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Hiring an Accountant for Your Business

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 16 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Accountant Chartered Accountants Money

Many first time small business owners have a go at doing their accounts themselves. But whilst it’s definitely possible, if you want to put your mind at rest that everything is being done correctly, and want to save yourself a lot of time and stress, it’s a very good idea to hire an accountant to do it for you. So how do you go about finding and hiring an accountant for your business?

There are many benefits of hiring an accountant. Although the adage goes that, ‘Tax doesn’t have to be taxing,’ sadly it often is. As much as you may have good intentions to sort out your tax return yourself, when it comes down to doing the deed, many small business owners find themselves floundering.

Even if you manage to complete the tax return, the chances are you may still be missing extra ways in which you could be off-setting tax and saving you money.

A good accountant will be able to take the pressure of completing the tax return away from you, which can be a major relief. In addition, a good accountant will offer other benefits and services too. They may be able to help with your tax planning, offering help and assistance with setting up book-keeping systems that will make it easier to record your finances on a regular basis.

Some accountants also like to act as a business consultant, advising you whether or not certain business decisions are a good move and offering ideas for managing your cash flow or pricing worries. As your accountant is already likely to have lots of other small and large businesses on their books, they may also be able to assist you with networking, such as putting you in touch with clients that may be useful to your business and vice versa. They may even be able to refer potential new customers to you.

Finding an Accountant

So now that you’ve made the decision to hire an accountant, how do you go about finding one?

In the first instance, have a think and see if you might know any other small business owners who may use accountants. If you do, then ask for a recommendation. Personal recommendations can be a great way of finding an accountant and have the added bonus that you know in advance that someone else has found them reliable.

But if there’s no-one in your vicinity to ask, the other key ways of finding an accountant are through local newspaper ads, through the local Chamber of Commerce or other business group, through official directories of chartered accountants or through searching the Internet.

It’s a good idea to make a shortlist of possibilities, obtaining information from each on their experience, qualifications, training and rates. Most accountants will be happy to meet up to discuss the possibility of taking on your business accounts, often on a free basis, so you won’t have to pay for their time.

If you want to make the most of any business advice or networking opportunities that your accountant may bring, then it’s a good idea to research the current businesses they have on their books – if possible. As a craft business, for example, it would be useful to know if a potential accountant has had any previous experience dealing with any similar businesses.

If so, they may be more likely to be in tune with the needs of your business. However, if they’ve only ever dealt with large, multinational companies, and have no experience of small local businesses, then they may not be the best bet for you.

Ask plenty of questions, such as:

  • How long have you been practising?
  • What do you charge? Do you bill for phone calls and emails, or are they included within the fee?
  • What other types of business do you work for?
  • Are you able to provide any references from satisfied customers?
  • Do you offer a trial period?

Deciding who to go for can be tricky. It’s beneficial if they’re a chartered accountant and have recognised qualifications, such as the letters ACA after their name. This is the best qualification, but can carry a premium fee. Other letters to look out for include ACCA and CIMA.

It’s a big move to hand over the accounts of your business to someone else, so you need to feel comfortable and happy with your choice, ensuring you’ll get on well with them, that you feel they’ll do a good job and that the rate you’re paying is affordable.

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