Your accountant can sort out your tax return or your annual accounts and provide
advice on a range of issues, but how do you get the best return on the fees you pay
to an accountant?
Choose carefully. Look for accountants with experience of your type of business.
Anyone can set up as 'an accountant', so look for chartered or certified accountants,
whose qualified status is backed by membership of professional bodies. A large firm
suggests reliability, but a smaller one may respond better to your needs. Ask prospective
accountants how they can help your business. Request references and proof they have
professional indemnity insurance, before you make your final decision.
Explain your expectations. Your accountant will summarise terms and conditions in
a letter of engagement. Put your expectations in writing, too. Describe the level
of service you require, for example, how quickly you need queries to be answered.
Ask to deal with a specific contact, to help build a close professional relationship.
Ask questions. Check what other services your accountant can offer. These could include
guidance on setting up your business, preparation of financial forecasts, help with
loan applications, audits, investment advice and other suggestions for minimising
your tax liability.
Use your accountants’ contacts. Accountants specialising in your type of business
can often suggest good trade contacts. Perhaps your accountant knows a supplier who
can offer you a great deal or maybe they know of a potential investor.
Keep talking. Communicate regularly with your accountant to get the best possible
value from the relationship. Schedule quarterly meetings to review your firm’s performance,
so you can better plan for the future. Be sure to meet before producing your end-of-year
accounts or tax return.
Keep user-friendly records. If necessary, ask your accountant for advice about how
best to maintain your financial records. If your books are easier to read, you will
save them time, which should mean a lower bill.
Do the easy jobs yourself. To reduce your outgoings, take care of simple bookkeeping
tasks yourself, possibly by using accounting software. You could then better focus
your accountants’ efforts where they best serve your business.
Delegate. If your time would be better spent concentrating on sales or product development,
you could ask an accountant to take greater responsibility for your bookkeeping and
payroll. Although a more expensive option, this could free you up to make more profitable
use of your time.
Shop around. Armed with recommendations of good accountants, get a full breakdown
of an accountant's charges and services. Work out which one offers you best value
for money (and that's not necessarily the cheapest, of course). And, at least once
a year, review the value for money you receive. If you believe you can better advice
and value elsewhere, go elsewhere.
Seek advice. An experienced accountant can offer sound advice in a number of areas.
For example, they could help with your business plan, help you estimate the cost
of new projects or advise on the levels of investment needed to achieve your business
development goals. If you decide to sell up, they could even help with valuing your
business and advise on the sale to minimise your tax liability.