When choosing an Accountant, you have a clear choice – one that looks backwards and uses out of date methods, or one that looks forward and utilises the best technology to deliver value.
Any accountant can sort out your tax return or your annual accounts and provide advice on a range of issues, but how do you get the best return on the fees you pay to an accountant?
Choose carefully – Look for accountants with experience of your type of business/sector. Anyone can set up as ‘an accountant’, so make sure that you look for chartered or certified accountants, whose qualified status is backed by membership of professional bodies. Some people prefer a large firm because it suggests reliability, but a smaller one may respond better to your needs. Ask prospective accountants how they can help your business and add value rather than compliance. Request references and proof they have professional indemnity insurance, before you make your final decision.
Managing your expectations – Your accountant will summarise terms and conditions in a letter of engagement. Put your expectations in writing, too. Describe the level of service you require, for example, how quickly you need queries to be answered. Ask to deal with a specific contact, to help build a close professional relationship.
Ask as many questions as you can – Check what other services your accountant can offer. These could include guidance on setting up your business, preparation of financial forecasts, help with loan applications, audits, investment advice and other suggestions for minimising your tax liability and no doubt many more.
Use your accountants’ partners – Accountants specialising in your type of business can often suggest good trade contacts. Perhaps your accountant knows a supplier who can offer you a great deal or maybe they know of a potential investor.
Gain value from the relationship – Communicate regularly with your accountant to get the best possible value. Have regular phone and email communication and agree a schedule of meetings to review your firm’s performance, so you can better plan for the future. Be sure to meet before producing your end-of-year accounts or tax return.
Get online – If necessary, ask your accountant for advice about how best to maintain your financial records. Some accountants like to work with spreadsheets, others with paper records and those who have moved with the times are online.
Do the easy jobs yourself – To reduce your outgoings, take care of simple bookkeeping tasks yourself, possibly by using accounting software. You could then better focus your accountants’ efforts where they best serve your business.
Delegate – If your time would be better spent concentrating on sales or product development, you could ask an accountant to take greater responsibility for your bookkeeping and payroll. Although a more expensive option, this could free you up to make more profitable use of your time.
Shop around – Armed with recommendations of good accountants, get a full breakdown of an accountant’s charges and services. Work out which one offers you best value for money (and that’s not necessarily the cheapest, of course). And, at least once a year, review the value for money you receive. If you believe you can get better advice and value elsewhere, go elsewhere.
Seek advice – An experienced accountant can offer sound advice in a number of areas. For example, they could help with your business plan, help you estimate the cost of new projects or advise on the levels of investment needed to achieve your business development goals. If you decide to sell up, they could even help with valuing your business and advise on the sale to minimise your tax liability.
If you have any questions or would like true value from a specialist Small Business Accountant, please get in contact