Choosing an accountant, do you go with who has the nicest website? Or who has the loveliest premises and coffee? Or on personal recommendation? Or someone who takes the time to understand you and your business, and tailors their services to match your business and in some cases enhance?
It is really important to take the time to find a good accountant. This could save you a lot of time, effort and money. Some can be so large that they don’t necessarily give you the service you need, especially if you are a small or sole trader, which could mean that your business suffers, and you may end up paying out more in fees and taxes than you should.
What do you need from your accountant? They can provide all sorts of services, including PAYE, VAT, accounting in the cloud on Xero, personal and business tax, year end accounts, self assessment tax returns, payroll and bookkeeping services which can free up time for the business owner to devote back to generating sales in their business, rather than be bogged down doing their own bookkeeping. Indeed, in some cases, the business owner can end up doing all the hard work in doing the books and preparing the paperwork in their own time and at their own cost, to pass over to the accountant who then charges a big fee to make it all ‘look pretty’ in a long winded and complicated report at year end.
How do you pay for your accountant? Do you pay on production of the year end information or completion of the work required, or calculation of PAYE/VAT, or do you pay a regular monthly fee? Are you receiving a monthly service or just reducing your total bill at the end of the year?
If you have a query with your PAYE or bookkeeping or self assessment tax return, or with regards to new HMRC rules and regulations etc. do they charge an additional fee to assist you with this, or is the advice offered free of charge?
You owe it to yourself to find an accountant with relevant experience. They should have a good track record, be approachable and take an interest in you and your business so they can tailor their services to suit you.
Ideally, you should carry out your own research to find a good local accountant. Ask other business owners and friends for any recommendations – in this era of on-line living, this has become quite an easy thing to research. Most accountants will be members of accredited Accountancy organisations, such as AAT, ICAEW or ACCA. Short list a few and check out their websites and testimonials, and then get in touch to see if they are a good fit for your business needs, getting full details of all costs for you to review.
You should value and respect the opinion of your accountant otherwise why are you using them? You should also be happy with their costs which should reflect the services you are receiving. Are they accessible to you at times you need to contact them? Does the advice they give make sense to you, or are you left wondering what you’ve been told or charged?
Are you questioning the services of your existing accountant? Do you feel that the costs involved do not reflect the work they are providing? Are their costs competitive in this ever changing market? Cheaper doesn’t always mean better, but do they add value to your business processes are they proactive and testing new ways of doing things. Are they still charging by the quarter or half hour for telephone/email contact etc. throughout the business year? Working out what is important to you and matching this to the services the accountant offers is key whether on a monthly or annual basis.
Changing your accountant isn’t hard, just one of those difficult tasks which is easy to put off. If they aren’t working for you rather themselves, you owe it to yourself and your business to find another accountant – it is as simple as that. No matter how established or how large or small a business you are, if you are paying an accountant you should receive a first class tailored service and if you’re not, you know what to do!