Accounting firms exist as an entity to provide professional accounting services to businesses. There are many areas of service that an accounting firm can provide, and they are not just confined to purely bookkeeping activity. Some of these include corporate finance, business recovery and liquidation, corporate secretarial and financial management advisory.

Auditing and Statutory reporting

One of the more popular services would be public accounting, which refers to audit and reporting on financial statements. Banks sometimes require an independent third-party check on a company’s financial statements, and certified accountants (commonly known as public accountants or partners of a firm) can provide such independent verification services by conducting an audit on their financial statements. The Accountants Act requires accounting firms providing public accountancy services to register with ACRA, the accounting and corporate regulatory authority in Singapore that governs Singapore registered companies. The ACRA specifies the dos and don’ts of a Singapore company in accordance with the Companies Act.

front sign of the ACRA entity which regulates accounting firms in Singapore

Generally, accounting firms employ accountants who possess professional accounting qualification from various certified professional bodies such as ISCA, ACCA, CPA Australia or ICAEW. Accounting professionals looking to obtain their professional qualifications are required to pass all examinations offered by the respective professional bodies and maintain at least 3 years of working experience in an accounting firm.

Accounting Firms as Potential Business Partners

Accounting firms in Singapore could act as potential business partners to Singapore firms, be it SME or large listed corporations. Most accounting firms hire professionals specializing in various fields ranging from tax consultants to regulatory compliance and accounting advisory. For example, companies looking to complete their financial statements in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and comply with local regulations may seek the assistance of accounting firms for such tasks. Companies looking to file their corporate taxes annually may also consult with tax professionals from accounting firms. Such professionals are well versed with the local tax regulations and can help their clients save on tax by claiming allowances and finding deductibles that clients are not usually aware of. Needless to say, they also handle the administrative process with little difficulty. 

Accounting firms also provide bookkeeping and payroll services. They ensure accounts are updated on time and salaries are disbursed promptly. Other support functions that accounting firms may provide include corporate secretarial activities that ensure statutory resolutions and registers are maintained properly.

Accounting firms in the new era – Business intelligence services 

Modern accounting firms have adapted to provide business advisory services as well. Companies looking to raise funds may source for an accounting firm’s expertise in analysing the company’s financials and determine the proper financing quantum and considerations. Companies looking to plan their taxes may also engage qualified tax professionals to provide tax structuring advice. Accounting firms are starting to provide such higher value-added consultancy services that complement their specializations in the industry.

With the advancement in technology and AI development, new markets are also being opened in the IT space. Accounting firms now employ both accounting and IT specialists to assist in projects involving system transaction analysis and data analytics for clients. These projects aim to analyse company data and provide potential findings for cost savings or revenue increment to the company.  

Singapore landscape and business needs

In Singapore, accounting firms come in different sizes, suited to their target clientele in the industry. There are international agencies such as the Big 4 accounting firms, mid-tier firms that cater to a different market segment and smaller setups for smaller businesses and individual clients. Large corporations with sizeable budgets and more complex transactions may opt to engage with international accounting firms with networks of experts that can effectively address the scope of their business requirements. On the other hand, smaller SME firms are better matched with mid-tier firms for less complex services such as tax filing or annual financial statements preparation. 

Apart from budget consideration, other factors that could affect a company’s choice of accounting firms are their pool of experts and their range of specializations in the industry. For instance, some accounting firm may have experienced professionals in the F&B industry who could provide insights into tax-related matters or accounting and operational issues within the sector. 

With accounting firms now providing various professional services and covering a wide spectrum of expertise,   a business’ needs can definitely be fulfilled by a reputable accounting firm staffed with qualified professionals.