How To Choose An Accountant

Now more than ever, an accountant is indispensable to the success of every business. But there's a daunting array of accountants and accountancy firms to choose from -- from sole practitioners to huge national accountancy corporations, and from general chartered accountants to highly specialised Certified Public Accountants (CPA).

Today, new and different entities are clamouring for your business -- companies such as American Express, who have recently added accounting and tax services to their list of business interests, areas that were once the exclusive provinces of the CPA.

You might think that a start up or small business isn't big enough to need a charted accountant or certified chartered accountant, but unless you're an expert in tax and finance - in short an accountant yourself - this simply isn't the case, an accountant will provide your business with a great deal of essential support.

Probably the most important consideration in choosing an accountant is whether you choose a specialist accountant or general accountant. If you need an accountant for a specific purpose, such as taxation or corporate recovery, it may be worth seeking the help of an expert accountant in that field. Although general UK chartered and certified chartered accountants may have some knowledge of these specific areas of accountancy, they are unlikely to have enough knowledge to deal with the finer details. However, if you need an accountant to take care of all aspects of your business accounts or personal finances then a specialist accountant probably won't have enough general knowledge to help you.

Secondly you need to consider the size of the accountancy firm, and ask yourself whether you want the one-to-one contact of a smaller accountancy firm or the would you prefer to have a team of UK accountants dedicated to your finances, as is the case at medium to large-sized accountancy firms.

If you need a variety of accountancy jobs doing by your accountant then it is worth knowing exactly which services you need, such as tax returns, end of year statements, financial planning advice, or help with your business plan. Then you must ask each prospective accountant whether they can offer all the services you need and which areas, if any, they are specially trained in.

It is also worth taking recommendations from your friends and business associates, and asking them important questions about their accountants, such as does their accountant contact them throughout the year, not just at tax time? And does their accountant offer them proactive advice? Reputation wins accountancy firms a lot of business so they will not mind if you talk to present customers before agreeing terms with them.

Finally, you must get along with your accountant, share a similar philosophy about business, and be sure that they understand your wants and needs clearly before you join forces. However, once you've asked all the important questions, taken advice from others and checked the accountant's qualifications, you should feel secure in the knowledge that they will look after your finances as if they were their own.