Most small business owners say that their accountant is their most valuable advisor – a good accountant will keep your books in order, help with tax planning, and will ensure that you meet all your tax deadlines. Here are some tips from the ByteStart team to help you choose the best accountant:
Top Tips for choosing the right accountant
1. Consider choosing an accountant before you start your business, or as soon as you can, as they will be able to advise you on start-up expenditure, how to register with the tax authorities,
2. Ensure that all prospective accountants are fully qualified. Most firms are members of a recognised accountancy body such as the ICAEW (Chartered Accountants), ACCA (Certified Accountants), or ICAS (in Scotland).
3. Make sure your accountant has experience of dealing with other small businesses, particularly other businesses within your industry. If you are a contractor or freelancer, for example, you will typically be better off taking to a specialist accountant rather than a ‘general’ firm.
4. Find out what fees your accountant will charge. Are they annual fees, or monthly? Are there any entry or exit fees? How much will extra work be charged at – if it falls outside the agreed tasks to be performed for your business?
5. What services does your accountant provide? Alongside standard tasks (such as setting up a payroll, completing your company annual accounts if you run a limited company, dealing with HMRC, etc.), will they complete your self assessment returns, provide references for mortgage / letting purposes? Do they provide IFA services?
6. Always contact several firms when choosing an accountant. You should get a feel of what it will be like as a client from your initial dealings with each firm. It is essential that you feel like you can build a good relationship, so your intuition will be the best guide at this stage. Ask if you can meet each accountant and discuss your needs before signing up.
7. At ByteStart, we often find that smaller firms of accountants tend to understand the specific needs to smaller companies, and can often be more ‘reactive’ than larger firms.
8. Ask a prospective accountant if you can talk to some existing clients before signing up.
9. From own own experience, the two biggest problems we have found with accountants in the past involve poor communication, both between client and accountant, and between accountant and HMRC / Companies House.
Consider choosing an accountant that has embraced ‘modern technology’ (i.e. some aspect of online accounting / communications as a minimum), as this is often a sign that the firm is efficient and forward looking.
10. If you ever consider selling your business, or even buying another business, you will find that a good accountant will be an invaluable advisor.
One final piece of advice is to ask other small business contacts if they recommend their own accountants. You simply cannot beat a recommendation from someone you trust.
For more information, try the ICAEW pages on choosing an accountant or the ACCA. Both organisations have directories of member accountants.
And for more help dealing with your accounts, try these other ByteStart guides;
- How to choose the best online accounting software for your business
- How to choose an accountant for your small business
- Book-keeping basics every new business owner must know
- How switching from spreadsheets to cloud accounting can help small business owners
- A Guide to the main business taxes
- Why you need a cash flow forecast and how to produce one for your business