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How to find an accountant that’s right for your business

A great accountant is invaluable. They can increase your tax efficiency, make sure you're compliant, improve your cash flow, and help source funding to support your growth plans. In this post, we guide you through how to choose an accountant, the questions to ask, and the typical fees you can expect to pay.

Knowing how to find a good accountant will set your business in good stead because they will:

  • Help to free up more of your time by handling basic functions, such as bookkeeping and tax returns
  • Support you with financial reporting, payroll, tax efficiency, and business planning and strategy as you grow
  • Help to reduce risk by ensuring your business taxes are correctly and accurately filed

In this post, we’ll explain how to find an accountant, what qualifications to look for, the key questions to ask, and importantly, what you can expect to pay in fees.

How to find a good accountant if you’re self-employed

Ideally, you want to find an accountant who has experience in the size and sector of the business you’re operating in. They will then have specific experience to help you continue to grow your business while making sure you’re tax efficient and compliant.

Here are a selection of ways you can find an accountant:

  • If you’re part of your local business community, ask for recommendations for accountants who work with companies in your area. Reputation matters
  • If friends or family members own a small business or are self-employed, ask if they’d recommend their own accountant
  • If you have a LinkedIn profile, use this platform to search for accountants who’ve been recommended by others in your field
  • There are voluntary organisations set up to provide help and advice to small businesses for free
  • Your local Chamber of Commerce would also be a good place to start in finding an accountant for your small business

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How to choose an accountant

Whether you have a growing business and need some professional accounting help, or want to know what to ask an accountant when starting a business, we’ve prepared a list of questions to help you choose the right fit.

Can you give me examples of related work experience you’ve had with businesses like mine?

If the accountant has worked with clients in a similar sector to yours, they’ll have a good understanding of the unique needs of your business. They’ll know about specific tax laws that will apply to you.

For example, if you work in construction, you’d be wise to find an accountant who is familiar with the intricacies of the Construction Industry Scheme. Ask your accountant if there are any special considerations for your business sector to check they’re aware of both risks and opportunities.

What services do you offer?

Ask what services the accountant offers to make sure they can support your business needs. This might range from basic bookkeeping and filing self-assessment tax returns to advice on financial compliance.

You can let the accountant know your growth plans and ask what services they could offer to support this. It’s much better to find an accountant who can grow with you rather than having to switch later down the line.

What qualifications and certifications do you hold?

Anyone can set themself up as an accountant or tax advisor, so it’s important to check for qualifications and certifications.

The Institute of Financial Accountants website is a helpful resource to find an accountant in your local area. Every accountant listed on this site is IFA qualified, so you know they’re chartered by a regulatory board and suitably qualified.

How to check if an accountant is qualified

We recommend you choose an accountant who is qualified through one of the recognised UK bodies: ICAEW, ICAS, CIMA or ACCA.

Being a member of one of these bodies offers you recourse should your accountant make a serious error while representing your business.

What are your rates?

When asking about the services you require, ask them to be priced up so you can compare the cost, like-for-like, with other accountancy firms.

Some accountants charge a one-off fee for a service, such as a tax return, while others will charge a monthly fee. Clarify this from the start.

Ask questions about your specific business needs

A good accountant will help your company grow by managing the complex financial work and offering advice to help you make sound financial decisions.

Ask questions about:

  • Expenses (what can be offset against your tax bill?)
  • The common pitfalls clients make to help you avoid the same (a good accountant should highlight risks as well as opportunities)
  • How much of your earnings should you set aside for tax (as a percentage)
  • Tips for managing cash flow (which can often be a problem for new businesses)

When asking these questions, the accountant should be willing to explain to you in terms that you understand. If they don’t, tell them you do not understand; a good accountant will be happy to break down complex topics for their clients.

If it’s important to you to have close contact with your accountant, you’ll also need to ask about the level of service you’ll get. Is it possible to meet on a monthly basis, for example? This will depend on how much support you feel you’ll need.

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What should my accountant do for me?

It’s not essential to have an accountant as a self-employed individual, but a growing business will reap the benefits of hiring a qualified accountant. Accountants will do a range of tasks for your business, including:

Accounting and bookkeeping

Accounting and bookkeeping form the foundations of every business.

Your accountant can help you to set up efficient processes from the start, giving you a clear picture of your company finances.

This allows you to spot any discrepancies early on, for example, problems with cash flow, late payments, and increasing costs, before they escalate.

Tax and self-assessment

Accountants will help to make sure you’re tax compliant: paying the right amount of tax while advising on tax efficiencies. They will also help with your tax planning.

This can help to reduce your tax liabilities, helping the growth of your business.

As a self-employed tradesperson, you may also benefit from asking your accountant to fill in and submit your self-assessment tax return at the end of the financial year.

This will not only save you time, but it’ll make sure you’re tax-efficient and avoid making errors that could result in a costly fine.

Business planning and growth management

An accountant can also utilise their experience to help you build or develop your business plan.

Their financial expertise will help you to extract greater value from your business through financial forecasting, identifying growth areas, and analysing costs.

Auditing

If you’re looking to push ahead with business growth, you may need to secure funding, which your accountant can provide guidance on.

Before approaching an investor or lender, you’ll need accurate financial reports and audits on your business costs, outgoings, and credit control.

accountant filing a tax return

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How much does an accountant cost?

So how much does it cost to hire an accountant? It will vary depending on the services you require:

  • The average cost of an accountant in the UK is around £25 – £35 per hour. This is for basic services, such as bookkeeping
  • For more complex work, for example, tax planning, you can expect to pay £150 per hour or more
  • For a tax return, you can expect to pay between £150 – £250. A complex return will cost more

Depending on the needs of your business, you could enquire about a combined package to help the day-to-day running of your business. In this instance, you might be charged a monthly fee, which could range from £60 – £250, depending on the size of your business.

Some accountants charge by the hour, some charge a monthly retainer, and others might charge a percentage of your turnover. Make sure this is clear before you instruct an accountant to work on your behalf.

Check out our article on the cost of an accountant for more information.

How much for an accountant to do a tax return?

An accountant normally charges somewhere between £150 – £250 for a tax return, depending on its complexity.

It’s good practice to keep on top of your books, making it part of your habit to record invoices and bills. This will help to make sure your accounts are in order for your accountant to file your tax return efficiently. This makes less work for the accountant and could even help to lower your bill!

How we’re helping our members to keep on top of their books

The online accounting software, 1Trade App from PoweredNow, will help you to keep on top of your books. It allows you to invoice and quote, keep track of jobs and manage customers. It’s free for all our Checkatrade members.

Even better, if you’re looking for software that does all the above but also lets you do expenses, accept credit and debit cards and submit your VAT return directly to HMRC, then you can upgrade to Powered Now and get 30% off as a Checkatrade member.

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All our members get a free finance app on us.

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Quick summary

Your accountant will be intimately involved in the operation of your business, so make sure to select someone you feel you can work with and that you can trust.

Recommendations and reviews can often be helpful in this respect, so take a moment to look at the accountant’s website and perhaps their LinkedIn profile.

  • Industry knowledge and experience – Choose an accountant who has experience working with other clients in your industry. They will have a good understanding of the specific tax laws that affect your business
  • Qualifications – Check the accountant is qualified through one of the recognised industry bodies: ICAEW, ICAS, CIMA or ACCA
  • Fees – Accountants can have different pricing structures depending on the services you require, so it’s best to clarify this at the offset
  • Future growth – Ask how the accountant has helped other clients to grow their businesses. You’ll want to make sure your accountant can support the plans you have for your own business

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