Choosing your accountant should be done before you start trading – they will be able to advise you on the legal status you need for the business, help with business plans and cash flow forecasting and they will also be probably the best business adviser you can expect to have. They have a wealth of information from not only the statutory side of things, but also from many different business sectors.
So here, writing this for you as an Accountant myself, but also having been in your position, is my 7 Item Guide To Choosing Your Accountant.
This may seem obvious, but how many business owners actually check to see if their accountant is qualified to do the job? There are also a great many persons out there trading as an accountant, but do not have the necessary skills or qualifications to perform those duties to the degree and competence that is required. This can be dangerous! If one of these people prepares tax information, and they get it wrong, their Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance will be invalid (assuming they have some in the first place) – potentially leaving you, the taxpayer, with a huge fine or even bankruptcy.
Professional Indemnity Insurance
Again, something that is overlooked quite often. In fact, none of my clients have ever asked about this (although I do have it). Professional Indemnity Insurance – for that odd occasion when something goes wrong. The advise you are given, and have taken, turns out to be incorrect and you lose loads of money – does your advisor have the insurance to cover your losses?
There is actually 2 items in this 1 – Governing Body and Practice License. Any accountant trading should be governed by a professional body. This provides the assurance that they are competent in what they are doing and also gives you a place to go if you have a complaint or grievance with your accountant. This governing body will also oversee the accountant in his duties under the Money Laundering Regulations. The body will also issue the accountant with a Practice License (or certificate) – allowing them to practice accountancy in the public workplace. Is your accountant governed and have a practice license?
This should, and probably is, high on your list anyway. How much is the service going to cost you? Is it fixed fee or by the hour? Remember, “by the hour” will end up costing you a lot more! Shop around, get quotes and talk to other business people – attend networking events (you should be doing this anyway) and ask for recommendations – a recommended accountant is likely to be a good one. Don’t go for the cheapest quote – remember my favourite saying, “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.
Do You Get On With Them?
The person you select is someone you need to work with. Remember, they are essentially an employee of your company and you need to be able to work with them – would you employ someone who doesn’t pull their weight? Or answer your queries when you have them? Or keep you waiting for days for a reply? No, you wouldn’t so don’t take it from your accountant.
I Already Have An Accountant
Not a problem – you can change your accountant as often as you change your gas supplier. If you decide to choose a new accountant, once you have engaged them, they will organise all the paperwork transfers – in fact, you don’t even need to tell your old accountant you’re leaving. They will also sort things with HM Revenue and Customs and the move will be easy as pie.
This is probably one of the most important things to look for. Ask them for testimonials and don’t be put off with “have a look at our web site”. Ask to be put in contact with existing clients. Also, as mentioned earlier, ask around at networking events, check out LinkedIn and don’t settle for anything less than that which meets your expectations.
I hope this 7 Item Guide To Choosing Your Accountant has helped but one final thought, an accountant is not forever and if you find the one you have selected falls short of par, then why not give me a ring on 01794 521300 or use my Contact Page?