Getting good accounting advice can help you avoid expensive mistakes like tax miscalculations, unpaid invoices, or fines. These are mistakes which can be very damaging to a business.
If you are starting out in business and perhaps starting to see some growth, it’s a good idea to get yourself an accountant. However, it can be difficult to know what qualities you should look for in order to get the best advice. Here are some tips to guide you.
Know what your business needs
Knowing what sort of accounting advice your business needs will help make it easier for you to find a good fit.
Make a list of requirements; you will need different advice if you are a new SME, or if your business is in a specialist sector that requires specialist knowledge. You also need to decide whether you want to have an accountant who works on a permanent retainer, or one you can hire for a few hours here and there.
One of the best ways to find an accountant can be by asking your network of contacts or family and friends. Someone from your network who may have a more established business will be likely to know of an accountant who does good work.
Be aware though, that different accountants may be suited to different types of businesses, so only use recommendations to draw up your list of potential choices before making a final decision.
Always make sure to check what qualifications your potential accountant has. You need to be able to trust that your accountant is professional, compliant with regulations, and has the right expertise.
If you are a smaller business worrying about your budget it may be tempting to use someone cheaper who may not have a professional qualification, but you could end up paying more in the long run if you go down that route.
Check their fees
How much you pay should depend on exactly what you need the accountant to do. If you need to keep costs to the bare minimum, you may want to hire on a project-by-project basis and do simple bookkeeping in-house, while keeping a record of your expenses.
If you have a bigger business then it might be worth having an ongoing contract with your accountant, paying a monthly charge. The monthly charge will usually be fixed and cover all your administrative costs, unless there is a change in the work you require your accountant to do.
Check their back-up procedure
If for some reason your accountant is not available, make sure they have a procedure for someone else to help pick up the slack. This is particularly important for big projects that require specialist knowledge.
Getting along is key
It’s essential that you find an accountant you can actually work with. When you’re spending hours on a tax return it helps to be doing it with someone who you trust and get on with.
Having a good relationship with your accountant can also pay dividends if you ever need them to put in a bit of extra work on a certain project but my not have the additional budget to pay for it.
Adam Harper is director of professional development at AAT, the Association of Accounting Technicians.
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