When choosing an accountant, fees are not the only thing you should consider. By choosing the wrong person, you may end up in a far worse position and it could cost you much more.
Here are the 10 main factors (plus a bonus one!) that you should think about:
1. When should you first employ an accountant? Having an accountant right from the beginning means you can ensure you have the most tax-efficient structure.
2. Are they qualified? Surprisingly, you do not need a professional qualification to call yourself an accountant. Always ensure your accountant is registered with a reputable body such as ICAEW or ACCA.
3. Does your accountant have experience with the industry you work in? For example, the business of selling on second-hand cars requires a specific VAT scheme.
4. Ensure you are fully aware of what you are paying for. What is included in their fees? Are there any additional things your accountant can do for you as an add on?
5. Ask people you know for recommendations. Sometimes, people use social media for this, and can then make direct contact with the accountants who get recommended.
6. Speak to, and meet, the accountant in real life. See if you actually like them and get along. You need to be able to trust each other.
7. How communicative are they? Do they send you reminders for deadlines or do they leave it to you to remember? You need them to be able to remind you of important deadlines, to avoid unnecessary fines.
8. Are they able to support you with your software? Some accountants only support certain software and so it is important to ensure your accountant can support you with yours.
9. Professional indemnity insurance: are they covered and do they have full protection? Ensure they are registered with a recognised body and are allowed to practice. Just because an accountant is qualified, it does not automatically give them the right to practice.
10. How networked are they? A good accountant should be able to recommend all sorts of professionals to you and hopefully even some contacts.
In addition to this list, my bonus factor is that they should be able to provide you with references and mortgage references when you need them. Over the years, I have come across many ‘accountants’ who are unable to provide their clients with a reference which is accepted by a mortgage provider, which means more scrambling around for an actual qualified accountant.
If you are not happy with your accountant, always talk to them and see if they can help sort out the issues between you. Communication is key in any relationship and crucial in the relationship between an accountant and their client.
We are happy to answer questions in future issues. Please send your questions through the Contact Us page on our website.
Chantal Baker, is the director and founder of Champ Consultants Ltd, an accountancy and tax consultancy practice in Caterham. Please follow us on our various social media channels.
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