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Choosing the right accountant is not as simple as plumping for the nearest, most expensive, or most highly reviewed firm. 

An accountant should help you to make smarter decisions, grow your business and most importantly relieve some of the pressures off you. We’ve gathered 10 top tips to help you in your research and guide your decision. 

1. Do they have the relevant expertise?

It’s important to ascertain the level of experience any potential accountancy firm and its accountants have. 

  • How long has the firm been established? 
  • What backgrounds do the team members have? 
  • Do they have experience dealing with companies of a similar size/revenue to yours?
  • Are they up to date with all the latest regulatory and compliance adherence?

Above all, they need to know how the tax system works but also how that would work for your business. If the accounting firm can offer you an accountant with real-world experience in your field, that’s a good sign. 

2. Are they qualified?

Chartered (or Chartered Certified) accountants are highly qualified professionals who have gone through years of training and exams. Not only do they have to commit themselves to continual development, but they must also follow a strict Code of Ethics. 

The below six are globally recognised accreditations. Look out for these when you’re choosing which accounting firm to use:

  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
  • Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) 
  • Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)

3. What services do they provide?

When deciding on a chartered accountant you should review the services they provide. Most accountants will provide basic services such as setting up payroll, liaising with HMRC, filing tax returns and so on. You need to know which additional services they will offer on top of that. 

For instance, will their services be adaptable? Your needs as a business are bound to fluctuate and change and so the services your accountant can offer you should evolve alongside that. 

4. What are their fees?

With a core package of services, accountants can offer fixed fees to businesses. Some might offer an hourly or monthly fee with additional costs for extra services. This is always good to factor into the decision process. If you’re a small business, you may prefer a monthly retainer so you know how much your accounting services will cost. 

Remember—just because one chartered accountant charges more than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the service is better. 

5. Will they be proactive?

The tasks you’d like your chartered accountant to relieve you of will vary depending on the size and needs of your business. Although, it is important to consider whether the way you divide your workload is worth it. Outsource your weak points and concentrate on your strong points and what you enjoy doing!

Just remember, a good accountant will always be proactively looking to save you money and reduce your workload.  

6. Do they understand your needs?

Your needs as a company are uniquely yours at one point in time. It’s great to find an accountant who understands straight away. Subsequently, they can come in armed with expertise and solutions and get you great results. But—what happens when those needs change? 

It’s vital they understand their field, your needs, and your sector. If they can identify and understand that, then they should have no problem adapting. Therefore, you can continue your partnership together and save yourself the headache of finding a new accountant.  

7. Will they go the extra mile?

Ultimately, this will come down to character. Some people will go the extra mile to help you out simply through the love of the job. Will they be able to advise you on matters outside of your core package? If they notice a way you could be saving money, will they let you know? Do they know of any grants or subsidies your company could be applying for?

8. How accessible are they?

In the world of the digital, the location of your accountant might not seem important. However, their level of availability and accessibility are. How contactable you need your accountant to be will depend on the services you pay them for. In short, if you need something changed or to be looked at urgently, will they be there in one capacity or another? Be it that they pop to the office, call, or jump on Zoom. 

9. Are you digitally compatible?

There is a strong likelihood you work digitally within your business. Therefore, it’s important to find out whether your accountant works digitally too. If you are an entirely paperless, digital start-up then an accountant still working on paper and traditional hard drives isn’t going to mesh well. Consequently, if you’re both using cloud technology, this will help to merge both of your systems and way of working. That means minimal downtime and zero disruption as you make the transition to hiring an accountant. 

10. Can you make a personal connection?

Finally, whilst things can be done online, don’t underestimate the need to make a personal connection. You will be working closely with this person. They need to know the ins and outs of your sensitive financial situation. In other words, without a connection, you can’t build trust or a good working relationship. 

Do they have connections? Do they love what they do? Do they understand you and your business? You will be working together towards achieving those goals, so a personal connection is important. 

Thomas Westcott’s Accounting Services

Thomas Westcott is one of the largest independent accountancy practices in the South West, with 17 offices across Devon and Somerset. 

We have approximately 260 staff members including 33 partners and 12 Directors, the firm acts for a wide variety of clients ranging from individual tax return cases to businesses operating in local, national, and international markets.

Thomas Westcott prides itself on providing a totally professional service whilst being easy to talk to and explaining issues in straightforward terms.

Click here to discover our specialist teams to see how we can assist you today. Want to speak to us? We have several offices across the South West, you can find out the details here