You know you need to get some professional accountancy advice, but you have no idea where to start. Believe it or not, you are not alone. Accounting, bookkeeping, and financial planning can be complex areas, but with the right team in place you can rest easy that things are in hand and managed well. After all, the right accountant is as close to a business partner as you can get so you want to make sure you find the right one. So where do you start? Here are our key tips on what to look for when you are searching for an accountant, whether for your personal or business needs.
What kind of advice do you need?
If you are self-employed you most likely need someone to help you with tax, investments, and pensions. Businesses, on the other hand, whether large or small, could also be looking for help with bookkeeping, payroll, VAT, and even start-up help or company secretarial services. In either case you want someone who has experience of working with people like you – either self-employed or someone running a small business.
Qualifications and certifications
The accountancy sector is strictly regulated and has been for some time now. Look for someone who is qualified and certified and finding an accountant who is a member of a professional body should also be at the top of your list. The key organisations include:
- The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
- The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) which has a more international presence if you are likely to or already working in overseas markets and need someone knowledgeable and experienced beyond the UK
- The Institute of Financial Accountants which focuses on SMEs and SMPs (micro, small- to medium-sized accounting practices)
Ask for recommendations
Ask your network of friends and business contacts for recommendations – one of the best places to start as they will only put you in touch with people they who know and trust will do a good job. Armed with a few names your next step should be to look for reviews online as well: are there any red flags that come up that give you any cause for concern?
If you prefer to be able to meet with your accountant regularly, then location will be important. If it’s not as necessary, then someone further afield with the right qualifications will work just as well.
Ask about fee structures. Some offer fixed fees for certain services while others will charge by the hour or will offer a mix of the two. Others still will offer a monthly retainer. Be clear from the outset what you will have to pay and what services will be included in that fee.
Interview at least three candidates
Narrow down your choices to your top three and interview them to make sure they are the right fit for you and your business. Just as with any job interview, you are looking for that one accountant or firm that will fit right in with your team and will be able to add value from day one. Ask them for references and follow up on those.
Choosing an accountant is not a small thing. They will keep you on track with tax, help you with payroll and pensions, and assist you in growing your business. Get it wrong and it could end up being a very costly mistake, so it is worth investing the time to do your research. Try us out at Bells Inc. Hamilton Stewart and we will help you take your business wherever it is you want it to go. Reach us by phone on 020 8763 1711 or email at and we will be delighted to help.