How much should I be paying my accountant?

Dear Aunty B,

I recently ditched my accountant of 20 years for a very big important firm at the advice of our lawyer who said we needed better skills and it would assist with things like bank finance.

But I just got my first bill from them and honestly I felt sick.

They had told me their fees, which sounded reasonable for their reputation, but it was the additional items I wasn’t expecting: like getting charged for them to write up the advice after the meeting, which I never asked for, and billing for someone else’s time that I am buggered if I knew what they added to the whole thing.

I accept paying for good professionals, but there is no way I can keep paying those fees when I never know how much they might be. Any ideas?

Ripped off,



Dear Ripped Off,

Dear, oh dear. A per hour estimate is one thing. But why did you not think to ask for an estimate for the project?

Accountants are not gods from up high that pluck a figure out of the air, shove it in an envelope and snigger at the shock they are about to deliver to their hapless clients. They are just service providers, who dress a bit more fancy than your local car mechanic. (Sorry all car mechanics for that stereotype.)

Think of it this way. Would you put your car in for service and not ask for a round about estimate? And wouldn’t you expect them to call you with an estimate before they proceed? And if they do open the bonnet and find it needs more work so the bill is larger, do you not think the accountant will be expecting your call?

If you had been more active you could have called to say you didn’t want the written advice — that you got all you needed from that meeting.

Of course the other thing you can do is cap the amount you pay so that if they go over, say $2000, they need to notify you of this and ask for instructions to proceed to the next $2000.

In my experience, accountants are among the better service providers to agree to proper accountability because that, after all, is at the heart of their job!

Be smart,

Your Aunty B


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