So, you’ve got a brilliant business idea and you need some help on the accounts and tax side. You’re not stupid but there’s a lot that you don’t understand.
So how do you find the right accountant for you?
Well, the first thing to know is that ANYBODY (including you) can call themselves an accountant; the name is not protected in law. So how can you tell the good accountants from the cowboys?
Chartered (ACA/FCA) and certified accountants (ACCA/FCCA) are qualified to post graduate level and have to remain up to date to retain their designation.
They are regulated by their professional bodies (ICAEW and ACCA) and carry professional indemnity insurance. This is not always the case with other accountants. If you ever have a complaint about a chartered or certified accountant then you can speak to their professional body.
Most accountants offer a free introductory meeting so that you can decide whether you feel comfortable working and sharing private information with a particular firm or individual.
Some questions you may wish to ask:
1. How big is the firm? Will you deal with a qualified accountant or a junior member of staff?
2. Do they have experience of your type/size of business? Do they speak to you in language that you can understand?
3. How can they add value? (Never confuse value with cost)
4. Response times? How fast will they respond to telephone calls, letters, e-mails and how quickly will they prepare your accounts?
5. Agree what they will do for you and what you will have to do yourself. Will they work from invoices or will you have to use particular software? What do you want them to do?
6. Do they offer tax planning and business advice or just complete your accounts and tax returns at the end of the year?
7. Are fees fixed or will you be charged per hour? Can you pay by monthly installments or will you be hit with a large annual bill?
8. Are they proactive? (lots claim to be) Will they send you reminders when you accounts and tax are due? Will they send you regular updates on changes in tax and business law?
9. How easy is it to contact them? Who deals with your enquiries when your named contact is out of the office or with another client?
10. MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL … do you like them? Surveys repeatedly show that an accountant is a businesses most trusted adviser. You don’t have to be best friends but you do need to get along. You may even find an accountant who realizes that boring is optional.
Della Hudson owns and runs Hudson Accountants in Backwell, Bristol. They are a firm of Chartered Accountants who help businesses to grow their beans and not just count them.
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