Making sure you pick the right accountant is crucial; it’s necessary to carefully consider what you need out of an accountancy service, and whether or not you require a personal accountant, or someone to work for your business. Accountants provide more than just bookkeeping, and can offer expert advice on your tax structure, your VAT, and your future financial planning. In this context, you need to look at a number of factors when choosing the right accountant for your needs.
1 – Evaluate Your Needs
It’s important to know what kind of accountant you need, and the kinds of financial services that you’ll require across a year. In terms of personal accountancy, do you need someone that can help you to complete your tax form, while ensuring that you invest your savings in ways that lower risk and produce long term profits? Alternatively, do you need an accountant that has expertise in one particular area like inheritance tax or off shore accounting? Moreover, in terms of business accounting, how much detail do you need your accountant to go into – will they work with your finances on a day to day basis, or will they just help you to file your tax return at the end of the year?
2 – Assess the The Size of Their Firm
Depending on your needs, it can be better to go with a relatively small firm, which can provide you with more time and a personal service, compared to a larger firm; personal accounting can often be better served with these kinds of firms, while larger businesses that need a lot of different financial areas covered may need to work with a large firm that have different experts on hand to help you. In all cases, though, make sure that a firm and accountants are members of the Association of Chartered Accountants, ICAEW, or CIMA, and that you have the chance to speak to their current clients to get a sense of their performance.
3 – Consider Your Personal Relationship with Them
Your accountant has to be someone that you trust; after all, they’re going to be handling sensitive financial information, and need to be transparent with you when things go wrong. When you first meet a prospective accountant, focus on first impressions, and whether or not they appear to have spent time going over your case. Do they make a convincing case as to whether you should hire them?
4 – Communications
It’s integral for the accountant that you pick to be easy to communicate with – what are the different communication channels that you can use, and can you guarantee that you’ll be able to speak to them directly, or will you have to pass on messages? Is there an email system in place, or some form of instant messaging? Consider where an accountancy firm is based, and whether or not it’ll be practical to get to them at short notice.
5 – Don’t Pay for More Than You Need
You don’t want to be put into a situation where you’re paying an accountant to do jobs that you could probably handle yourself; always get a clear break down of costs, and what kinds of services they’ll be providing. Work out how fees are charged, and whether there’ll be flat monthly fees. Similarly, if you’re hiring a full time accountant, consider how their work will be subject to salaries and bonuses.
6 – Be Prepared to Change
Finding the right accountant is difficult, and there can be situations where you need to end a relationship due to communication breaking down, or due to personality clashes; you may even need to get a new accountant as the result of your business outgrowing their capacity. In any of these cases, there should be enough transparency with your current accountant to allow for a smooth handover to a new firm.
7 – Extra Business Advice
Again, always be thinking about what added value your accountant can provide you with; this can range from the specialist tax advice that they might be able to offer, through to their general commercial awareness of how your business operates. The best accountants will be able to evaluate the long term future of your business, and can explain to you how best to achieve that through day to day financial planning.
This article was contributed by Matthew Broadhurt. He’s currently working on a visibility project with MartinBrook Accountancy Services – providers of professional accountancy services to Suffolk and Ipswich.