Keeping the finances well organised and maintaining good cashflow are central to any business’s success. To do this, almost all businesses, from sole traders to large organisations, need professional accounting help.
An accounting professional can help with all financial matters, from ensuring you have effective accounting procedures in place to making sure you’re paying the right amount of tax and staying on the right side of HMRC. Not only that, they can also offer sound business advice to help you succeed.
It’s important to find the accounting help that’s right for your business so you can build a long-term working relationship and so they can really get to know you, your business and what you’re trying to achieve.
Know what help you need
If you Google “small business accountant” you’ll be faced with a huge number of results, from national accountancy firms to local sole trader accountants and bookkeepers. Some will specialise in a specific field, whilst others will offer general services. It can be overwhelming.
Rather than searching aimlessly amongst a sea of accountants, it will help you to understand what help you need. Narrow it down:
- Do you need someone to process your invoices and receipts?
- Would you like an accountant to prepare your tax return?
- Will the accountant be running payroll for you?
- Do you require an expert who can create budgets, forecasts and reports?
You may find that you would be better off sharing the work between an accountant and a bookkeeper, for example.
Accountant or bookkeeper?
For less complex accounting work, you may be better off using a bookkeeper and this can save you money too.
A bookkeeper can support you if you need help to track transactions such as payments, purchases and sales but don’t need any other financial or accountancy services. You can always pay an accountant for specific tasks such as checking and filing your tax return.
However, even if you work with a bookkeeper, you will still probably benefit from the expertise of an accountant. They can help with all kinds of issues such as:
- Payroll if you have employees
- Setting up or changing your company structure
- Producing documentation
- Applying for a bank loan
- Much more
You can also benefit from simply having a regular chat with your accountant to go over your business and finances and to pinpoint any opportunities or risks facing you.
Choosing the right help
Once you have a better idea of the help you need you can start looking for an accountant and/or bookkeeper. Asking for recommendations from business contacts is always good. There are plenty of specific places to look online too.
Use our Find-an-Expert site to find an accountant or bookkeeper in your area who specialises in small businesses and is a QuickBooks specialist. Those who have a ‘Certified’ badge next to their name in the listings have passed a stringent QuickBooks proficiency exam so you can be sure they are true QuickBooks experts.
You can also check with professional bodies like:
- The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
- The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
- The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
You may want to make a shortlist of a few accountants who have the expertise you need and talk to them each individually to get an idea of who is the best fit. Useful questions to ask include:
- Do they work with other businesses like yours?
- What other companies do they have as their clients?
- Can they work with the accounting software your company uses?
- If they’re a firm of accountants, will you be dealing with a specific person?
- Do they understand your business and the industry you work in?
- What is their charging structure? Do they charge by the hour or a flat fee?
You should ensure that any accountant you work with is qualified and recognised – they should have the words ‘certified’ or ‘chartered’ in their title. You should also check they have professional indemnity insurance so you have some protection in the unlikely case there are any problems with the accounting work they carry out for you.
Of course, the other key thing is choosing the accountant or bookkeeper that you are comfortable with – you will get a feel for who ‘gets’ your business and speaks in language you can understand. Your relationship with your accountant is a critical one for your business so choose carefully.
Have you found your perfect accountant or bookkeeper? Any tips for other businesses on choosing one?
Are you an accounting professional? What other tips would you give to businesses on choosing an accountant or bookkeeper?
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