Does it matter who your accountant is? Yes. Because every business is different, and every accountant is different. Make the right choice, and you’ll save time and money as well as gaining peace of mind that the business is properly set up and administered.
If you’re about to look for a new accountant, here’s our guide as to what you should consider:
Unlike with solicitors and doctors, there is no restriction on the use of the term ‘accountant’. It’s possible for anyone to practice without any particular qualification.
Make sure therefore that you choose an accountant who is a member of one of the main accountancy bodies such as ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), ICAEW (the Association of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) or ICAS (the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland). This way, you know the person concerned has the appropriate training. In addition, the professional bodies hold their members to account, so you have protection should anything go wrong.
It’s important you click with your accountant. You’ll be putting a lot of trust in them and need to feel that you can be open and honest with them and be confident that they will act the same way with you.
Some accountants make no claim to be proactive.They see their role as simply doing the books at the end of the year and working out what tax you owe.
But why pay purely for someone to report on what you’ve already done?
It makes much more business sense to find an accountant who will also look ahead and help make the next year better. You can get a good idea of how proactive someone is likely to be when you first meet them: Do they ask questions, and seem interested in your business? Are they looking for ways to help and making suggestions right from the start?
4. Online accounting software
An increasingly successful model is for accountants to provide online accounting software as part of their service.This can be a huge time and money saver, so it’s well worth finding out what’s on offer. Some accountants are tied to one particular product, others are happy to advise on what will work best for you.
With the right software package in place, it’s then quick and easy to keep on top of both invoicing and bookkeeping. You can run management reports at the click of a mouse, and, with all the information in the cloud, your accountant can access the data, make adjustments, and give up-to-the minute advice at any time.
5. Pricing model
Some accountants charge by the hour, others offer fixed pricing. With the hourly rate option, there’s no limit on what you might find yourself paying. With fixed pricing you can budget knowing exactly what your bills will be. A good accountant will be transparent about their pricing, making it easy for you to see what’s included and make sure the package offered covers the services you need.
It’s important also to check you can call or email the accountant for advice whenever you need without extra charge – you don’t want to be worrying about costs each time you have a query.
6. Experience and expertise
Does the firm have the relevant experience to handle your accounting both now and into the future, as your business grows? Do they have the tax expertise to keep your tax bills down as your affairs become more complex?
Whilst you can of course change accountants at any time, there’s a lot of to be said for building a relationship with someone who can take you from where you are now to where you want to be.
How easy will it be to get hold of your accountant should you want to talk? You want to be able to speak to the person with the relevant knowledge and experience, not find yourself always being put through to a junior.
You never know when you will need your accountant urgently – and HMRC deadlines aren’t flexible. It’s important therefore to be sure there is back-up for holidays and sickness.
The best way to find out how a prospective accountant matches up is, of course, to have a face-to-face meeting. Ask good questions, see whether you feel comfortable with the individual concerned, and you’re well on the way to finding someone who will become a valued part of your team and work closely with you to help make your business prosper.
At Financial Growth Solutions, we also believe that you should be able to understand your accountant, have things explained in plain english and not feel that you shouldn’t ask anything for fear of looking silly, we aim to make you feel at ease.