10 questions every entrepreneur should ask before hiring an accountant
Choosing the right accountant for your business is an extremely important task, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners who have never had a business accountant before.
To help you navigate your way to selecting the right accountant for your business, we’ve put together a list of questions to ask when choosing an accountant.
1. What is included in your services and your fees?
In your first meeting with an accountant, you should find out what their fees are, what services those fees pay for, and when the fees have to be paid by. This is the very first thing you need to find out.
You should also be clear on the various price brackets – what is, and isn’t, included. This will give you initial insight into any additional costs you may have to pay for in the future.
2. When will you be billing me for the services?
Once you’ve understood the price point and services included, you need an idea of when the payment occurs. You need this so you can plan your budgets ahead of time. The accountant will likely charge a flat rate or by the hour.
Find out how you will be billed for certain services, or whether it is included in the original price point and when you are expected to make the payments.
3. Who will be my main point of contact?
Ideally, this would be your accountant. However, sometimes your accountant may be busy with another client, away on holiday, or simply unavailable. During these situations, they will often ask an associate or colleague to help them.
Foreseeing that this may happen, you should ask the prospective accountant to meet the whole team or to have a call with everyone who will be working on your account. You will want to make sure that when your accountant isn’t available, you don’t need to waste time explaining the ins and outs of your business and case file to one of their associates.
4. What are your office hours?
Most accountancy firms in the UK are open from 9am to 5pm, however, if you are working shifts or have work commitments during the day it can be difficult to have some face to face time with your accountant. You should ask the accountant what their standard hours are, and if they have any services available after hours and if they offer any other communication methods.
5. Are you certified or a trainee?
Don’t be put off by asking your accountant (or any point of contact in the accountancy firm) this question. There are a number of employees working in accountancy firms who will have different levels and types of qualifications. It’s important for you to know if they are fully certified and qualified or they’re a trainee.
6. Which accounting systems does your accountancy firm use?
It probably won’t be the deciding factor for choosing your small business accountant, but it can be useful to know how your accountants’ software systems work. This information will probably be more important when you’re thinking about switching accountants.
7. Do you have any prior experience working with businesses in my sector/industry?
Your accountant should be aware of the regulations as well as any rules relating to reporting financial information within your industry. If they have had prior experience working with businesses in your industry it can be an added bonus, or if they have worked with small businesses in the past then they can often help you with planning and assist with the growth of your business.
8. Will you be able to advise and help me meet financial deadlines?
Failing to meet a HMRC deadline can be extremely costly to your business. You will want to ensure that your accountant is open to making sure that you never miss a deadline. If your business misses a deadline – even if it’s the accountant’s fault – it’s still your responsibility to pay the penalty or fine.
9. What is your complaints procedure?
Whilst it’s never easy bringing up this type of question in your first meeting with an accountant, it can be useful for finding out more about the company’s complaints procedure. You might want to save this question until the very end, as you wouldn’t want to sour your relationship with your accountant before it has started.
10. Do you provide any other services?
If you don’t ask, then you’ll never know. You may be surprised at the extra services some accountants can provide to help you get more for your money. From business advice for entrepreneurs to what you need to provide temporary workers with – your accountant can be a great source of information for you and your business.
Finding the right accountant for your business is an important step as they will hopefully be with you as your business continues to grow. At Alexander & Co., our specialist accountants for entrepreneurs and small businesses are here to help you with any of the financial and legal aspects of starting and growing your business.
Contact our expert Manchester city centre and Salford accountants today to find out more.