BLOG - Sorry - you're too expensive

Kathryn Harris, FCPA, CA, CTA

At the end of the day you get what you pay for

BLOG - Sorry - you're too expensive

People think I'm joking when I say I didn't earn enough for years to make any payments against my HECS debt. Or they think I've done some amazing accounting slight of hand to reduce my taxable income. Honestly, I wish that was the case. The fact is building a business costs money and for years I've had business debt to get on top of. Not to mention just the overheads of running a business. I nearly always got paid but if I'd taken myself off to the city I could have really got paid.

My tertiary education has cost a bit. So far about $60,000. That's without counting completing the CPA Program, the Chartered Tax Advisor qualification and all the ongoing CPD that comes with being members of these organisations.

Small business is tough with lots of ups and downs and some days I feel the downs more than others. Today I lost a client because I'm too expensive. In all honesty I probably am for him. He's a sole trader chippy not a huge turnover, not registered for GST. His total bill for getting his tax done for the year came to $422 which included a Xero cash book subscription. We did everything, all the bookkeeping and including working out the interest on his vehicle purchase. It probably took me two and a half hours to get it all done so $153.46 per hour (my calculator skills are magnificent). In reality cheap for someone with my qualifications but too expensive for his business. Next year he'll see his mates accountant instead.

What it really means is he's not my market - something else I know. Not every business needs someone of my skill set. In fact, I honestly believe a lot of businesses should invest more heavily in bookkeepers than accountants.

The tricky part in our industry to small business and individuals is that there is no level playing field with accountants. There's a tax agent up the road who charges $120 to do an income tax return. However, he doesn't have to do any quality assurance and if you get an audit you won't see hide or hair of him. Another local account is charging $90. She is a CPA and advertises as such but actually hasn't completed her public practice so again no quality assurance.

Being a member of accounting associations comes with costs. For our business they add up to about $9,000 a year just in membership and registration fees. That's before we count any CPD. What this means for clients is basically a whole of assurance that we know what we are doing and there is some oversight on how we do it.

At the end of the day you get what you pay for and I really want clients that value my services, not just look at the price tag.


Kathryn Harris, FCPA, CA, CTA