How to choose an accountant
Choosing the right accountant is one of the most important decisions you can make. A good one can save you time and help your business grow; a bad one could cost you much needed money. Yet with hundreds on Google to choose from, it can be hard to make the right decision. So what are the questions you should ask so as to make an informed choice?
Switching accountant is easy
Why should I hire you?
The key thing here is to discover how this accountant will add financial value to you and your company. Look for someone who can act as a business partner.
Take your time to do some research. Meet with at least three firms before making a decision. Here are a few fundamental questions to ask during these meetings.
- What is your experience and expertise in my sector?
- What are your qualifications?
- Are you regulated by a professional body?
As an ICAEW member we must adhere to their code of conduct. In addition, the quality of our work is monitored by them.
Try to speak to people in your network to get recommendations. Ask the accountant to share testimonials from clients - or better yet, ask if you can talk to one or two of them.
Could my money work harder?
A good accountant should not just manage your annual accounts and tax compliance. You may also need them to manage your audit, help you raise capital by finding grants, government funding pots, and tax relief schemes.
They should be proactive and where possible, give you advance knowledge of imminent, relevant tax changes, and by doing so, minimise your costs.
The money an accountant will save your business must naturally be weighed against the costs of employing them. Ask them “why should I pay you to do this?” and “Why shouldn’t I just use an online bookkeeping software such as Xero and Clear Books?”
Also make sure you ask how much their services will this cost and when you will be billed. Some charge annually, monthly or hourly. Some offer a fixed fee. Talk money up front, otherwise you could be in for a shock once you’ve committed.
Are we a good match?
The right accountant needs to understand your particular needs and are able to offer relevant insight.
Ideally go for a firm that’s a similar size to you. That way, they’ll understand your challenges, and their prices are likely to what you’d expect.
Accountants offer differing levels of engagement, so make sure you establish how often they’ll be in contact, and whether you’ll correspond by email or telephone. Less contact often means less costs, but can make it difficult to ask questions or spot issues.
Ask who you will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis. You’ve got to be satisfied that you’re not being palmed off to the office junior; that the person in charge of your account understands your business.
Are things working out?
Once you’ve chosen an accountant, measuring their performance is an ongoing process. Consider holding regular meetings where you can ask for their view on the business and its finances. If their view is close to yours, that’s a good sign - but so is a degree of challenge and initiative - if you only hear what you expect, that’s not a good sign.
Assessing performance is also about watching whether your accountant asks the right questions of you, too. A good accountant will be pro-active, ringing you up at least every three months to see how the business is progressing. They should be asking if you have any issues, questions or concerns to discuss. If they’re not doing that then they’re not really adding much value.
A healthy relationship is defined by ongoing conversation and information sharing, which ultimately leads to trust. The way to get the most out of your accountant is to engage in dialogue. Ask questions, but also be forthcoming. The more you share about your business, the more you will get out of the relationship.
If you have any questions please call Aidan Smyth or Clare Snook on 01892 515 733
Or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org