Choosing your accountant

Tips on choosing and working with an accountant

If you are thinking of starting your own business, it’s a good idea to talk to an accountant before you start. If you are planning to set up a new business, an accountant can give you valuable advice on which structure to use (sole trader, partnership, limited company) and how to register your new business for tax.  It can be daunting if you are new to business but the right accountant can put you at ease and explain each step in words that you understand.

How to find an accountant:

  • man with big tickAsk business colleagues
  • Ask professionals such as solicitors or bank managers
  • Research local press articles
  • Look for a local accountant – this can be an advantage when you need help

What should you look for:

Check that the accountant can provide the services you are looking for

For example: Sole trader tax return, bookkeeping, payroll, VAT, limited company accounts, tax planning, CIS,

Check the qualifications of your potential accountant

There are many types of accountants, tax advisors and bookkeepers:

  • Chartered Accountants
  • Chartered Certified Accountants
  • Chartered Management Accountants
  • Certified Public Accountants
  • Accountants qualified by experience
  • Chartered Tax Advisers
  • Accounting Technicians,
  • Certified Bookkeepers

You should know which regulations your accountant is governed by, whether adequate insurance is in place and if terms of engagement will be issued.

Check the size of the accountancy firm?

Larger firms sometimes have legal expertise, offshore specialists, wealth management experts, trust accountants.  You should only consider paying a premium for these services if you plan to use them.  Smaller firms usually specialise in small business accounts and give you greater access to an experienced accountant. If they have similar types of clients they will be used to dealing with most of the problems you are likely to encounter.

What services do you need?

  • Help to set up bookkeeping systems
  • Accounting and bookkeeping services
  • Payroll services
  • VAT services
  • Year end accounts and tax returns
  • How to reduce your tax bill
  • Budgets and forecasts for profits and cashflow
  • Help you to develop systems to measure performance.
  • Help you to buy or sell a business.

What should you take to an initial meeting?

  • Take your business plan
  • Make a list of services that you think you will need
  • Make a summary of work you have already done, or systems that you already have in place
  • Make a list of things that are important to you: quality, access, assistance, expertise, price, control, explanations
  • Be honest about your approach to record keeping
  • Be honest about your expectations
  • Check if the accountant has experience with working in your industry sector
  • Ask to meet the accountant who will be looking after you

How to decide?

  • Request details of prices and service levels
  • Consider if you will be able to work with the accountant (and if the accountant will be able to work with you)
  • Request additional information on any matters you are unsure about

What’s the next step?

Once you have chosen your new accountant and the accountant has agreed to accept you, you should be provided with an agreement to sign. These are usually referred to as terms of engagement.

You will be asked to provide evidence of your identity and proof of your home address to comply with anti-money laundering regulations.

If you are moving from another accountant you will be asked to provide contact details of your previous accountant so that handover information can be requested relating to your accounts and tax files.

Good Luck!