A good accountant can make a significant difference to the success of your business, so it is important to take your time when choosing one. Don't just select the first one you find online. Instead, talk to other business people in your local area: is there an accountant that they would recommend?
Look at a few accountancy firms' websites: are they smart, professional and up to date? Do they give you confidence that those firms know what they're doing? Then arrange meetings with two or three accountants that you like the sound of and talk to them in person about your business goals and personal objectives. Do they seem genuinely interested in helping you?
Below is a checklist of factors to consider when selecting an accountant:
- Recommendation - do other business people you know think highly of them?
- Reputation - do they have a good standing in the local area?
- Professional qualification - a qualification means that your accountant has passed their professional exams and adheres to their professional body's ethical standards, which is a good indicator of their competence.
- Location - you will need to drop files off with your accountant and visit them from time to time so it helps if their premises are fairly close to yours.
- Personality fit - are you on the same wavelength? Do you think you will be able to build a good working relationship as your business grows and develops?
- Expertise - if you've bought a franchise, you might want an accountant with experience in franchises, for example. Some accountants specialise in working with barristers and doctors.
- Cost - accountants' fees vary widely according to the size of the firm and its location. A partner working for a Big Four firm in the City of London would charge a lot more to do your self-assessment tax return than a sole practitioner in a Cornish village, for example.
- Outsourcing - will your work be done locally or outsourced to another country? If it is outsourced, does that bother you?
- The state of their premises. Is it tidy and organised? Or chaotic and cluttered with files scattered everywhere? If the latter is true, that could be a reflection of the quality of their work.
Your accountancy fees will vary according to the region you live in, the type of business you run, whether you operate as a sole trader, partnership or limited company, and how complicated your affairs are in general. They will also vary according to whether you use your accountant for additional services on top of preparing your annual accounts, for example, preparing and filing VAT returns and running your payroll.