How to choose an accountant
Knowing what you need from an accountant, and finding out how to choose an accountant can be a daunting prospect. Choosing the right accountant is one of the most important things you will do for your business – they’ll be there with you every step of the way on your business journey by:
- Advising on the best way to structure your business when you first start.
- Helping with your business plan to make sure you have a profitable business idea.
- Helping raise finance to grow your business.
- Identifying ways to increase profitability.
- Making sure your business is as tax efficient as possible.
- Making sure you meet all your tax deadlines.
- Making sure your family is protected by discussing wills and insurance.
- Helping you plan for retirement.
Here are some top tips for choosing the right accountant:
Free initial consultation
Your accountant should offer a free initial consultation so you can tell them about your business, your business goals, and what help you think you will need. They will then be able to let you know how they can help your business, and you can decide whether they are a good fit for you.
If you are thinking of working with us, please contact us, and we can have an initial chat over the phone to get a basic outline of your business and what help you are looking for. Assuming we’re a good fit, we will arrange a free initial meeting at your premises to find out more about your business, your goals, and will discuss how we can help. We will then provide a fixed fee quote for the work we expect to carry out.
Some accountants charge clients by the hour. This isn’t good for clients because there is no incentive for the accountant to work quickly and efficiently.
You therefore want an accountant who provides a fixed fee for the work they undertake. You then know how much you are going to have to pay, so can budget for the cost.
They should be Chartered Accountants
Anyone can set up an accountancy practice, regardless of whether they have specialist experience, technical skills, and qualifications.
That is why it’s so important to make sure you use a Chartered Accountant.
By using a Chartered Accountant, you know the firm has the experience and knowledge needed to help your business.
Chartered Accountancy firms are regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW). The ICAEW is responsible for monitoring Chartered Accountants to make sure they stay up to date with the latest accountancy and tax laws and maintain a strict code of ethics.
To qualify as a Chartered Accountant requires three years of technical and on the job training to achieve levels of excellence required by the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW). To become a fellow of the ICAEW requires a further ten years of experience.
There are lots of other reasons for using a Chartered Accountant. For example, often if you are applying for a mortgage, the mortgage company will request that a Chartered Accountant supplies them with information required for their application. If you are working with an accountant who is not Chartered, it may be more difficult for the application.
Do they work with businesses like yours?
You need to find out whether your accountant works with businesses like yours, because you will likely want advice specific to your business sector.
If they have worked with businesses like yours before they will likely have seen similar problems to the ones you are facing and will be able to offer their years of knowledge to help your business overcome the problems quickly.
Are they the right size for your business?
You want to work with an accountant that is the correct size for your business.
If you are a smaller business, you wouldn’t want to work with a very large accountancy firm because they may not have experience of businesses of your size. They will likely charge a lot of money for the work they do for you because their pricing structure reflects the fact that they usually work with larger businesses. Also, they may not be so interested in your business because it is so small compared to their other clients, so may not offer the level of service you need to help your business.
If you are a larger business you need to know the accountancy firm has access to specialist advisors who can help with more specialised work such as company reconstructions, detailed tax planning etc.
At Newton Accountants we have many years of experience working with businesses from small start-ups, to medium sized companies turning over many millions of pounds. We also have great relationships with advisors such as lawyers, tax advisors, HR advisors etc who can help with detailed work.
You must trust them
Your accounts and tax are very personal, so you must trust your accountant. When tax planning, accountants often have to know personal details of your situation so they can offer the most tax efficient solution.
Recommendations – either from people you know, or from citations on their website
Recommendations are a great way to choose an accountant.
By talking to friends and family, and reading reviews of the business online you will get to see what other people think of the business, so will know the likely level of service you will receive before you start working with them.
Your accountant needs to be interested in your business, and understand it
To be able to offer the best advice your accountant needs to know your business, know what your business goals are, and be able to support you in those goals.
To get a good understanding of the business it is often useful for your accountant to meet at your premises for at least the first meeting. Unless they have seen the premises, it is difficult for them to fully understand how your business operates.
Your accountant must be able to help with your business goals
When you first meet with your accountant, you need to decide whether they can help with your business goals.
When you first meet, do they ask what your goals are and offer suggestions on how they can help you achieve those goals, or do they just tell you how they can help you comply with your statutory duties?
Offering compliance services such as making sure your accounts comply with laws and regulations and preparing tax returns is just the basics (And may be all you need or want). However, your accountant should be your partner, helping with business plans, forecasts, management accounts, and offering advice on ways for your business to achieve its goals.
They shouldn’t charge for every phone call
It’s OK to be charged for additional work, but you shouldn’t be worried that every time you call your accountant you are going to be charged.
You need to feel free to contact your accountant to talk through any queries or problems you have. It’s beneficial for both you and your accountant to have regular contact, and to discuss any potential business changes. This is because your accountant can advise on the most tax efficient way to do it and offer advice due to their years of experience having seen similar businesses do similar things.
The worst thing is for you to not feel like you can talk to your accountant, make a business decision, then months after the year end when your accountant is going through your accounts for them to ask you why you did what you did, because they could have told you to do it in a more tax efficient way!
At Newton Accountants we offer free phone support to all clients.
Where are they based?
Although having a local accountant is less important, it is often useful to be able to meet up in person to see your accountant, and for them to be able to come to your premises if you have any onsite problems.
The increasing use of technology is making it less important to have an accountant who is nearby, but it may still be an important consideration for you if you value seeing your accountant face to face.
You need to make sure your accountant works with all the leading online accounting software packages such as Xero, SAGE, FreeAgent, Quick Books.
How to choose an accountant – How Newton Accountants can help
We are a firm of accountants based in Cheltenham, but helping individuals and businesses throughout Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and the rest of England. To see how we can help, check out our home page, our services, then get in contact and we’ll organise a free initial meeting to see how we can help you.
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