Whether you are starting a business or are an existing business looking to make a change, choosing an accountant is always an important step. Getting the right information for HMRC and ensuring that your cash flow information is accurate is a hugely important part of being in business and an accountant is a key part of this. So what are the tips to choosing the right accountant?
Do I need an accountant?
One question many business owners ask if ‘do I need an accountant?’ and the answer obviously depends on your business, situation and finances. For some sole traders who have just started out, then bookkeeping software can often do the job – especially if you have minimal outgoings, no employees and most of your transactions are carried out online so receipts are easy to track.
However, for most businesses, there is definitely a need for an accountant to do a range of tasks. These often include:
- Personal tax
- Corporate tax
- VAT returns
- PAYE – the system used to collect tax from employees automatically
- Cash flow
This doesn’t mean that you need to employ a full-time, in-house accountant and the majority of businesses outsource to the right accountant in their area. For example, if they are based in London then London accountants will be the ones they employ to work with – the ability to meet up with the accountant to go through paperwork is a valuable facility.
Choosing an accountant
If you do a search, for example, for chartered accountants London, you will see a bewildering number of names that come up. So how do you go about sorting through those names and finding the right person for your business?
One of the first things to look for is that the person or company has the right qualifications and membership of any associations. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is one example and they hold their members to certain standards that work as a guarantee for businesses.
As well as qualifications and memberships, look at their insurance – do they have indemnity insurance to cover themselves if there is a mistake? Most accountants that are a member of a professional body will have some cover like this but check before engaging their services.
Building a relationship?
While qualifications, experience and professional standards are the most important things, it never hurts to also consider secondary elements to help you make a choice. Sure, you don’t need to be best friends with your accountant but you are building a relationship with them and need to feel confident in them.
Look for accountants who have worked in your sector before and have experience with businesses of similar size to yours as well – this means they will offer advice that is scaled to your business, not designed for companies bigger than you.
Choosing an accountant isn’t a lifelong commitment – you can change at any time. Most accountants work on a pay as you go system where you commission them to do a job and pay for it but there’s no commitment to return to them for the next task. So make sure you work with someone who you can afford, has the right qualifications and who ‘gets’ what your business is about. The Owner of The Serious Sausage Company gives some real life insight into his experience of choosing an accountant in this useful clip…