We often tend to place an inordinate amount of trust in professionals. We accept a Doctor’s diagnosis, a lawyer’s advice and trust our accountants to take care of our tax responsibilities.  But have they really earned our trust?

When you selected your accountant, did you take the time to assess their integrity and experience? After all, they are making decisions that affect you financially, whether it is positive or negative.

The danger of not selecting a reputable accountant is overlooked by most taxpayers and can be a rude awakening when the accountant drops the ball. This may come as a shock to you but you have selected someone to personally represent you; therefore you can be held legally responsible for the information they submit to SARS, opening you up to penalties and possible prosecution.

While there have been some horror stories in the past of taxpayers being held liable for errors that their accountants made, the small mistakes can also be costly. Your accountant may be missing deadlines and incurring penalties on your behalf. Worse yet, promising you returns from SARS and fraudulently making claims to receive those returns. All while you are blissfully unaware of what is happening behind the scenes.

What to do if your accountant makes a mistake?

Hopefully you are reading this before you have run into any trouble. Having realised that you may not have selected the best person to represent you for handling your tax responsibilities, simply correct this as quickly as possible and engage the services of a reputable accounting professional. It is much more cost effective to be proactive than reactive.

If the damage has already been done and you are liable for penalties or worse, the advice is still the same. Seek the services of a professional accountant who can review your previous submissions to SARS and begin repairing the relationship as soon as possible.

How to find a professional accountant?

When searching for a new accountant, you should follow a few guidelines:

  • Look for a business, not a freelancer: By choosing an accountant in a business setup, you avoid the dangers of a fly-by-night accountant and there is also a greater likelihood of improved compliance with changing legislature. TIP: Don’t always equate a business with higher charges. Often they can be less expensive than a freelancer.
  • Look for Experience: An accounting business that has been operating for a number of years with a wide portfolio of clients is a solid option to partner with for the long run. They may also have clients with similar businesses to yours and can offer valuable advice.
  • Meet the accountant: Whether this is in person or via video link, be sure that you feel comfortable with them, they are presentable, professional and take an interest in you and your business.
  • Look for affiliations:  Check whether the accountant or accounting firm is registered with the South African Institute of Professional Accountant (SAIPA) or the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA).

Remember that you are selecting someone for the long term so be sure that you feel comfortable before engaging the services of an accountant.

If you are looking for a professional accountant in South Africa, why not start by calling Brett (a SAIPA affiliated accountant) from Dirmeik Consulting on 021 421 4444.