The differences between a tax agent and an accountant

‘Tax agent’ and ‘accountant’ are professions that people consider interchangeable,  sometimes incorrectly. It’s normal to think they do the same thing. In reality, though, there are some big differences. Unless you’re in the accounting business you might not know them, so read on below.

The tax agent lives in the past

Through your past returns, that is. They work to ensure your income returns are compliant with ATO standards. They’re well versed in tax law, which is why most clients are referred onto them.


Accountants look into the future

Your accountant is your financial business strategist. It’s their job to help you get the best return so you pay the minimum amount of tax.

Accountants will certainly review past data, but they use it to help your business and its finances move forward. If there’s an aspect of your business that’s leaking money, they’ll help you plug it. They’ll recommend software that automatically generates reports that tracks targets, profits, and loss.


Their qualifications are different

An accountant must have a university degree under their belt, preferably a masters, and undergo continuous training through their career. The cycle of learning never ends! When you walk into your accountant’s office, you’ll definitely notice the amount of awards lining the walls.

Tax agents don’t need to have a university degree for what they do, but they need a Certificate IV in Financial Services (Bookkeeping or Accounting) from an RTO. They also must’ve completed a course, or courses, approved by the Australian Taxation Practitioners Board. Your bookkeeper can also work as your BAS agent if they fulfill the requirements.


A tax agent is more concerned with your compliance with tax law, and will give you advice about it when you need. They’ll also file your statements and represent you to the tax commissioner. An accountant, on the other hand, is your strategist. Their business is helping you pay less tax. They strategize and monitor your financial performance so you can meet your goals.


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