Choosing the right accountants for your business should be more than just about the fee they charge you.
While of course we have an interest in telling you ‘hire us’, these are, in our opinion the main things to look out for when choosing an accounting partner, that if chosen carefully, can be with you throughout the lifespan of your business.
1. Do you feel you could talk to them about anything?
You will need a close relationship with your accountants, with open communication to get the best out of their services.
You need to feel you could talk to them about anything, as your personal and business finances are a very private subject. A good accountant will want to understand your wider circumstances for tax planning (read: saving) opportunities, and your personal financial goals.
Do they sound positive about your business? Are they excited by it?
Are they a generally positive and approachable person(s) that you feel you would enjoy working with?
2. Are they accountable?
What we really mean here is are they registered with a professional accountancy body?
Accountancy qualifications come in all shapes and sizes, and really unless you need an actual audit (i.e. you are a large business with sales over £10million etc – you will then need a ‘Chartered’ accountants who hold an audit licence) it doesn’t really matter which one they have.
The important thing to consider is that if they are part of a professional body they must abide by professional standards.
If they fall short of these standards, you can report them to this body where if they are found to have not operated at the standard expected, can face large fines and/or be struck off.
If they are not a member of a body, you do not have this line of recourse if things go wrong.
In theory anyone could get by without any qualifications at all to say they are ‘an accountant’. . . So, it is always best to check.
3. Do they understand business in general?
This is very important to support your business.
To get the most out of an accountants you will want their experienced eye on your figures.
Commercial knowledge, and wider financial awareness are key to them being able to provide you with the most value.
This is quite hard to gauge when speaking to a prospective accountancy partner, but we would suggest looking for things such as:
Have they worked outside accountancy before?
Have they been in business themselves, worked closely with people that are or have played a crucial role in a growing business?
Do they appear to have a working knowledge of commercial skills such as sales or marketing?
Does their own business look successful?
Do they appear to be in the 21st century with their business (website, social media etc)?
4. Are they knowledgeable and up to date?
This may be obvious, but you need to have confidence your accountant is up to date with the latest rules and relations.
Tax law, and business issues change DAILY, based on actions in the courts.
Whilst accountants can’t be experts on everything and may need time on some issues to research to provide a good answer, you should look for confident answers around your questions, which are able to be backed up with references where needed.
In the age where people can google a lot of answers themselves, you want to feel your accountant is well versed in the profession.
If they are part of a professional body, they must do a certain amount of hours ‘development’ or learning, but again this can vary on what counts and what is useful to your situation, so look for signs of ‘mastery’.
5. What services do they offer (what you need now may change)?
Right now, you may just need a tax return completed. But if you have any sort of growth ambitions, you need to know the accountant can support you moving forward. Moving accountants isn’t difficult, but from our experience if you get the right one, that relationship can last a business lifetime.
As you grow can they offer (preferably in house, keeps your business closer to them) services such as:
Regular accounting updates (sometimes called ‘management accounts’)
Construction Industry Scheme services
Finance administration services (invoicing, paying staff, managing credit control etc)
Business mentoring or advisory
6. How often could they update you?
This is an important piece for those thinking that may need regular support and data.
If you need weekly data and updates, can it be done?
How much extra work on you is there to get this data to them?
Do they have the tech knowledge to be able to do this?
As you might expect, the more often the updates and the more frequent the work, the costs increase, but could they actually do it consistently?
7. Do they have experience with your industry?
This can be a very useful addition to the list.
Have they dealt with your industry before?
Do they know the quirks?
Whilst not critical in most circumstances, it is worth asking the question.
If they have some experience in your field, they will certainly be able to add value to your relationship through their experience with other clients.
8. What are you getting for the money?
Comparing prices between one accountant and then next is difficult.
For example, you may be able as a sole trader ‘get your tax return completed’ for £300. Meanwhile the accountant around the corner appears to charge £1200 for the same thing.
Whilst the core submission part of the service maybe the same, it should be pretty clear that they cannot both be doing the same thing.
Look for things such as:
What processes and checks do they carry out to ensure you get the best tax savings?
Do they ‘reconcile’ your accounts, or just list your purchases and income?
Do they provide full ‘accounts’ or just complete your tax return?
How quickly can they do this?
Are they professionally regulated and knowledgeable (you are paying for the extra expertise and therefore tax savings)?
How good is their service?
What do their clients say about them?
Will they carry out book-keeping as part of that fee?
Will they complete Companies House returns (Ltd company)?
If HMRC come and investigate you, are their fees to defend you covered in what you pay?
Will they be doing your personal tax returns as part of that fee?
Do they include or offer registered office / service office addresses (Ltd company)?
Will they be doing your payroll and/or pension?
Will they complete your CIS?
Do they use technology to make your life easier? Is this included?
How often will they update you?
What will they update you on?
Can you phone them whenever?
How often can you see them?
9. Will you be able to get hold of them?
This point seems like it shouldn’t be on the list, but the most common reason we see potential new clients move away from their accountant is they cannot get hold of them. Or they could, and now they can’t. When looking for a potential accountant, look for things like:
What was their service like in getting back to you on the original enquiry?
Do they have an office you could go to?
Do they have a team you could speak to if they were on holiday, ill or just not available through being busy?
Can you approach them on social media?
10. What else do they bring to the table above accountancy?
This point is especially key when looking at the price comparison point.
What else is it about the accountancy that would benefit you?
Regularly update you?
Write articles of benefit?
Have a great professional network (so if you needed a service, they would be able put you in contact with a trusted professional)
Can they help your business along with referrals? Do they support networking?
Do they run events of benefit?
If you are looking for an accountants (or looking to change from your current one), please contact us and find out how many of these points we fit for your business.