It’s fair to say that when you first set up your own business, your ‘to-do’ list will most likely be full of important jobs to get done, things like purchasing insurances and obtaining business contracts. And one of the items that should be at the top of that list is making sure that you have a great accountant. Not only will they be there to save you time and assist with the necessary filing requirements you will have for yourself and your business, they will also be able to keep you up to date with legislation that could otherwise pass you by.
So, with so many options out there, what should you be looking for in an accountant?
If you have friends working in the same sector, then a great first step is asking them who their accountant is, and whether they would recommend them. Nothing really beats a personal recommendation from someone that you already trust.
Another good option is to check out review sites to read first hand reviews from current/previous clients. There are various review sites for accountants out there, (such as this one), and most firms will also have a number of Google reviews if you search for them.
Reasonable, fixed fee
We specifically use the word ‘reasonable’ here, rather than ‘cheap’ because it is fair to say that when it comes to choosing an accountant, there is an element of ‘you get what you pay for’, so simply picking one because they are cheap may well not work out best in the long run. The best thing to do is to have a look around various different accountants, and check exactly what they are offering for their fees. A firm offering a ‘too good to be true’ fee may be doing so because they’re going to then charge you extra for various essential services, or perhaps they have recently gone through some negative publicity and are desperate to reinstate a dwindling client base.
We would always recommend choosing an accountant who has a fixed fee as well, so that you know how much you will be paying each month, and for what. The last thing you want is to find yourself being hit with hidden charges, or unexpected fees partway through your engagement, so it is always worthwhile checking exactly what you are going to be getting for your money.
A cyber conscious and secure firm
We live in an age where so much of our data is online. And whilst this is incredibly handy, it can also be risky if it isn’t protected adequately. If your data is leaked or hacked, you could be at risk of identity theft, or even financial theft if certain information including passwords becomes accessible. In recent months, certain accountancy firms have found themselves the target of cyber attacks, leaving their clients’ information at risk.
If you have an accountant, then chances are, they hold a lot of personal information on you, be that address, date of birth, national insurance number, bank account details etc, so it is highly important to ensure that whoever you choose to appoint as your accountant can give you reassurance as to how they protect your data.
You are still in control
In 2007, MSC (Managed Service Company) legislation was brought in to prevent accountants having ‘too much control’ over their client’s businesses. Recently, this has reared its head, as certain accountancy firms have been deemed by HMRC (under appeal) to be MSC providers, leaving their clients hit with PAYE bills from HMRC. Therefore, it is important that you check that your accountant is not an MSC provider, and that you still have control over things like raising invoices, obtaining new work contracts, paying salary/dividends etc.
Dedicated, qualified accountant
There are a number of accountancy firms out there that, each time you contact them, you will be speaking to someone different. However, we believe that it’s really important for you to have a consistent point of contact for your accountant. When you are busy running your own business, the last thing that you want is to be speaking to someone different every time you ring up, or worrying that deadlines may be missed as you get passed from pillar to post. So, you should always check that you will have a dedicated accountant and find out exactly who you will be dealing with on a day to day basis, and also check whether they have a direct dial that you will be able to contact them on, rather than reaching a call centre.
It is also worth checking that your accountant is suitably qualified, whether that be through years of experience, or professional qualifications such as AAT, ATT ACCA, ACA or CIPFA, and that they have good experience in the contractor market. You should also ensure that the accountancy practice itself is regulated. That way, if you do have any problems, you will have the option to escalate these to their professional body (something that you wouldn’t be able to do if the firm is not regulated).
It is also important that your accountant is approachable and on hand to answer any question you have, no matter how big or small. Accounting and taxation can be complicated, and whilst of course, you don’t want to be having to be undertaking some sort of accounting qualification yourself, you will want an accountant who is able to explain anything that you are unsure of so that you have confidence in what is being submitted in your name.
Modern, reliable technology
Luckily, gone are the days when accountants worked solely on paper or excel spreadsheets. Now, there is so much amazing accounting software out there, meaning that the hassle of maintaining accounting records has all but gone, and that both you and your accountant will be able to access your accounting records at any time. Using well established cloud software, such as FreeAgent, is much less time consuming not only for you, but also for the accountant which will leave them with more time to be proactive with the advice that they give.
PaperRocket Accounting provide accounting and tax services to professional contractors, freelancers, and small businesses working in the UK.
We offer our clients a flexible choice of fixed fee monthly packages which cover all of their accounting and tax needs (so no hidden costs or surprise bills!). All of our accounting packages include a monthly subscription for a cloud accounting software subscription provided by the awarding winning FreeAgent.
Each of our clients is given their own dedicated qualified accountant with unlimited access in person, telephone, or by email.
We pride ourselves on our client satisfaction and customer service and were awarded ‘Best Contractor Accountancy’ firm 2020 in The Contracting Awards and ‘Welwyn Hatfield Business of the Year 2019’ in the SME Hertfordshire awards.
To find out how we can help you please get in touch now.