Ensuring you have a reliable accountant is an essential part of running your contracting company. Not only will a good accountant save you money in tax savings they will also ensure you meet your legal obligations with Companies House and HMRC. Knowing what deadlines you need to meet and what is expected of you as a director can become a mine field if you have not run a company before. Without an accountant to help you in this area you could risk incurring penalties and fines, or potentially a criminal record.
When it comes to choosing an accountant it is advisable to work with a specialist firm for contractors and freelancers. Such firms will be fully up to speed with issues that will be relevant to yourself and your company such as IR35 legislation and the impact this will have on the way you take money out of the business.
It is always a good idea to do some shopping around to find an accountant that will best suit you. Whilst recommendations from friends and colleagues are extremely valuable and shouldn’t be ignored this doesn’t always mean a friends accountant will be right for you. As we all know one size does not always fit all and an accountant is no exception.
To ensure you get best value for money from your chosen accountant we have put together a check list of things to consider when decide who is best for the job;
Will you be paying a fixed monthly amount for their services
Most contractor accountants will work on a fixed monthly fee basis but it is always worth double checking on this as the last thing you want is a surprise bill. Double check if the packages they offer are inclusive of everything you will require or will you need to pay extra on top of the monthly fee for things such as business insurances, registering your company at their address or a second director’s tax return.
Are there restrictions on when you can contact them or ask questions
Can you only contact the firm between 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday or do they operate a full or reduced weekend and evening service, in particular for urgent queries that can’t always wait until Monday.
Do they provide cloud based accounting software
Ask if the accountancy firm provides a cloud based accounting package within their monthly fee. If they do not provide this type of service check how they require you to keep these records as their method may be more time consuming. If they give the option to have them complete the bookkeeping records on your behalf check what visibility you will have to the current position of the company’s financial affairs.
Will you be given a dedicated contact within the accountancy firm
Some contractor accountants will refrain from giving you one point of contact within the firm and instead operate a ‘call centre’ or ‘team’ style approach where you deal with the first person that happens to pick up the phone within an accounting team. Whilst their level of service and advice may be spot on and exactly what is needed there is something more comfortable about having a single point of contact that knows your history and understands your needs.
Will your main contact in the firm be a fully qualified accountant
If your chosen accountancy firm allocates a single person of contact to their clients ensure they are in fact a qualified accountant. When enquiring about who will be managing your accounting and tax affairs ask if they are ACCA or ACA qualified.
Do you get a good feeling about your accountant and the relationship you are entering into
Before signing up with an accountancy firm ask to speak with the dedicated accountant you will be working with to ensure they have a personality and style of working that is right for you. Unfortunately we can't gel with everyone in life so you need to ensure your personalities don't clash and you feel comfortable with them and confident that they will give you the service and advice you need.
How many clients is your accountant personally responsible for
Check how many clients your accountant looks after. If this is hitting a 3 figure number is it likely that your dedicated time and quality of service may be compromised. Whilst this may not be the case for many great accountants it is always worth asking to check you feel comfortable with the numbers involved.
Can you meet with your accountant in person
It is not always necessary to meet with your accountant on a regular basis but if the requirement arose can you meet with your accountant at their office or at another location. If you can meet with them is there any restrictions on how many times in a year you can meet, is there an additional cost for meetings. Check to make sure they would be able to meet with you at a time that would be convenient for you around your work schedule if you can only meet on evenings or weekends.
Who will be carrying out work for yourself and company
Will your accountant be the only person that will be giving you advice and preparing and filing documents with HMRC and Companies House for you? It is always worth checking as not everyone will be comfortable with unqualified or more junior members of the firm conducted work on your behalf.