You might have decided to do your accounting "in the cloud" - but is your accountant virtual? Or you might have decided to stay with a desktop system, so can a virtual accountant really apply to you?
Our accounting service has gone virtual - regardless of what software you use. Cloud software makes some aspects easier, but with TeamViewer, Skype, DropBox and Secured Signing (not to mention good old email and the phone) we can work anywhere in NZ (or even offshore for those requiring a Kiwi accountant here).
There's one aspect in which we can't match virtual software. We're human. That means we can't be available at all times to all people. Pure multi-tasking is something we can't offer. We do our best - but we do have that limitation. However, when we're not available immediately, we will schedule a time that suits both of us to deal with issues. And you never need to arrange a time to meet with us in person.
How virtual accounting works
We work as your virtual accountant - and that lets us be part of your team in a more complete way. We don't need to be in the same room as you - but we can do almost everything "virtually" using your system - even when it runs on your computer rather than the Internet. When we "meet", we login in to your computer, and see what you are actually seeing. We can take control (with your permission) and work on your system - not just a copy which has to then be synchronised with it. We can also switch directions so you can see our computer for presentations, etc.
We like this approach for another reason - training. When we pick up an error, it's great to have the operator handy at the time. That way we can fix the transaction and show the operator so they know how to do it next time. We see this as an important way of reducing errors in the future. In fact if we find the same errors keep cropping up, we will eventually suggest we do your accounts via BankLink. Our aim is always to minimise the effort required to get your accounts right.
The process in full
Becoming a client
First we have to decide together whether we are really suited to you. Not every accountant / client combination works well for a variety of reasons - hence we start with a talk of up to an hour. At the end of that time, we will understand each other much better, and if nothing else, you will be clearer on what you are looking for and how to go about finding an accountant who suits you. We know that we don't appeal to everyone - we'd rather only have clients who really value us, and to whom we add real value rather than just filing tax returns.
If you do decide to become a client, we will agree the terms, and sign an agreement - electronically. After you have previewed and approved the agreement, we submit it to SecuredSigning, which sends you a link. the first time you use this service (linked to an email address so if that changes you have to start again), you need to upload your signatures. This is plural because as well as your signature, you also need to upload your initials (used for initialling each page if required). You can use other methods - scanned copies don't actually mean anything - they're just easier for humans to recognise.
Once that's in place, you then "sign" the document by clicking "sign now". At the end of the process, a copy of the signed document is sent to you and us. If someone later makes a change to a copy of the document, the "signature" is removed - so no-one can later make changes and use your signature. The Electronic Transactions Act 2002 covers this, and it's a bit more than simply affixing a scanned signature to a file.
Once you're a client, you pay a monthly A/P, and we act as your accountant from then on. This means if you have any questions or ideas involving your business (especially but not only if it involves tax) we expect you to ask us. There is no extra fee, and the more we know about your business the better. From your perspective it is better knowing the correct treatment before entering into a transaction. An example is trading in a vehicle - which commonly includes selling the old, buying the new and entering a new finance agreement. This one event creates three transactions, each of which has different tax and GST implications.
We will also review the data in your accounting system and advise any issues we see. By dealing with this up front, you know how to handle things correctly, and the work required at year end is greatly reduced. You can call us for help when your GST doesn't seem right (we encourage all clients to reconcile each return with their balance sheet) or when you have bought a new vehicle and want to record that and the associated HP correctly (it can make a big difference. There is an endless list of things clients might ask about.
We do reserve the right to charge additional fees in exceptional cases. These might include changing the business structure - perhaps adding a company and a trust. Or perhaps investigating some international tax issues. This we generally seek a consultant (of your choice) to advise on. Their fee is generally your responsibility. In any event, we will NEVER issue a bill for anything you have not first agreed to.
The other thing we've begun doing is being a bit more proactive. While we encourage clients to call on us at any time, many don't. So we now plan to call you away from accounts time to discuss your business. This helps us learn more about what's happening in your business, and perhaps another pair of eyes will see something different.
Accounts and taxes
After year end, you will receive a questionnaire. As a paperless office, this is an electronic form (Excel). When completed, we review it, and submit it through SecuredSigning for your signature. It is not enough to sign a blank form. We need the information to prepare your accounts. Because most of the data we use is in your accounting system, we don't double up on that. The questionnaire only asks for information we need outside your accounting system - we don't require details to be provided if they're already correctly entered in your accounting system.
Once we have completed your accounts, we send you drafts, and when you approve then, submit them through SecuredSigning. When signed, we then file your tax return.
We also prepare a brief seven-year summary of your business performance. This gives you a chance to pause and reflect on where you're going.
That's our virtual accounting service - pretty much like "real" ones - but without the geographic limits. We have the tools to be part of your team - not just to do your accounts at year end. When you need us, we can be there to help you - virtually. We have found that a five or ten minute session at the time can solve a problem, and educate you so next time it's easier.