Let’s be brutally honest, accountants are 10 a penny! The accounting world has become fiercely competitive and when you are searching for an accountant, it can be confusing trying to choose the right accountant for you. You can receive vastly different quotes for what seems to be the same job or perhaps you have met accountants who are willing to undercut their competitors which can leave you confused as to what you really should be paying.
A great accountant can help your business grow. A bad accountant will hold you back and could even cost you money. Here are some questions to ask yourself when embarking on the journey of choosing an accountant:
What are your goals of hiring an accountant?
Take some time to have a conversation with an accountant or someone who understands you and your business to work out exactly what you need from an advisor.
Say you are a freelance consultant earning around £40,000 a year with minimal costs, you may be happy keeping your own spreadsheet of expenses and then engaging with an accountant on an annual basis to complete your returns, advise you on your tax and check that there is not a more tax efficient way to earn your money. But apart for this, you don’t really need an ongoing service.
If you looking to grow your business, working with a trusted accountant on a long term basis may bring huge benefits:
- Offer guidance as you grow;
- Structure your Company correctly as you bring partners on;
- Give you the benefit of their experience as they have experience with growing businesses;
- Help you raise finance;
- Regular contact to review your accounts and make improvement or suggest cost savings.
In both these cases the things you need to consider when choosing the right accountant differs – the right accountant and the quote you receive will reflect each accountants different levels of experience and qualifications, as well as size of firm they are part of.
Consider what services you need
If you have received numerous quotes from accountants it may be hard to compare them because they all cover different levels of service, numbers of meetings and may even exclude services you feel you need, such as tax planning.
Tread carefully, the cheapest package may not include some of the key services you need so you may end up with a huge bill at the end. Or you may find yourself paying a monthly amount for services you don’t really need.
Take a step back, make a list of the things you really need and then start running through the quotes.
Do they have relevant experience for your needs?
Perhaps you operate in a specialist industry or maybe you are a start up. Choose an accountant with specific needs for your sector, status and expectations, that way you will receive relevant advice, industry introductions and the right pricing.
Consider whether you may be searching for someone who does more than calculate your VAT returns and file your tax returns. The right accountant will be able to help you with so much more – strategy, funding, grants, tax savings to name a few! Be clear in your mind what you need and where you are going in the future. Changing accountants is relatively straight forward, but forging a long term relationship with an accountant who gets to know you and your business can be invaluable and eliminate stress down the line.
Can you trust them?
Your advisor will be working with you, possibly seeing your personal expenses, will talk to you about your personal ambitions, they will be there when times may be hard and celebrating when things are good, so it’s important to make sure you have complete trust in them and you like them. You’re not just entrusting them to keep your information confidential but you need to feel confident that what they tell you is the best possible advice for you. There is nothing worse than paying someone to do a job for you, but having to watch over their shoulder all the time!
Do you need a qualified accountant?
Depending on your requirements, yes! The right accountant will be someone you work with year after year and by choosing a UK Chartered or Certified Accountant you will have peace of mind knowing that your accountant is regulated by a professional body and required to keep their professional knowledge up to date as part of their qualification.
If you need an audited set of accounts, due to size or perhaps a requirement by a lender, then you do need a qualified accountant to prepare your accounts and sign them off as a registered auditor. So make sure you only use a reputable set of accountants who have the right qualifications to do this for you.
Should I choose an accountant local to me?
Working over the internet using cloud based services is becoming much easier and there are so many options for having virtual meetings. Opting for a virtual accountant can save you money and the effort of managing someone internally to deal with your bookkeeping. However it may be important to you to meet your accountant face to face as a start to building trust. In this case, look for an accountant that may be able to visit you for a chat on a regular basis. There are many freelance accountants who visit their clients for meetings, but operate on a small scale. This is great because as freelancers they have lower overheads which translates into cost savings on your fees, but you still receive a personalised service.
How much time do you really need from your accountant?
Don’t forget, accountant charges are calculated at least in part based on time spent, so consider the financial implication of expecting to have lots of meetings or providing incomplete records when it comes to preparing your accounts. Make the process of filing your year end as seamless as possible and have all the paperwork your accountant needs ready for them.
If you are a start up, could you consider finding an accountant that can grow with you and increase the number of face to face meetings in line with what your business can afford. Equally, if you are a sole trader, you may find face to face meetings unnecessary so opting for a virtual service may help you achieve a better price from your accountant.