The accountant you choose for your company is among the most important choices you’ll ever make as a business owner. You may have an established business that has until now got by with a good book-keeper, you may have a fledgling business or you may still be planning and dreaming but whatever stage you are at as a business owner choosing the right accountant for you will help the business grow and develop as well as handling the regulatory account and tax affairs. So choose wisely.
Using an accountant even as early as the planning stage can assist with the business structure and tax efficient strategies so don’t assume it is only something forced upon you by a looming year end. A good chartered accountant can offer tax saving advice, advice about expenses and a range of other services depending on your business requirements.
Of course, many people are capable of preparing their own accounts but in a successful business you have to learn how to delegate and the business owner should be concentrating on running the business not on the time-consuming process of preparing accounts and filing tax returns.
How do you pick the correct accountant for your company?
Ask friends and family for recommendations and check out some local companies then arrange to meet the prospective accountants and quiz them about experience in your type of business. For instance:
- Does the accountant handle affairs for similar types of businesses, in terms of both the size and nature of the business? Look for an accountant with experience in a range of businesses rather than a narrow specialist if you are starting up a new business as new businesses can often develop in unexpected ways.
- Check that the accountant you speak to is the person who will actually deal with your affairs because it is important to establish a good relationship. Some companies do not allocate a specific person to a business so that every time you need advice you are speaking to a different person. This can make it difficult to build a good rapport.
- Some accountancy firms offer a “remote” service whereby the accountant can be anywhere in the country so not necessarily anywhere near your business location. This can save you money but there are disadvantages to not being able to get together for face-to-face meetings and if most of your communication is via email then there are plenty of opportunities for misunderstandings. Also check whether the accountant is part of a larger firm because selecting a “one-man band” can lead to problems if illness or other absences mean he/she is not available when you need them.
- Many unqualified or part-qualified people offer accountancy services and for a very small, simple business these services may be adequate but otherwise check what qualifications any prospective accountant has. An experienced, chartered accountant will be necessary for most businesses with more than a few employees.
- Last but not least, you need to know how much it is likely to cost as, obviously, cost is a factor, especially in start up businesses with unreliable income streams. If you are worried about open-ended costs some chartered accountants have fixed fee accountancy options where certain specified services are supplied for a fee fixed at the beginning of the year.