  • Estimated taxes
  1. How Should I Prepare for Tax Season?

Under a very good arrangement, an accountant can file and remit your business taxes on your behalf. But if you intend to do it yourself, you must ask your accountant what information you need to gather ahead of time. Also ensure you ask them how you can better arrange your records to make tax filing easier (e.g., using accounting software).

  1. What Business Expenses Can I Deduct?

While this will most definitely depend on your business and expenses, you may be liable to deduct certain business expenses on your tax return. However, you need to understand that each type of deduction comes with a specific set of rules you are expected to follow.

Ask your accountant the exact business tax deductions you are eligible for. These experts can help you note the exact ones to leverage and how to claim them. In Australia, here are some business tax deductions you may qualify for:

  • Home office
  • Business use of car
  • Business travel
  • Employee expenses
  • Charitable contributions
  1. When Should I Pay Estimated Taxes?

If you decide to file your taxes yourself, you must ask some very necessary tax-related questions. Estimated tax is a method that individuals leverage to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding taxes. You may need to pay estimated taxes if taxes are not withheld from your income.

Ensure to ask the accountant about estimated taxes and whether or not you need to pay them each quarter. In Australia, you may have to pay estimated taxes if you receive income that isn’t subject to withholding, such as:

  • Dividends
  • Gains from sales of stock
  • Self-employment income
  • Interest income
  1. Are The People Who Work for Me Employees or Independent Contractors?

Classification of employees is very important in Australia. Is your new worker an employee or an independent contractor? As an employee, you are tasked with withholding and remitting payroll taxes. But with an independent contractor, you don’t withhold or pay any payroll taxes for them.

Note that misclassifying your workers could warrant certain tax problems and penalties. Your accountant can help you paddle through the rumbling waters of classifying employees and independent contractors to guarantee you don’t make mistakes.

  1. How Can I Better Manage My Cash Flow?

Knowing when money is coming into your business and when it is going out is very pertinent to ensuring you have a sustainable business model. As a business owner, note that one of your main objectives will be to maintain a healthy and positive cash flow.

However, to ensure your cash flow doesn’t go towards the negative territory, reach out to your accountant and find out how you can better manage yours. Your accountant can help you understand your cash flow, pinpoint and analyze problems, and establish a plan to improve it.

  1. How Much Investment Do You Need to Put into Your Company Right Now?

A well-experienced accountant can help you project the cost of setting up your new business. Note that this will include costs that come with obtaining the physical business address and paying for supplies.

Most often, your initial investment will be the highest as the founder; howbeit this will vary from one company to the next. Also, take into consideration your expenses and understand what you need to manage to ensure you don’t lean too much on the business too soon.

  1. Should I Register For VAT?

In Australia, you may be expected to register for goods and services tax, VAT, if your annual VAT taxable turnover is above a certain threshold (currently £85,000 per year). Howbeit, if you are below this threshold, you can choose to register voluntarily. Your accountant can fit you with the right knowledge and the benefits of doing this, and what your obligations are if you do register.

  1. What Are My Financing Options?

While this is a question you can ask an accountant any time, you must ask it when you are looking to start your business, especially when you have limited capital. Aside from that, to grow your business, you will need substantial funds to take on larger projects.

Your accountant can help you sort out the best small business financing options and also help you understand the difference between all your options, list the pros and cons of each, and assist you in obtaining financing. They may even refer you to viable lenders that they know.

  1. What Is My Break-Even Point?

Simply put, the break-even point is the point when your total sales equal your total expenses. Once you attain your break-even, you are finally making enough to cover your operating costs. Have it in mind that the break-even point is vital for pricing your products and/or services.

It can also ensure you set the right budget, control costs, and decide on a pricing strategy. Your accountant can leverage your financial records to evaluate your business’s break-even point. By noting your point, you can decide if your company is viable enough to make a profit, lose money, or just break even.

  1. What Are Some Considerations I Should Consult with You About on An Ongoing Basis?

You must build a rewarding relationship with an accountant over and above filing an annual tax return. Owing to that, asking this question will help you understand some of the issues you can approach that come up regularly in your business.

Along the line, note that you will encounter many business decisions that they’ll have useful insight into, like whether to buy or rent an office space, hire a full-time employee or a contractor, and whether to lease or rent equipment.

  1. What Upcoming Legislation Do I Need to Be Aware Of?

Your business can be greatly affected by changing tax obligations and regulations. As a business owner, it can be quite challenging to keep up with these changes and their corresponding deadlines. Therefore, ask your accountant to keep you informed, as they need to be up to date with new legislation. Your accountant should also keep you up to date with any financial support available to you and be able to assist you in applying.

  1. How Do I Know If My Business Is Doing Well?

Truth be told, it can be quite confusing to read numbers if you are not well-versed with financial statements. While it might be tempting to let professionals take care of all the analysis, it is advisable to know a few basics so you can get a concise picture of your business’s financial status. Don’t forget to ask your accountant how to measure if your business is doing well—what numbers to look out for, what trends signify profit or loss, etc.

  1. How Can You Help Me Grow My Business?

Accountants are without doubts financial and tax experts. Owing to that, they understand the opportunities necessary to promote and boost business growth and the things you need to stay clear from. They can also help track your financial progress and analyze what’s holding your business back. In addition, they can help you project your cash flow so you can better plan for future expenses and opportunities.

  1. What Changes Could I Make That Would Help My Business?

You need to understand that an accountant is an expert in all things taxes and finances, and that’s one of the most vital reasons why you need to ask your accountant the question, ‘What changes could I make that would help my business?’ Truth be told, your accountant won’t have all the answers, but they can help point you in the right direction.

  1. What’s The Right Profit Margin?

This is another vital question to ask an accountant when starting a new business. How much should you charge to ensure you make the best profit possible while still ensuring your business can grow? Have it in mind that this isn’t a straightforward question; however, a well-experienced accountant can help you make the right decision.