PAYE, VAT, Tax returns, year-end accounts…do those words fill you with fear and dread, or send you into a coma? If so, it could be time to hire an accountant. If you think that it’s going to be too expensive to hire an accountant, then it may be worth noting that a good accountant can repay their fees several times over with the advice they give you.
Make tax less taxing…get an accountant!
It is never too soon in the life of your business to consider getting an accountant. Even if you haven’t actually started your business yet, it is worth seeking the advice of an accountant as they can help you with business planning and setting up the structure of your new company. Some accountants may even give you free start-up advice if you have agreed they will do your year-end accounts. Also if you are only hiring an accountant for your personal January tax return, the 29th January may not be the best time to start looking for one; so plan in advance!
So how do you go about finding a good accountant? Here are a few pointers:
- Make sure they’re qualified
It’s scary but you don’t need qualifications to set up as an accountant, so don’t be caught out. Make sure anyone you consider employing is properly qualified through bodies such as the ICAEW or ICAS (Institute of Chartered Accountants), CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) or ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). This way, if a problem crops up in the future you will have some protection. Personal recommendations by friends who run successful businesses are a great start, but make sure the accountants they recommend are backed by proper qualifications. Finding a local accountancy firm, like Carpenter Box Accountants in Brighton, can be beneficial, but again, check they are qualified.
- Make sure they know your sector
If your business is going to start small and you intend it to stay relatively small, then find an accountant that specialises in small business. Likewise, if your business is starting small but you anticipate big growth in the short to medium term, then find an accountant that has the experience to help you with this growth. If you expect that before long you will need investors, perhaps acquire other companies, or take on staff then you will need an accountancy firm that can help you with this. Firms like Carpenter Box LLP have not only accountants, but tax and business advisors to help your business grow. Also if your business operates within a sector that has specific tax rules, such as environmental or excise rules, then you need experts in this accountancy field.
- Fix fees before you start
Some accountants charge hourly fees, some fixed fees. Regardless of which you choose, make sure you’re happy and clear with the charges before you hire the accountant. Lots of accountancy firms offer small or start-up businesses fixed fee prices – this can be a great way to start.
- Do you like them?
Sounds basic, but the likelihood is that you will be spending a fair amount of time with your accountant over the years and investing in their services, so it is essential that you like and trust them. Make sure you meet them face to face before you take them on. If you are employing a big firm of accountants, find out exactly who you will be dealing with – you may meet a senior partner at the initial meeting but end up dealing with a junior for the majority of the time so ensure that you meet them as well.
When you’re working hard setting up your new business you need an accountant who is going to be flexible and proactive. Are they only going to ring you once a year to sort your year-end accountants? Or are they going to be more pre-emptive and speak to you on a regular basis, at times to suit your needs. Some accountants will supply or advise you on software to allow easier preparation of accounts, e.g. an online platform for bookkeeping which enables you to automatically add expenses etc. to compile the information required by your accountant.
Whichever accountant you choose, if you do your homework properly beforehand, it will be a step that you won’t regret and it should pay dividends for your business. And remember, if you don’t like the service you’re getting and the relationship isn’t working out then it really is very simple – find another one that suits your business better.
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