Last updated on April 25th, 2019 at 02:07 pm
There are many advisers you are likely to encounter when running a small business, from business consultants, IT consultants, Solicitors to Accountants.
Of all of these a good accountant is perhaps the most valuable one to have for a small business and is certainly the one that you are likely to use most often. If your accounts are correct and you are up-to-date with taxes and statutory returns, you are far likely to be more able to concentrate on the important part, growing the business.
The author has run a small business for many years now and the tips below are some of his thoughts on choosing an accountant for your business.
- Investigate and, if possible, choose an accountant before you start your business, although remember that it is possible to change accountants at any time and in fact the author has done so when he moved from one area of the country to another.
- Make sure your accountant is fully qualified, for example as a certified or chartered accountant. These qualifications will be probably be displayed on any promotional material or their website, but make sure you ask, and check with the relevant organisation if you are at all unsure.
- Make sure that your accountant works with small business clients. If your business generates a large number of transactions (for example, an online shopping service or you are in the retail trade make sure that they understand the implications of this – the extra bits of paper will probably push their fees up – of course if you are in an industry where you invoice clients monthly then this is not so much of a problem).
- If possible make sure the accountant has experience with dealing with companies in your sector, some types of business have specific VAT rules such as the CTN areas – does the accountant understand these rules?
- How much does the accountant charge? Is there a fixed annual or monthly fee to complete all business tax requirements, or do they charge by the hour? Compare the fees of several firms but remember that the cheapest is not always the best, but neither is the most expensive.
- When you first meet your prospective accountant, spend some time chatting to them, you will know soon enough if you see eye-to-eye, – do you trust them and do you feel that you can work with them? Try to talk to several accountants and see which you feel most comfortable with.
- Does the accountant provide any other services – can they complete your self assessment tax returns, do they provide business or IT advice or other information to help you grow your business? Ask for a rough figure as to how much these extra services would cost you.
- Many small businesses find that the best accountants for them are also likely to be smaller in size. A smaller firm of accountants will understand what it’s like running a small operation. The author once had an accountant that was one of the larger accountants in the UK with offices throughout the country and felt that he was just a number to them and not really a valued client, this came as a “shock” as his previous accountant was a small 3 partner firm where he felt that his business was valued.
- Ask if you can speak to existing clients that are small businesses (preferably in your industry) before signing up. Any decent accountancy firm should be happy to arrange this. When talking to existing clients ask them about the service that they get from the accountant – how quickly are questions answered, documents returned, have there been any problems etc.
- Make sure your accountant keeps in touch with your business – not just at the end of the year. How often do they contact you with newsletters and how quickly do they get back to you if you have a question – many will state that they will reply to questions within one working day.
Finally, remember, if you feel your current accountant no longer meets your needs for any reason, get a new one – there is nothing to stop you doing this as long as you have paid all their invoices.