There is considerable debate in the accounting industry that cloud accounting applications and automatic data feeds are going to continue to commoditise compliance services. For years there has been ongoing discussion of the need for accountants to focus more on business advisory services - to become the holistic adviser for their clients. The thought is not new but there does appear to be a heightened reality that the profitability of tax and accounting compliance services is being threatened by the new technologies.

Services a Holistic Adviser Should Consider

A holistic adviser is one that engages the client in a discussion to unlock the issues and plans for their business and family and to ensure that those issues are addressed. It does not mean that the adviser has to have all the knowledge and implementation capability. Other advisers with the appropriate skills can and should be used. The role of the accountant is to act as a project manager to ensure the issues to be addressed are uncovered and dealt with appropriately.

Consider these three issues that should be discussed with almost every client:

1. Insurance

Insurance is a key risk management tool for any business and family. Every year, the holistic adviser should be ensuring that a review of business and personal insurances occurs. They should be involved and work with the insurance adviser to ensure that cover is appropriate.

Often the client or the insurance adviser may not fully appreciate the business structures or the succession, retirement and estate plans. Often the business accounts may not reflect the true business performance with adjustments being necessary to normalise profits.

This is not to say that the accountant should be an expert in insurance but they should ensure that insurance experts are working with the right information and when advice is received, be applying a critical eye to the advice to assess whether the cover appears appropriate for the client's circumstances. This then provides additional comfort to the client that they are effectively managing their risks.

Only recently, a client from 25 years ago expressed their thanks to me for insisting that they took out income protection insurance. Advice in this area can be life changing.

2. Government Grants

Everyone likes to get money from the government! Most accountants are aware that there are a large number of grants available on various government schemes. It would therefore seem wise that, on a regular basis, a check occurs to ensure that clients are not missing out on available government assistance.

It is surprising that so few accountants ensure that a government grant review is part of the regular services that they provide. I suspect part of the reason is that it has been difficult to access all the necessary information to quickly make an assessment of the opportunities. www.essbizgrants.com.au is one attempt to solve this problem by providing accountants with an easy way to assess the opportunities for their clients.

In many instances it may be appropriate for an expert in government grants to prepare the submission. Once again the accountant has a role to check the submission to ensure the financial information provided is accurate and complete. If you want a delighted client - find them some government money!

3. Personal Property Security Act (PPSA) Review & Process Implementation

This issue is a real sleeper and should form part of the annual review of a client's affairs. Failure to register security over a physical or intellectual property asset could result in a loss of that asset particularly in an insolvency situation. It has the potential to impact goods on consignment, arrangements between related entities, leases and a host of other scenarios. The impact, as seen already in some insolvency cases, can be catastrophic.

There are at least three issues that need attention. The first is to identify the assets that may be affected and ensuring appropriate registration occurs. The second is to ensure all the client's documentation has been reviewed and amended to work effectively with the legislation. The third is then to ensure that the client's processes and procedures are modified to ensure that when new transactions or milestones occur that the appropriate action is taken.

The interpretation of this legislation is a specialist area requiring appropriate legal advice. Accountants should be partnering with suitably skilled lawyers to ensure that each client is not exposed and effectively managing its PPSA obligations. The accountant can assist in providing information, reviewing the advice and the implementation of the appropriate processes.

The question needs to be asked? How would your client react if they were caught by this legislation and lost ownership of an asset?

So consider your firm's approach to these issues? Are you ensuring that your clients are effectively addressing them? Can you incorporate these services into an annual review of the client's affairs? By doing so you will strengthen your relationship with your client and reinforce that you are able to provide broader assistance beyond tax and accounting affairs.

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David Smith