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Want to hire a bookkeeper to help prepare your bas? Here are 3 questions you should ask them first!

After much consideration, you decide that now is the time to hire a bookkeeper. After screening potential candidates, you think you have found the one. They look the part, have an awesome looking resume, hold an old commerce degree, appear to be organized, are able to keep on top of slow paying customers, can handle conversations with your accountant (which you would like to avoid) and can make your computer software produce nice looking reports and graphs. From your research, you find that their charge rate is pretty much in line with what other bookkeepers charge or maybe even a little cheaper. You decide that you don’t mind because they still cost a lot less than your accountant, so you think you are on a winner. But, before you ask them to prepare your BAS or handle payroll matters such as paying your employee superannuation contributions, please ask him/her the following questions. Note: If you wish to employ the person as an employee of your business, then the first question need not be asked, but if they a bookkeeper running their own bookkeeping business then the first question is crucial and may save you a lot of heartache in the long run. The questions to ask are:

1.Are you a registered BAS Agent?

During March 2010, legislation was introduced to regulate the provision of BAS services by bookkeepers. The law states that those providing BAS services in return for a payment (or other award) must be registered as a BAS agent. Business owners who prepare their own bas and employed bookkeepers do not need to be registered, however due to some of the complexities involved in BAS preparation it is advisable for businesses to seek advice and help from a registered Bas agent or Tax agent to minimize the risk of overpaying or underpaying your taxes or get stuck with ATO fines or penalties should things go pear shaped. The Tax Agent Services Act 2009 creates a clear set of training, experience, andprofessional standards a bookkeeper must achieve to offer bas services for a fee or reward and their registration may be terminated if there is misconduct. In addition, a registered BAS agent must holdprofessional indemnity insurance which will protect you financially if the agent makes and error, omission or some other act. Your business can also access safe harbour provisions by using a registered BAS agent which means that in some instances your business will not be charged administrative penalties from the ATO in certain circumstances. It is illegal for non- registered bookkeepers to provide a bas service, and the penalties and fines are hefty and are being enforced. To protect your business, it is important to check if your contractor bookkeeper is registered – please check here:

2.Are you qualified?

Of course, if the person is a registered BAS agent, then you can rest in the assurance that they are suitably qualified as it is a requirement of registration, plus they are required to keep learning and stay up to date! On the other hand, if you are looking at employing someone, then they should have as a minimum evidence that they have studied bookkeeping/accounting via a TAFE course (certificate or diploma). It is preferable for the qualification to be current (ie obtained within the last 1-5 years). In my opinion, only qualified bookkeepers should prepare and lodge a bas.

Tip: someone who only has certification in software (for example MYOB, Reckon, Xero) does not qualify as being a trained bookkeeper.

3.How much experience have you had?

If the employee bookkeeper has had little or no experience in BAS preparation then they should not really attempt to prepare your bas without further training as bas preparation requires specific technical knowledge and practice. A registered BAS Agent must provide evidence that they have had a minimum of 1400 hours experience during the preceding 4 years when they register.

So in a nutshell, you can go ahead and hire that bookkeeper to do your bas, but you should really check them out first (ask the questions) and be clear about your situation. If the bookkeeper is employed by your business they can prepare and lodge the BAS on your behalf. However, if he/she is a contractor, then they must be a registered BAS Agent if they wish to provide you with BAS services. A BAS agent will be adequately qualified and experienced in providing bas services. Your employee bookkeeper should also show appropriate qualifications and experience. If your employee doesn’t, you may still hire them for general bookkeeping but consider providing further training and guidance before letting them do your BAS!

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