Checklist for Choosing the Right Accountant
Choosing your accountant is as important as choosing your lawyer or your doctor.
Whether you are starting a business, or if you are already in business, it's important to have the right team supporting you. Your choice of accountant is a very important decision and your success can be greatly enhanced depending on the advice, knowledge and level of service you receive. A common way to choose an accountant is to ask other business owners who they use and if they are happy. First off you need an accountant that communicates with you more than once a year, without charging you a fortune.
When you are looking for an accountant here are a few questions you should consider asking to help you make the right choice:
- Do they provide a free initial consultation? This allows you to find out if they are interested in you and your business goals, and to decide if you can work with them
- Can they provide online accounting services? With online accounting services, you can have complete flexibility as to the amount of processing you carry out and how much your accountant carries out. Transfer of data, backups and restoring data are no longer required and you have the security of offsite daily backups. Online accountancy also means that you can access your accounting information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you want to
- Are their fees good value and fixed where possible? Try and obtain fixed quoted fees where ever possible to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the end of the year. Will they charge you extra fees every time you contact them with a query? Some accountants will charge you for every phone call they answer and letter they write. Ask what the fees include and what services are "extras" and what they will be charged at
- Do they have a website that outlines all their services so you can start your evaluation process without having to meet with them? Visit their website. What is your general impression of their company website? Is it easy to navigate and find what you're looking for? Is it up to date? Though not a conclusive factor in itself, a company who put time and effort into their website are more likely to make good use of technology within their services
- Do you get on with the accountant. This is a person who is going to be part of your team and help you to succeed. It's important that you have a rapport with them and feel that you can approach them with any queries you might have. You need to feel that they understand what you are trying to achieve and that they can work with you to achieve your goals
- Do they communicate using plain English? It might seem like a silly question but do they explain everything to you in simple terms and not try to blind you with jargon. These are the people who will be explaining your year end accounts and tax liabilities to you. You need to be able to understand what they are explaining
- Do they provide additional services on top of annual accounts and tax advice, such as business growth, stock control, monthly management accounts, payroll, bookkeeping, business valuation and succession planning, business and strategic plans, accounting software evaluation and implementation?
- Ask for testimonials. What better way to find out how good an accountancy firm is than by asking their current clients? Simply being given a list of company names isn't sufficient. Neither is a selection of quotes. What you really want are the names and contact details of senior people within some of the companies
- Evaluate their response times. When you contacted them initially, how quickly did they respond? Did you get passed around a few people before finally being able to get answers from someone?
The answers to these questions will help you choose the right accountant for you and your business. You should regard them as your partners in success, so choose them carefully.