An accountant can be more than just a person who prepares the accounts and talks to the taxman for you.
Over time you will find that your accountant can become a valued business advisor. Remember that they are dealing with a spectrum of local businesses of various types.
A natural by-product of this is that they will have:
- Many contacts – some probably very relevant to your own business
- Dealings with the local bank managers and a good idea of what they expect for applications such as financing in particular, the style of business plan they like to see presented to them
- The respect of other local organisations particularly banks and other professionals that will reflect well on your business
- A lot of experience in dealing with the local tax office and regulatory bodies
I can’t stress enough that if you want to have a solid, long term, happy working relationship then you should always use a qualified accountant.
You will of course always be able to find other cheaper alternatives but consider this:
- Do they have enough experience and training to carry out the regulatory and governmental obligations you have. Remember, when the Inland Revenue is handing out fines for late payment or non-compliance, there is only one person who suffers – you
- Are they up to date with the latest legislation regarding taxation and company law? You see there is one main reason why established practices charge a higher rate and that is because they take a professional attitude to keeping their knowledge up to date. They attend regular updating seminars and courses which can be quite expensive as it is specialised knowledge
You should find out whether the office you are dealing with is one office as part of a larger group or just a single practice.
This is relevant if your business is more than just a single entity such as a shop or small local business. You see as your business grows so will your need for technical assistance. There comes a point when you may outgrow a local practice and need to move on to a medium sized practice where the specialised knowledge is split amongst its senior staff.
In a larger practice there may be a partner who specialises in obtaining corporate finance, several tax specialists in different areas and partners who specialise in investigations and due diligence work, in addition to those staff who do the day to day work of accounts preparation and tax returns.
You will usually obtain a more efficient service from one practice due to pooling of ideas than having several advisors from different organisations.
Your choice of practice will ultimately come down to what size your business is and what expansion plans your foresee. There is nothing wrong with choosing a larger practice, just consider whether there is any cost implication.
You should consider whether the practice you are reviewing already have clients in the same line of business as yourself. This can be advantageous if you are in a specialised field as your accountant will already be up to speed on your particular requirements and this may translate into a reduced fee.
Naturally you should seek recommendations from as many people as you can. Particularly take note of advice given by business associates.
In addition, consider these avenues for advice:
- Local banks and other professional advisers
- Try to seek permission to contact existing clients for references, this can be an informal way of gathering great information
- See whether the practice publish regular articles in say local newspapers giving free advice to readers. This can give an indication as to the expertise of the practice.
Where to find your accountant
There are several places to look including:
- Simply, walk down your local high street and call in at reception for practice brochures
- Yellow pages – usually the professional bodies will advertise the names of local authorised practices
- Local papers and other publications
- Search online
- Contact the institutes below for a list of practices in your area
About the author:
Trevor Sadowski has worked in finance departments for the past 23 years and has been a member of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (ACCA) since 1994.
Trevor currently provides contract accountancy support through short-term placements or interim management in the UK. To find out more, visit his web site at http://www.moveaheadonline.com