When is the right time to move to a new accounting firm?

We find that this is actually quite a common problem: you've been with an accountant for some time, but you are wondering if it's the right time to move on.

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This can be a big dilemma for many companies. And the reason is quite simple: we tend to want to stay with the same people we have worked with for a long period of time, rather than changing, as we cannot be certain that a different accountant would suit our needs any better. We have come across this issue many times over the years and have found that it is usually the result of a buildup of causes.

What are the main reasons for wanting to switch to a new accountant?

  • You're not happy with your existing service  
  • You don't feel that your accountant understands your business anymore, especially if it has changed and developed
  • Your phone calls are not being returned
  • The accountant is not as available as you’d like
  • Your accountant tends to be reactive and not proactive, meaning you always have to chase them for information and advice  
  • Your accountant is a kind of jack-of-all-trades, but you need someone who has a deep understanding of your specific business sector
  • You may feel that you are paying too much for the service you are receiving, especially if your accounting needs aren’t that complex
  • Your accountant is not keeping up with technological changes that allow them to provide up-to-the-minute information and reduce the amount they charge you

How to go about selecting a new accountant

After much consideration, you have decided that there are more cons than pros with your current accountant. It's time to move on to a new accounting company, but what are the key factors you need to consider?

  • UK accounting firms are usually members of a recognised accountancy body, such as the ICAEW (Chartered Accountants), ACCA (Certified Accountants), CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) or ICAS (in Scotland). Be sure that your accountant is qualified via one of them.  
  • General accountants can advise you on basic matters such as invoicing and tax returns. Their fees should be lower than those of chartered accountants who deal with more specialised services and advice.
  • You need an accountant who understands your specific business
  • Find an accounting company that will bring a fresh set of eyes and a different approach
  • Make sure you have a clear understanding of fees and precisely what they cover
  • Remember that it doesn’t matter if the new company charges a bit less or a bit more; it's more important that it provides the exact services you want
  • Reducing costs is great, but cutting corners is pointless and will lead to lost time, wasted effort and frustration
  • Word-of-mouth recommendations are usually the most solid and reliable. Check with colleagues in business organisations such as the local Chamber of Commerce, but make sure you also look at online reviews and testimonials to see what current and past clients say  
  • Small businesses want to be able to pick up the phone to their accountant at any time, so it makes sense to go with a smaller, local firm
  • Local businesses tend to have a lower turnover of staff, meaning your accountant will stay with you for many years. Compare that with larger regional and national companies where ambitious staff move around all the time
  • Given the times we live in, a quick Zoom meeting with your potential new accountant should be possible. Make sure you have a list of questions ready
  • Is the potential new accountant someone you see yourself having a long-term business relationship with? After all, you don’t want to have to go through this process regularly

What's the next step after deciding to move your business to a different accounting firm?

You should politely and firmly inform your accountant that you are moving to a new company. This is both courteous and correct, but also gives the accountant the opportunity to reset the relationship.

Give your accountant the name and details of the new company. According to regulations, accounting firms must transfer your files to the new firm.

Confirm the changeover with the new company and check whether they have received all the files. If this is not done to your satisfaction, you have the power to file a complaint with the regulatory body to which your former accountant belongs.  

Wrapping up

It's never the right OR wrong time to switch accountants! As you do with all aspects of your business, make sure to periodically review the services that you receive from your accountant. It can often help to write down a list of pros and cons of staying or moving on.

Your accountant is there to make dealing with your finances as painless as possible, so make sure you are with an accounting firm that is doing exactly that.

Good luck!