When the time has come to find an accountant, how do you know what to look for?
There are a huge number of accountants within the UK, but finding a really, really good one, that you can rely on, get on with and understand, can be a real minefield. To help you in making this really important decision, we’ve put together our simple guide of what key points to look out for.
Is the accountant QUALIFIED?
Many people aren’t aware that the term “accountant” is not protected, what we mean by that is that ANYONE can call themselves an accountant, therefore, always look for the term “Wirral chartered accountant” (this IS a protected term) and it helps to guarantee that your accountant has completed a huge amount of training, examinations and experience prior to working with businesses and individuals.
Some unqualified accountants may still provide a decent level of service, but you can often run into problems if you’re looking to obtain funding or mortgages as many banks will require your accounts to be “signed off” by a chartered accountant.
What do other clients say?
Always look at what other clients have said about the accountant in question – are there a number of 5 star, impressive reviews from satisfied clients? If yes, then there is a really good chance you will experience a similar level of service.
There are a huge number of ways that you can check client reviews as most of them are now published online via Google +, Yell.com or many other similar sites.
If there are no reviews, then is could be that the accountant is struggling to obtain good client reviews, or they are too worried to ask their clients in anticipation of what they may say.
Personality is KEY
Despite the internet being incredibly useful when searching for products or services, accountancy services are really personal, so prior to “engaging” or “signing up” with an accountant, meet with them first, perhaps over a coffee for an informal chat, and get to know them – then ask yourself the questions; “can I get along with this accountant”, “would I feel comfortable approaching them if I had a problem” – if the answer to this is no then you should meet with other accountants – the relationship with a great accountant should last for many, many years, so always choose one that you can have an informal, friendly chat with as well as a structured conversation over tax and accounts.
Communication skills are absolutely key – you need a great accountant that can not only deal with your accounts and tax affairs, but also explain these to you in plain English.
Remember the teacher that you had at school who was an absolute expert in their subject, but didn’t have the skills to explain it to anybody? Exactly, the same principle applies to accountants, make sure that you understand what they say, and if you don’t, ensure that they have the patience to ensure that you do.
Is the accountant familiar with up to date technology?
Technology is massively changing the way that we deal with our personal and business affairs, is the accountant in question suitably experienced? Good indicators are; how up to date is their website, are they posting regular blogs, are they qualified in “cloud accounting systems” such as Xero, Quickbooks and Sage?
Always check this, or you may well end up engaging with a “dinosaur” accountant stuck using old fashioned, long winded and inefficient methods, which could ultimately cost you a lot more money.
What do they charge?
Accountants differ in the way that they charge clients, some charge by the hour and set fees for dealing with a telephone call or writing a letter.
We prefer accountants that offer a fixed fee structure, agreed in advance – a great accountant will be open and honest about their fees from the first meeting, and if you’re lucky they may even allow you to pay your fees in monthly instalments interest & charge free.
But let me be clear on fees –DO NOT always select the cheapest accountant! If they’re too cheap then it’s probably for a good reason.
Should I be nervous of meeting with an accountant?
The answer to this is that it depends on what type of accountant you are meeting. As a part of your research, why not see if the accountant has a picture or video(s) available online and you can “get a feeling” for the type of person they are and how welcoming they will be to you as a potential new client.
We hope that our brief guide to finding your first (or next accountant) has been useful, and in the meantime we wish our readers all the very best with their business ventures.