A lot of questions, to be sure. But where do you start?
Below is a checklist of what to consider when looking for the right accountancy services:
- Do they have industry experience?
- Fee structure
- Is the size of the accounting firm convenient for you?
- Are they in the right location?
Choosing the right accountant can be a very daunting challenge. Whether you’re a sole trader, limited company or multi-national company, it is likely that you will need the services of an accountant to prepare your end-of-year financial statements and tax accounts.
As a business owner, it’s important to choose an accountant that acts not only as a bookkeeper, auditor or tax advisor but also as a trusted financial advisor. The idea is that they can advise you on business risks and manage your finances effectively. The accountant will have access to your financial information, so you need to be able to trust your accountant.
Anyone could set up their own business and call themselves an accountant. You can wake up in the morning and decide “I’ll be an accountant today”. It is in your best interests to work with a qualified accountant. Taking a gamble with an unqualified accountant is taking a gamble with your finances and the future of your business.
Accountants can only become qualified through one of the following UK bodies:
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland(ICAS)
Once you approach an accountant, you must find out if they are a member of one of the above institutions – you request for proof of membership. Alternatively, you can check an accountant’s membership of these institutions and their qualifications directly with the relevant organisation.
Accounting is a general field. In addition to certifications, you should look for accountants with expertise in your industry sector or in a similar industry. Some accounting firms may have experience in non-governmental organisations (NGO’s), recruitment or manufacturing businesses.
Accountants don’t offer just basic bookkeeping and auditing services; they also provide expert insights. An accountant with experience in your sector should fully comprehend the issues and challenges faced and could provide invaluable advice when needed.
How much does the accountant charge? For some businesses, this will be the main choice factor. Look for accountants that allow for fixed monthly fees, instead of supplying one lump sum bill at the end of the year. There’s no doubt that a fixed fee for accountancy services avoids any nasty surprises when the invoice lands on your desk.
Most businesses expect a reasonable charge for a good accountancy service during the financial year. The accountant may not feel inclined to offer additional support if they are making a loss by preparing your accounts. Remember, accountants can save you money and are more likely to do so if you have a good working partnership.
Size of accounting firm
It’s advisable to speak to an accountant that is similar in size to your business. For most start-ups, a small accounting firm is often a more attractive option than a large multi-national accounting business – large corporations feel more comfortable employing a large, name-brand accounting firm.
Most people have internet access 24/7 so this might not be very important for your business. This applies particularly to businesses that prefer to meet their accountant. A locally-based accountant is usually more approachable as they should be more amicable to visiting you at your premises – after all, they are working for you. They can set up accounting or bookkeeping software on your PC.
Whilst the accounting industry is regulated by independent institutions, this is no guarantee that all accountants will be suitable for your business. Even if you find an accountant that ticks all the boxes in the checklist above, this is no guarantee that their services will be tailored to your business’ needs.
It’s advisable to speak to a commercial finance broker, as they’ve established relationships with a strong network of accountancy firms across the UK. The stand-out factors of the accountants they work with is that they provide a proactive service, are established, qualified accountants with excellent track records who work with your business 365 days a year…and not just at year’s end.