How to Choose an Accountant – 5 Golden Tips

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An accountant is one of the most important advisers any business or private person will have a professional relationship with. So it’s understandable that you would want to pick the right person or firm to do bookkeeping, manage your taxes, plan your budget, and advise you on the financial and accounting matters you’re dealing with. But what should you consider when picking an accountant? There are many professionals out there, and it’s hard to know which one is the most suitable one for you. So here are 5 tips for picking the best accountant for you:

Make sure they have the qualifications

Most accounting firms are members of a recognised accountancy organisation such as the ICAEW (Chartered Accountants), ACCA (Certified Accountants), CIMA (Chartered institute of Management Accountants) or ICAS (in Scotland). You need to make sure that your accountant is qualified through one of these bodies.

General accountants can advise you on such everyday matters as invoicing and tax returns. In general, their fees will also be lower than those of chartered accountants. However, for more specialised services and advice, you can turn to a chartered accountant. If it’s a chartered accountant you require, check their qualifications before deciding whether you should that firm or professional.

Check if they have experience with clients similar to you

It’s essential to check whether the accountant has previous experience with clients similar to you. Having experience and knowledge with similar clients will often mean better services and advice, as well as better communication between you and the accountant. They are likely to be more familiar with all the challenges you’re facing and understand your needs, or even predict them, due to their ongoing work with similar businesses or people.

If you’re a small business, having industry expertise is also important. For example, if you’re looking to start a restaurant and need an accountant to handle the financial regulation aspect of things, then you are best going with a firm or a professional who have handled other clients from the hospitality industry. Different sectors often have different regulation sets and requirements, so you would want to go with an accountant who’s thoroughly familiar with the specifics of your industry.

Don’t shy away from asking for client references and checking client testimonials, if the firm has those on its social profiles or website. You can also use review websites like Trustpilot to get a better idea of the accountant’s clients and their experience with the firm.

Use professional networks to get recommendations

In view of the previous tip, on hiring an accountant who has experience in your industry, it’s essential to leverage professional networks. If you belong to a professional association, you can check and see if they have a list of recommended professionals you could use.

Alternatively, you can reach out to other members of the association to get recommendations and see how they went about picking an accountant.  

Linkedin is also a good place to do your research. If you don’t already belong to a professional Linkedin group, you can join one that sounds relevant to you and ask for recommendations. Clients who’ve received good service from an accounting firm will only be too happy to recommend their accountant and see that they help more people and businesses.

Meet with your candidates

There is nothing like meeting in person or via Zoom to get a sense of the firm and the accountants you’ll be working with. Some accountants offer a free consultation or audit, so you can always take advantage of those to size up your candidate.  

It’s important to go into those meetings prepared, with a list of questions that will allow you to learn more about the firm and make an informed decision. You can ask about the number of accountants in the firm and their experience, you can also ask about current and past clients. Questions about day-to-day communication with your accountant and work processes can also help you decide if this is the right firm for you.  

Get a clear view of the fees you’ll be paying

Many firms provide a wide range of services and have complex fee structures, so it’s important to gain clarity of the fees you’ll be paying beforehand. Some services will come at a monthly retainer (for example, bookkeeping), while others will require an hourly fee (such as tax planning). So it makes sense to create a list of your accounting needs (such as “starting a company” or “payroll management”) or even a detailed list of the services you will require.  

Once you have this list, you’ll be able to get a itemised quote from a firm, detailing how each service will charged and what is the fee. This quote will also make it easier to compare firms and accountants to other candidates. When considering the quote, you also need to see which sort of review and communication processes each firm offers.  

For example, one firm can include a monthly review meeting in their fee, while other will offer a weekly call as well. If you need frequent communication, and the accountant only offers monthly meeting as part of the quote, then you might need to be charged more for more frequent meetings, and that’s something to consider.

Another factor to consider is long-term partnership with your firm or accountant. For example, if you’re starting a business, you have specific needs that can be met by your accountant of choice. However, if you plan to grow your businesses, you might need different or additional services along the way. Seeing as you probably prefer to work with one firm over a long period of time, rather than change your accountant annually, it’s best to check if your firm of choice can accommodate your different needs.  

Of course, some needs are difficult to anticipate, so it makes sense that you might need to change firms along the way. However, many accountancy firm and accountants will be able to adapt to your changing needs and offer you the services you need.