So, you’re shopping around for the most suitable accountant for you and your business which is a smart move already. Then, the next question you may be asking yourself is “Is this accountant a good match for me?”. We’re going to take a look at how to assess a potential accountant and what questions, you as a client should be asking.

1.  What are your fees?

Asking how much an accountant charges should be your primary concern. Commonly, firms charge on an hourly basis but will often offer you a monthly rate. If you are indeed offered the monthly package – ask what’s included in this. One accountant may offer services such as uploading cash receipts and invoices in accounting software, another may offer you monthly journal entries, balancing your bank statements and providing something along the lines of a profit and loss report for your perusal.

2. What services are you able to provide? 

Most accountancy firms offer a variety of services which could range from dealing with payroll to audit representation to monthly bookkeeping. Should the firm be made up of several professionals, you can expect them to specialise in different areas.

3. Are you able to represent me If I get audited by HMRC?

Expensive, stressful and time-consuming, taking up to 16 months and costing on average £5,000 in accountancy fees – you’d be forgiven for thinking that an HMRC tax investigation is a less than pleasant experience. Often dealing with your side of the investigation can involve a fair amount of work, which is why using an accredited service helps you drastically decrease your workload and gives you a few trustworthy points in the eyes of HMRC. You’ll also be far less likely to incur HMRC penalties with a professional on top of things.

4. Do you have experience of working with my kind of business?

This question comes around a lot in the accounting hemisphere. Ideally, you’ll be looking for an accountant with experience of dealing with a company of a similar size and revenue to that of your own. Ideally, the accountant has worked in a similar market sector to yours and will therefore have a better understanding of your business needs. Depending on whether your company uses cloud-based software or not, it’s good to know if your prospective firm has experience in dealing with cloud computing. 

5. How will we communicate?

Of course, the majority of firms use typical communication tools including Skype, email and teleconferencing. It’s still worth asking because there can be security concerns from older professionals in particular, who may not like emailing sensitive information.

6. How often should we meet to discuss my taxes?

One of the fundamental purposes of having an accountant is to function as a tax consultant. Many people make the mistake of meeting only once a year, right before taxes are due. This could be enough but it’s not really recommended. In an ideal world, you should be meeting your accountant twice a year, once in January or February and once in March or April.

7. What is your approach to tax planning priorities and your tax philosophy? 

Having an open discussion regarding your accountant’s tax philosophy can be really useful to you as a business owner. Are they aggressive or cautious about taking deductions? A few things to consider might be aspects such as home-office deductions and travel expenses. Needless to say, your accountant’s overall style and philosophy should be in-line with yours. 

For further help, including self-assessment tax returns, company accounting and expert business advice, get in touch with Neil Smith Accountancy, who provide first class small business accounting services throughout Essex and London.