8 tips for choosing the right accountant for you

The right accountant can be a valuable asset to your business, saving you both time and money.  It’s important to spend a little time and do some research before you make a final decision.

Here are our top tips for choosing the right accountant for you.

Professional qualifications: Make sure the accountant you choose has a professional accounting qualification and belongs to a professional body such as the ICAEW, ACCA or IFA. These usually have member directories you can use to search for a qualified accountant.

Sector/business experience: Find out whether they have experience of supporting small businesses like yours. An accountant who has worked with similar businesses will have a wealth of experience and knowledge they can share.   Some accountants specialise in particular business sectors, which means they’ll have a better understanding of how your business operates, but it also means they may already be acting for your competitors.

Technical knowledge:  A small high street accountant may be perfect for your fledgling business today, but they may not have the technical knowledge or experience to support the evolving needs of your businesses as it grows. You may not need payroll support now for example, but it could be a service you’ll need help with in future.

Location, location, location: If you’re happy to deal with your accountant via phone, email and video conferencing, cloud accounting software means that you can now share your accounts with your accountant from anywhere in the world so you don’t have to simply settle for the closest accountancy firm to you. However, if you prefer face to face meetings with your accountant, look for someone who’s easy to get to or who’s happy to come and visit you on your premises.  Don’t underestimate the importance of free onsite parking either – you don’t want to spend ages searching for a parking space every time you visit!

Price:  As with any business decision, getting value for money is critical. Some accountants charge by the hour, meaning you only pay for the time they spend working for your business. Others charge a flat fee so you know exactly what you’ve got to pay each month.  There are advantages to both but whichever option you prefer, make sure you find out about the costs up front and check how the prices compare to other accountancy practices.

Recommendations: Ask friends or business contacts for recommendations – knowing someone who’s used them happily in the past gives you that extra peace of mind. Ask a prospective accountant to provide testimonials from existing clients, or better still, ask them if you can contact an existing client for a reference.

Rapport: Most accountants offer a free initial consultation, so sit down and have a chat with them before you make a decision, and make sure the person you meet is the person who will be dealing with your business on a day to day basis.  Use the opportunity to ask questions - do they explain things in a way you understand without resorting to jargon?  Do you feel you could have a positive long-term working relationship with them? Don’t ignore your intuition, if you don’t feel comfortable working with them consider someone else.

Continually assess the situation: A good accountant should be in regular contact with you and should be keeping you informed of tax or other legislative changes that may affect your business as well as proactively looking for ways to save you money.  If you’re not getting the support you need, move on and find someone else.  Your business is too important to risk!

April Foster is an Associate at Moore Stephens accountants in Corby.  She specialises in providing advice to start ups and fledgling businesses across Northamptonshire.  

Please contact April on 01536 461900 or april.foster@moorestephens.com for a free initial consultation.