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When new clients approach us, it is often because they are not happy with their existing accountant, or because they are a new business and don’t know how to select an appropriate one for them.

Below is our list of the top ten things to consider when looking for and engaging an accountant or bookkeeper.

1. You must like and get on with your accountant

Chances are, that outside of your staff and customers, the person you will speak to most in your business will be your accountant. More than your bank manager, more than your insurance broker, more than your solicitor.

That’s why it is so important that you click with them on a personal level.  You have to get on with them, feel comfortable talking to them about your business, and in turn be comfortable with how they explain things to you and how they make sure you understand things.

2. Use the software you want

If you want to be a modern business and use cloud-based software for your bookkeeping, then there is no point in choosing an accountant who champions desktop software.

Not only will their hearts not really be in it, they may in fact not have any experts in the firm so may not be able to advise and help you with it properly.

3. Be clear on the split of responsibilities

Make sure it’s clear from the get go exactly what you have engaged your accountant to do for you and what you retain responsibility for completing.

You may have engaged them to complete your VAT returns or your year end accounts, but that won’t necessarily mean they are completing the bookkeeping to perform those tasks.  You may have them producing your monthly payroll but it doesn’t automatically mean they will be posting the corresponding journals for it.  Be clear on what you need them to do and what they need from you in order to do it.

4. Match their style of doing things to yours

If your business is modern – storing your documents in the cloud, using Skype for meetings, using Xero for your accounts – then there is no point using an old-fashioned firm who still sends out letters and insists on face to face meetings.

We are not saying they won’t be good at what they do, but their style of business will grate with yours, and you want your relationship with your advisers to be as seamless as possible.

5. Realise it’s a two-way street

The information and advice your accountant can provide you will be based on the information you give them, so what they give you can only be as good as what you give to them.

If you send your information to your accountant the day of the deadline, it’s incomplete, or you haven’t made them aware of everything, then they will not be in a position to give you good, useful and timely advice.

6. Follow their advice

You’ve paid for their knowledge and experience, so why would you ignore it?  If they say something will cost you more in tax in the long run then listen.  If they say that as a result of doing something you will have more compliance with HMRC to complete they mean it.

That doesn’t mean that they will be making the decisions for you and your business, but they can tell you what the statutory and tax implications of those decisions will be so you can be more informed than if you didn’t know.

7. Don’t expect freebies

If you go in to any high street store to buy a microwave, you don’t expect to also walk out with a free vacuum cleaner.  It’s the same with accountants and bookkeepers.

Obviously, we would point out things we find and advise you in general terms, but if you want specific advice tailored to your business and situation, then that will take chargeable time.

The old adage is true that you get what you pay for – having a set of annual statutory accounts prepared won’t necessarily also include any tax advice, and even if it does the accountant won’t be able to be thorough if they are not being paid to do so.

8. They will have more experience than any other of your advisers

Chances are that your accountant and bookkeeper will have worked with more businesses, and across more industries than any other person you will come into contact with.

They will know things that are affecting businesses on a wider scale, not just within your sector, and they will know upcoming statutory and tax changes that will impact your business.

Make sure you engage with them regularly – not just at the year-end – to make sure you are making full use of what they know.

9. Be honest with them

They are here to help you.  To assist in solving your problems and to help you stay compliant with HMRC.  The sooner you tell them about a problem, then the sooner they can help you solve it.

If you think that you should have registered for VAT but haven’t, then they can help you check, get you registered and deal with HMRC on your behalf if needs be.

If you have messed up your bank reconciliation and can’t work out where it went wrong then tell them as soon as possible.  The longer you leave stuff in a mess, the harder – and more costly – it becomes to fix it.

10. Talk to them in advance of any changes you plan to make

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  But an accountant cannot do much about things after an event, so let them know before you do something major.

If you are planning on buying a new vehicle for your business, then talk to your accountant about it first, as different vehicles have different tax implications and could end up costing you a lot more than you first expected.

If you are looking for a new point of sale system, then tell them as they may well know what works better with your accounting software or what has and hasn’t worked for other clients.

If you are looking for a new accountant or bookkeeper then please get in touch on the details above to speak to us about it.