Before choosing an accountant, consider the size and complexity of your business - you might need someone who understands a particular type of business. You should also consider what other services your business may need from an accountant.
It's best to start looking for an accountant well before you need to use one, to give yourself enough time to make an informed decision.
It is recommended that you look for someone who has professional accounting qualifications. It is also advisable to ensure that potential advisers have professional indemnity insurance.
Accountancy is a complex area and there are many accountancy associations to choose from. You may wish to seek advice or recommendations from business associates, your bank or lawyer, or from professional or trade associations - particularly if you're looking for an accountant that specialises in your industry.
Once you have identified some potential candidates, draw up a shortlist of about six accountants you'd like to contact.
What to look for in an accountant
You should speak directly to each accountant on your shortlist.
- Experience - eg do they have experience in your sector and of businesses of a similar size? Can they deal with your business' specific needs?
- Costs and charges.
- Size and personnel - eg how many partners do they have and who would look after your business? Sometimes smaller accountancy practices suit smaller businesses.
- Efficiency - what response times do they work to?
- Additional services - can they offer specialist business advice or help beyond basic accountancy services?
If their experience and services match what you are looking for, the next step should be to arrange a visit with them to discuss your business needs in more detail. You should check whether you will be charged for this meeting - see ten things to ask before hiring an accountant.
Once you have chosen an accountant, let them know that you have selected them and they will issue a letter of engagement, which should detail:
- your responsibilities
- the accountant's responsibilities
- their fees and how they will be charged
Qualified accountants usually have the word 'chartered' attached to their title, indicating that their body was incorporated by Royal Charter.
You can search for a chartered accountant on a range of online directories including: