The Dangers of Using an Unregistered Bookkeeper

February 13. 2020.

As a small business owner in Australia, you’re likely using a bookkeeper to handle all of your bookkeeping requirements. This might include the preparation and lodgement of your Business Activity Statements (BAS), taxable payment annual reports (TPAR) and processing of Single Touch Payroll (STP). But how can you be sure that the bookkeeper you’re working with is in fact a professional bookkeeper and a registered BAS Agent?

In Episode 4 of the Small Business All Figured Out podcast, Sheryl Cole and her co-host Corinne discuss what you need to know to ensure that you’re working with a professional bookkeeper, accountant or registered tax agent.

To listen, click play below.

As a small business owner, knowing whether your bookkeeper is appropriately qualified should matter to you because an unregistered bookkeeper could cause you costly errors, trigger avoidable penalties, and generate unnecessary additional stress for you.

And did you know that an unregistered bookkeeper is not legally able to charge anyone for the preparation of Business Activity Statements nor are they legally able to lodge it with the Australian Taxation Office on behalf of anyone?

Only a Registered BAS Agent (or Registered Tax Agent) can prepare and lodge these documents on your behalf.


The risks of using an unregistered Bookkeeper

So, what are the risks to your business if you use the services of an unregistered bookkeeper?

Well, some of the risks include:

  • A lack of privacy – an unregistered bookkeeper may misuse your confidential information for their own personal gain. The sharing of this personal information puts your business and personal affairs at risk of identity theft and the like
  • No insurance – an unregistered bookkeeper will unlikely have any Professional Indemnity Insurance which means that there won’t be any compensation available to you should they cause your business any loss or costly errors as a result of their service
  • Unethical conduct – meaning that they don’t adhere to any professional and ethical standards as they don’t belong to any professional bookkeeping bodies or hold a registration with the Tax Practitioners Board.

So what’s the biggest risk to you and your business when you choose to work with someone who’s not a licensed and registered professional? It’s the risk that your unregistered bookkeeper could cause you and your business serious financial loss.

This is because unregistered bookkeepers may not have the qualifications or experience required of a registered BAS Agent and also, they may not have appropriate professional indemnity insurance to compensate you if you suffer a loss caused by their services.


What education and experience should a Registered BAS Agent have?

A bookkeeper should, as a minimum, hold qualifications such as a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping, or a Diploma of Accounting.

A bookkeeper who is a professional, who has achieved only the minium educational qualifications, should be a member of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB).

However, if a bookkeeper has achieved higher educational qualifications or has accumulated years of the right professional experience, they’re eligible for membership with professional bodies such as CPA Australia, Chartered Accountants Australia, or Institute of Public Accountants.

The Number Ninjas Bookkeeping, being a firm of experienced accountants and bookkeepers, is a CPA firm which means our business clients can benefit immensely from our high level range of services and expertise which extend far beyond those of your everyday bookkeeper.


Why should you use a Registered BAS Agent for your bookkeeping needs?

When you use the services of Registered BAS or Tax Agent you will avoid the risks mentioned above. You’ll also have peace of mind and confidence that your BAS agent has the relevant experience, qualifications and competence to handle all of your business requirements, from the preparation and lodgement of business activity statements to processing of Single Touch Payroll (STP) and other reporting requirements.

And, should a situation arise where the Registered BAS Agent has allegedly breached any of their obligations, you will have some recourse to pursue this matter further.


How to check that your bookkeeper is a registered professional

It’s always a good idea to check that you’re working with a licensed bookkeeper who has the authority to perform the services that they are offering (and charging) for. Here are three key questions you could ask your bookkeeper:

Q1. Ask if they can provide their BAS Agent Number. Or alternatively, search the Tax Practitioners Board Website for a list of accredited practitioners;

Q2. Check if your bookkeeper holds a membership with the professional bodies. You would expect a standard bookkeeper to hold a membership with  the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers. If they’re more qualified and experienced, they may hold a membership with CPA, CA or IPA.

Q3. You may also want to enquire as to how many years of experience your bookkeeper holds, if that is important to you as a consumer or client.

As a business owner in Australia, you know that the Australian taxation law is complex.  The reporting obligations that are being placed on you by the ATO are onerous. The benefits of using a registered BAS/Tax Agent are significant. Choose your bookkeeper wisely. Do your homework to ensure that they are appropriately registered to handle your business bookkeeping needs competently.


Virtual Online Bookeepers in Australia

The Number Ninjas Bookkeeping is a registered Tax Agent and member of CPA. Our Head Ninja, Sheryl Cole, holds over 14 years of public accounting practice experience and a vast understanding of the tax law. This means you can be confident that we have the skills to deal with all of your business bookkeeping and Xero training needs.

Sheryl co-hosts the Small Business All Figured Out podcast, created for small business owners in Australia to give you actionable strategies, tips and tools to achieve success in your small business. Listen to Small Business All Figured Out wherever you listen to podcasts.

Book your FREE 15-minute discovery call

Overwhelmed by your business numbers? It’s time to take control. Book a free call with The Number Ninjas Bookkeeping and learn more about cash flow help.