As many SME’s move towards cloud accounting, accountants servicing the sector need to remain relevant by becoming more technologically savvy and expanding their offerings to include operational or financial consulting.

This is according to Renier Nell, Master Tax Practitioner and Director of Innovative Accounting Solutions, a subsidiary of Innovative Solutions Group, which provides outsourced services and solutions in staffing, finance and administration, broad-based black economic empowerment and guarding.

Nell says companies are conducting many of their accounting procedures such as payroll and monthly accounting online.

“Cloud accounting makes access for the accountant and the client so much easier and facilitates monthly processing. In addition, it cuts out a lot of paperwork and makes many of the administrative tasks of the past such as phone calls and emailing of documents superfluous.”

With online accounting making it easier for clients to retrieve their information, accountants have more time to devote to dealing with more complex tax issues and providing strategic financial advice to their clients.

Nell says while clients may have easier access to their information, they do not necessarily have the time to check whether VAT has been calculated correctly or accounts have been processed properly.

“This is where their accountants need to step up. In addition to being more tech savvy, they need to understand the intricacies of the Tax Act and the various legislative changes required by businesses from time to time.”

With less spent on nitty gritty issues, accountants need to consider what value adds they can offer their clients.

“Accountants often develop deep insight into the businesses they service and are able to see where it would be prudent to make changes to operate optimally,” says Nell.

In many instances retailers don’t consider changing their suppliers.

“Given the current economic environment and the dollar exchange rate it makes sense to check whether you’re getting the best deal from your suppliers – this is something the accountant can assist with.”

Accountants can also play a role in implementing budgeting systems; checking deals relating to vehicles and machinery purchases; ensuring the business has the right insurance policies in place for its employees; and advising on where to cut costs.

Nell adds business investments are also a neglected area.

“A business might invest in unit trusts and then forget about them. All investments need to be checked on a regular basis to determine whether they’re growing or not.”

Importantly, accountants need to develop a close and trust-based relationship with their clients.

“It is important to keep clients updated on all aspects of their businesses that the accountant is involved in. They especially need to know what is going on with their taxes, so that there are no surprises or unexpected bills down the line.”

Innovative Accounting Solutions only employs senior accountants, who are all registered with the South African Institute for Business Accountants (SAIBA).

“To remain active accountants, members of SAIBA need to accumulate points every year by attending courses and being tested on their knowledge, “concludes Nell.

*First published on 26 June 2017, I Love ZA