What should I be looking for when choosing an accountant?

The relationship between you and your accountant is really important and its not always simple as picking the one down the road.

Unfortunately, not all accountants are the same.

The accountancy profession is one of the few where anyone can call themselves an accountant so it is worth considering the points below when choosing your accountant.

What qualifications do they have?

Having a qualified accountant will show you they have the knowledge required to pass the professional exams as well as giving you the piece of mind that they are regulated and monitored.

There are many accounting professional bodies so its worth seeing who they are regulated by.

CCAB qualified accountants include:

  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) - you may see ACA or FCA

  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)

  • Chartered Accountants Ireland (ICAI)

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) - you may see ACCA or FCCA

  • Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)

  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

Qualified bookkeepers and Accounting Technicians include:

  • Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) - you may see AAT, MAAT, FMAAT

  • International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB)

You should be able to do a online search with the professional body to prove that person is a member.

The level of experience you will need your accountant to have will very much depend on the complexity of your business.

Are they insured?

Accountancy firms should have Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) which is there to protect you should they make a mistake with your accounts.

Regulated accountancy firms are required to have this as part of their practicing requirements.

By using an accountant that has adequate PII it will give you peace of mind that if the worst happens you will be able to make a claim against them.

Do they have the relevant experience?

If your business or industry is complex or specialist you will want to know whether that accountant has the experience to give you the best service so its always worth asking what experience they have in your sector.

There are many accountants out there that will only deal with certain industries such as E-commerce, Pubs, Solicitors, Contractors etc so you may wish to have an accountant that is a specialist in your industry.

What services do they offer?

Most accountants will offer the core services such as:

  • Annual accounts

  • Tax returns

  • Payroll

  • VAT returns

  • Bookkeeping

But do they offer any extras such as tax planning, management accountants, Independent financial advice service, Pensions etc.

Turnaround time?

What are their normal turnaround times for getting work completed?

If you send an email when should you expect to receive a reply? Same day, next day or next week? Would you find this acceptable?

Most accountants will be able to give you an indication of how quickly they can respond to emails or turnaround work.

How do they communicate?

Emails, telephone, letter, meetings? Do you have a preference?

Do they talk to you in a way you like?

Do they use jargon?

Ideally you want to find an accountant you get on well with and who will explain things in a way that you understand. You need to be able to go to them with your queries and have them dealt with in a way that suits you.

Reviews and recommendations?

Do they have positive reviews on social media?

Are they recent reviews?

Do you have any contacts that use an accountant? Who would they recommend?

What are their fees?

Fees shouldn't always be the deciding factor on whether you should use a certain accountant or not however, I understand that is does have a big role in the decision making process.

What are the fees for the services you require?

Are these charged monthly, quarterly, annually or as the work is performed? Is this negotiable?

What is included in the standard fees? Email queries, year end meetings, tax planning?

Are there catch up fees when moving from one accountant to another?

Last thoughts

Arrange meetings with a number of accountants as each vary and you will get a feel for them from that initial meeting. These should be free of charge.

If you choose to use an accountant and you are not happy down the line with the service you are getting you are not required to stay with that accountant. It is very simple to change accountants.

You want an accountant that will provide advice and value to your business.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about how I can help you and your business please feel free to get in touch.

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