By Ciaran Ryan and Ludzula Mukhuwana
Saiba member and BAP(SA) Bernard Burke knows has spent more than a decade in the field as a professional accountant, and he shares some of the lessons learned along the way.
His first challenge was having to work pay for his studies. It was the only way he could get into the accounting profession, he says.
Bernard acquired a bachelor’s degree in accounting while working and, having been exposed to the audit side of accounting early on, he decided it was better for him to focus his full attention on accounting.
When he learned that he was now able to become a Licensed Tax Practitioner through Saiba, which received recognition as a Recognised Control Body (RCB) from the South African Revenue Services (Sars), he signed up immediately.
“About half of my practice income revolves around tax issues and giving tax advice, so it is vital that I am licenced (as a tax professional) and keep my licensing up to date. Tax is an evolving field, and you have to remain current, so I am particularly pleased that Saiba is now able to offer to licencing to its members, and that it has teamed up with Konsise to provide more than 2 600 opinions from master tax professionals. It makes our life so much easier.”
Bernard sees the tax license as an opportunity to expand his practice and increase his business revenue. Increasingly, tax advice is becoming a core part of the accountant’s expected service offering, and Saiba has made it possible for members to gain access to thousands of professional opinions on virtually every conceivable tax issue that is likely to arise.
He is one of many members now signing up to get tax licenses through Saiba. “I am planning to move to Saiba fully and get my licenses. I know that it will be a smooth process because I have been getting the best service from my consultant, Sarah.”
Saiba members can apply for a Licensed Tax Practitioner status by signing up here.
In the early years, Bernard found it hard to handle difficult clients. In addition to that, he had to learn how to be a business and financial advisor to clients, and not just an accountant.
What motivated him was the fact that he knew that being an accountant contributes to the growth of the economy. Being able to make a difference in the client’s business and seeing his advice being put into practice are what continues to motivate him to this day.
Although a day in an accountants’ life may change because of one email, Bernard ensures that a cup of coffee is the first thing he gets. Working in a small firm means you have to be a jack of all trades, from signing financial statements, to handling Sars matters, and managing accounts. It’s the variety of clients that keeps the job exciting, he says. His clients come from a variety of sectors, from transport to health and construction.
How has Covid impacted the practice?
“We expected it to be worse, but we lost fewer clients than we thought we would, and now we are starting to gain new clients,” says Bernard.
What is the most effective means of getting the word out?
“Word of mouth has been the most effective means of getting new clients, and that only comes if you service your existing clients really well. We also have a Facebook page and a website, but word of mouth has proven time and again the best method of growing our practice.”
Part of the Saiba family
Being part of the Saiba family has been a vital part of Bernard’s professional success. It allows him to network with other professionals and keep abreast of what is happening in the field of accounting.
Mastering your craft
All these experiences have made him gain skills and learn some of the accounting peculiarities, especially on the tax side. “Working with something for a long time makes you learn how to master it and ultimately know how to avoid certain things and solve difficult problems. I need to know how to serve my clients and reduce their costs and in a legal way.”
Bernard has big plans for the future, not least of which is growing his practice.
When he is not servicing his clients, Bernard makes sure that he spends time with his partner and children. “I cannot sacrifice family time, I always make sure that I give them my undivided attention and care, perfectly bringing a balance to my work and family time.”
Golfing and books are two of his favourite hobbies and help him unwind when the day’s work is done.
How to start your journey to become a Saiba Licensed Tax Practitioner
You can start the process of becoming a Saiba Licensed Tax Practitioner by signing up with Saiba here.