They may never make it onto your Christmas card list. They probably won’t ever end up sharing a bottle of wine in your living room. But, having a great relationship with your accountant is still essential.
Whoever is going to guide you through some of the most stress-inducing parts of being a business owner, needs to be someone you trust. You’ll need to feel comfortable with them, and like they can be relied upon fully.
And one of the best ways to ensure that you have this kind of positive and productive client-accountant relationship? Be meticulous during the selection process.
When hunting down the right accountant for you, we always recommend compiling a list of questions that you can ask any potential candidates. It will help you obtain the information you need to make an informed decision.
Below is a list of questions that you should really be asking any accountant before signing up to work with them. Of course, this is just a starting point. Tweak and tailor it according to your own personal requirements!
Use the list below as a non-exhaustive guide to creating your own list of questions that you’re going to need answers to.
What can you do to help me stay tax efficient?
One of the main motivations for hiring an accountant is the assurance that you stay as tax-efficient as possible, and on top of any important tax-related deadlines.
You’ll need to know that:
- your accountant is aware of, and up to date with, all of the possible tax relief options you could be taking advantage of;
- as well as any changes to the current tax laws and regulations.
Not only will this help make sure you stay on the right side of HMRC, it will also provide you with ways to improve your cash flow and bottom line.
This kind of information is something your accountant should be making you aware of and steering you towards as part of their ongoing services. After all, it’s their job to make sure that your business stays in good tax health year-round, not just when it comes to crunch time at year-end.
Do you have specific experience in my sector or industry?
This one doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker, but it is useful to know whether or not the accountant that you’re talking to has experience within your specific industry or sector.
If they haven’t, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to do a great job for you regardless. But, if they have, then it can only be an advantage to you.
Their experience and knowledge will be more in-tune with how to best improve the tax efficiency and financial health of your business, if they’ve been there and done it before.
Will I be assigned my own accountant?
Different firms will opt to work in different ways. Some accountancies will assign you your own dedicated accountant, and you’ll build a one-to-one working relationship with them. Others will provide you with multiple points of contact.
Deciding which is best for you is really all down to preference, and how you think you will be able to get the most out of the partnership.
Find out from the beginning how the accountant or firm operates, so you can make sure that their approach aligns with your requirements.
What is included with your fees?
You wouldn’t purchase anything in the supermarket or online without checking it was within your budget first. It’s advisable to take the same approach when selecting an accountant, too.
Use your initial conversations to find out about the various pricing structures and what each one covers. At this point, you could also do a little digging into how the accountant calculates their fees, be it by the hour or a fixed rate fee, for example.
As well as ascertaining what the fees include, it’s also a good idea to use this as an opportunity to find out what isn’t covered.
Establishing this information from the very beginning is an effective way to protect yourself from any hidden costs or nasty surprises further down the line.
Which accounting programmes do you use?
Finding out which programmes and software an accountant uses might turn out to be crucial.
They may recommend truly useful products that you weren’t aware of, or might be stuck in systems and processes that simply don’t suit you. It’s important to find out whether or not you’re on the same page.
What is the contact and communication process?
These days there are multiple approaches to business accountancy, each with their own unique benefits.
Some accountants run their operations entirely online, some prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, and some will be a hybrid of both digital and face-to-face services.
Finding the right approach for you is really down to personal preference and your own individual requirements.
Speak to potential accountants about how they communicate with their clients. It’s a great way to get a feel of what you think might work best for you too.
Some other great questions to pose any potential accountant
- How can you ensure I will never incur a penalty?
- When and how will I be billed for payments?
- How will you deal with any complaints or issues I might have?
- Do you have any references, case studies or testimonials?
- What other services do you provide that might be of benefit to my business?
Got a tax-related question that you’d like answering by an expert? Our Ask a Tax Question service is a great place to start!