Appointing an accountant to deal with your business and tax matters is an important
step – making an incorrect choice can lead to poor advice, possibly unwarranted attention
from HM Revenue & Customs and added to that it can cause you anxiety and stress.
It really shouldn't be like that!
That first meeting with an Accountant is an opportunity for you to make sure that
this person will suit your needs, both technically and as someone you would feel
comfortable to work with.
If you appoint that person to be your Accountant you will be paying them fees for
their services – and you will naturally wish to get Good Value for your hard-earned
money. You should feel comfortable in asking them questions at that first meeting,
to enable you to assess their suitability to your own particular set of requirements.
So what sort of questions should you ask? Well, here are some things for you to
1. What precise services do you need now and in the near to medium future? Can this
Accountant offer the full range of services needed or do they sound a bit "woolly"
when asked about certain aspects, eg VAT or payroll? Do they fully understand for
example the various options for VAT Return preparation and are they able to ensure
that you are on the most suitable scheme for your business?
2. What professional, hands-on experience does this Accountant have of dealing with
businesses or personal tax matters like yours? You need your Accountant to have
plenty of experience with dealing with Clients just like you! Someone from a big
firm of Accountants for example may not have had any relevant experience of dealing
with all the services required by a small business. What is their own personal proven
3. If you have a small private limited company and say, require book-keeping, payroll,
VAT Return preparation as well as end of year accounts for your company what systems
does the Accountant have in place to ensure that all deadlines are met without you
having to do all the chasing?
4. When you ask the Accountant a question – do you actually understand what they
say by way of answer? Or is it a bit unclear or muddled? Or even worse, do they
give you a Politician's Answer, ie not actually answer the question at all?!
5. If you are a busy person (who isn't?!) then will the requirements set out by this
Accountant impose on your normal working day or can matters normally be dealt with
electronically (eg email) or by 'phone? And if a meeting proves necessary is it
possible to arrange that at a time convenient to you?
6. What security measures are in place to protect your confidentiality? – eg we use
a secure Portal for sending and receiving documents rather than simply sending them
as an email attachment with all the risks inherent in that.
7. How long is that Accountant likely to keep your business accounting records for?
Can you get them back any time you wish or do they leave the Accountant's premises
to be sent elsewhere for processing? If they leave the premises, where do they go?
For example, we consider that it is reasonable for you to expect to have your records
back within say one week, together with a memory stick, if you so wish, holding scanned
copies of your relevant documents. All your documents remain on site with us and
8. How easy is it to get hold of the Accountant? That might be difficult to judge
at the outset but think about the ease, or otherwise, of booking that initial appointment.
Was the person who dealt with your initial enquiry organised, knowledgeable and
9. And finally, FEES! Is their fee structure clear? Is the Quotation fixed and in
writing? If you choose to stop having that Accountant acting for you will you suddenly
find that you are locked in to a long-term contract? Are there any exit charges if
you leave? If so, what are those charges for and is all of that in writing too?
If you have been paying your fees on a monthly basis do you lose the "unspent" part
of those fees if you decide to leave that Accountant part way through the year?
SO TAKE A BIT OF TIME TO PLAN YOUR FIRST MEETING WITH A NEW ACCOUNTANT
ENSURE THAT YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ON WHICH TO BASE YOUR
AND LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS TOO – IF IT DOESN'T FEEL COMFORTABLE THEN IT PROBABLY
WON'T WORK OUT AS WELL FOR YOU AS IT SHOULD