If you are having a tough time preparing your Self Assessment, spending too much time on bookkeeping, or simply want to run your finances more effectively, you might decide to hire an accountant. But where do you begin?
It’s important to do this carefully, and you’ll want to consider a few things first. You’ll need to think about the accountant’s services, their location, and the type of accounting software you’ll use.
Your company and/or personal finances are absolutely critical, so it’s important to have an experienced and capable person handling them. The right person will save you time and money year after year.
So here are some things you should consider when you’re choosing an accountant.
Does location matter?
The location of your company’s accountant used to be important, but today, more companies are collaborating online, using cloud-based technology to manage their business. This means that location is less of an issue. No matter where you are, you and your accountant can see the same real-time data at the same time with cloud accounting.
The decision about where to find your accountant really comes down to what suits your company best. Depending on how you want to handle the finances, your accountant could really be based anywhere in the world.
Choose a certified or chartered accountant
For peace of mind, choose an accountant that’s regulated by a professional body or recognised by the government.
Chartered Accountants are highly qualified professionals who have completed above degree-level study along with workplace experience and a professional competence programme.
An experienced and knowledgeable accountant can add value to your business right from the start. If you want your company to grow, it’s a good idea to hire a chartered accountant at the beginning rather than later on.
It is possible to use accountants with no chartered status – or without an equivalent professional qualification – for bookkeeping, tax preparation, or general financial management. The higher qualifications will, however, almost certainly be required if you apply for a loan or are audited.
You’ll need someone with experience preparing tax returns and financial documents for companies of a similar size and revenue to yours. If they’ve worked with companies in similar business sectors to yours, they will be able to better understand your business’s unique needs.
How will the accounting work be divided?
Accountants can handle every aspect of bookkeeping and small business accounting. In many cases, you can bundle up your bills and invoices, hand them all over, and they will take care of the rest. However, you may want to approach it differently.
For example, you might choose to enter the basic accounts data in-house, then hand the work over to your accountant. Then they can handle the more involved tasks like reconciling bank accounts, filing tax returns, and calculating payroll and capital depreciation.
Good accounting software will make it easy for you to take part in your accounting process. It will simplify tasks like invoicing, automatically sending the invoice and recording its contents, and if the software is cloud-based, you can then give your accountant secure access to your accounts with the click of a button.
Find someone who’s proactive about saving you money
Some accountants will do little more than manage your accounts and complete your tax return forms, but the best accountants are more proactive. Consider asking your accountant what money-saving suggestions they can offer before choosing them.
Good accountants will help your company grow
There’s a good reason why this sounds more like a marriage than a business relationship! The accountant you hire will become intimately involved with your company’s operations, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. You will need one you can trust, who has the necessary experience, and who will be there when you need them.
Good accountants help companies grow, by managing complex financial work and offering advice on business issues and challenges. The best ones will be your partner in all but name.
Can you talk to them about anything?
For the best results, you need a close relationship with your accountant, with open communication.
Your personal and business finances are very private, so you need to feel comfortable talking to them about anything. A good accountant will want to understand your wider circumstances for tax planning, opportunities, and your personal financial goals.
What services do they offer?
Right now, you may just need a tax return completed. But, if you have any ambitions to grow, you need to know the accountant can support you moving forward. As you grow, you may need more services such as payroll, business planning, cashflow planning or wealth management so learn what else they offer (preferably in-house, keeps your business closer to them.)
Top takeaway tips
Choosing an accountant is like choosing a new business partner. Here are the top things you need to take away.
Understand what your accountant is telling you
Your accountant should speak plain English so that you can understand what they are saying. This is still your business, you are legally responsible for it, to the taxman, to the rest of the authorities, so make sure that you understand what your accountant is telling you.
Make sure the accountant fits your businesses
Make sure that you choose an accountant who has experience in the size and sector of business that you’re operating in.
Find an accountant who goes beyond crunching the numbers
Choose an accountant who will be proactive. For example, somebody who will tell you how to save tax in a legal and ethical way, someone who will really get to know your business.
Check that your accountant is qualified for the job
Think about using a qualified accountant, one who’s qualified with, for example, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland or in England and Wales, or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
Choose an accountant who will act on your behalf
Choose an accountant who will act as your agent with HMRC. That could save you, potentially, a lot of difficult conversations, because your accountant can talk to HMRC on your behalf.
At Nicholsons Chartered Accountants, we drop the jargon and promise you a different accountancy partnership. If you just want to have a chat and find out more, get in touch.