Questions to ask when changing Accountants
You would not ask your milkman to fix your car – you choose a contractor that is a specialist in their field. This should be no different to you. You may be a specialist in your industry, but are you a specialist also in accounts and tax?
Often when a person starts a business – they try to do everything themselves, to save money. Entrusting your financial affairs to someone else is a big step for many people.
During the past number of years in practice we have come across many excellent accountants doing a great job for their clients, however, there is also some disgraceful work from others.
Can you as a client protect yourself from bad service and advice that can lead to unexpected tax bills and investigations?
When choosing an accountant you will need to choose one you can know, like and trust. So like choosing a member of staff it is important to ask the right questions.
1. What qualifications do the principles have?
Often we are asked what the difference is between our Certified status and Chartered. Well apart from if you need to be audited, you will receive no additional benefit from an often higher charging Chartered firm. And it also does not necessarily mean they are also trained to do Tax work.
So one question to ask is – are the principles of the firm Tax Accountants not just Accountants or just a Tax Advisors and can therefore help in both areas, rather than having to rely on staff or even subcontractors?
Unfortunately, the word ‘accountant’ is not a protected word such as ‘solicitor’. Therefore anyone, with no training or back ground in accounts or tax, can set themselves up as an accountant and trade as such, so qualifications are a good indication that your accountant has been properly trained.
Not the be all and end all by any means, but merely an indication. There are many good accountants who are qualified by experience and really one that has spent years in business may well offer a better service than one that has only just qualified.
So if you can find one that is qualified and has years’ of experience all the better!
2. What is their ‘business’ experience?
Taking on an accountant should be viewed in some ways the same as taking on a senior member of staff or business partner. Has your chosen firm been in business for a number of years and therefore staff understand the needs and requirements of running a small business?
3. Do they hold a practicing certificate?
Being a member of one of the main accounting bodies means you have to be approved to run an accountancy business.
This means you have to satisfy the professional body that you are competent and also that each year you have under-taken additional training to keep your knowledge up to date.
Being member of a professional organisation means that should you have a complaint against the service or advice you receive they will investigate it for you and can sanction, fine and expel its members.
4. Can I see the firms PI cover?
PI (Professional Indemnity) insurance is very important for you as client. It protects you should you be given wrong ad-vice and suffers a financial loss. Being a member of a professional body ensures this is in place, up to date and the limit of cover is sufficient.
5. What is the fee charging structure?
Where possible always agree a fee in advance. An accountant should be able to provide a quotation which is a guide to the fees being charged, based on the information they have obtained from you.
Upon instructing your new firm you should be provided with a Letter of Engagement detailing each parties responsibility. This is the terms and conditions between you and your accountant. It is standard good practice and provides you with further protection.
What Continued Professional Development (CPD) training the accountants & general staff receive? Do they attend regular structured training to obtain CPD points?
7. What technology do they use?
Are they up-to-date, using modern technology?
Are all HMRC and Companies House submissions carried out on line?
Are the accounts and tax returns prepared using computerised programs and their IT infrastructure includes backups that protect your work?
8. Are They Proactive?
Do they provide regular newsletters with advice about the financial side of your business?
Do they remind you about all the varied important dates and deadline?
Do they provide regular updates on progress of your case via a nominated point of contact?
Do they confirm meetings, with a complementary text the day before?
Don’t charge and arm & leg for simple “over the phone” or “email reply” advice?
Do they have a network of contacts that can assist me in running my business?
10. Are they realistic?
Do they ensure the client pays the minimum amount of, yet correct, tax and not just stating they can always save tax – which just is not true, just to get my business?
11. Are they Approachable?
How approachable are they, do they have presentable offices, that you can meet them in a private environment?
Will they visit you at your workplace or home if you wish at a time convenient to you?
Make sure they never make you feel stupid for asking a question.
Do they speak Plain English and not jargon to try and impress you!?
Do you get on with them, could you work with them – do you like them?
12. How easy is it to change accountants to Avanti?
It simply involves a Letter of Engagement, HMRC forms and relevant ID – we take care of everything else – this includes contacting your previous accountant for the relevant professional clearance and copy documentation we will need. This should not be something your previous accountant charges for as is it standard good practice.
How Can We Help You?
- Our firm holds a practicing certificate with AAT.
- We are members of Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) / Federation of Tax Advisors and Institute of Certified Practicing Accountants.Accounting staff are qualified and some are “Fellows” of their institute and sit on regional committees
- The principles all have vast experience in running their own businesses
- We provide quotations and letters of engagement
- All our technology is up-to-date and backed up – our own IT arm of the Group ensures this.
- All staff attend regular continuing professional development training
- Our PI cover is up to date, required levels of cover and is available for inspection
- We remind you about all the important dates and deadlines
- Apart from a large client bank, the Group owns Avanti Networking – which provides a sphere of contacts in various areas of running a business from legal advice to HR to website development and IT support.
- We make the change to us painless – You simply sign a letter of engagement and a form for HMRC and produce relevant ID – and we do the rest
Emailed monthly information newsletter
- Providing free telephone advice (any complicated advice that requires investigation and calculations would be charged, but we would advise you)
- Providing maximum 4 hour response to emails and telephone messages where possible
- Invitations to free business seminars
- Services tailored to meet client requirements
- We can meet you at your premises or our offices, whichever is more convenient
- We can collect paperwork from your premises
- Free tax tips on twitter AVANTI_ACCS_TAX