There are many reasons to stay with your current Accountant, no matter what, or are there?
Let’s look at 6 reasons small business owners give, to stick with what they have, even when something has happened to cause them to want to change to a new Accountant.
1. I’m still waiting for my accountant to complete last year’s accounts.
Always a sad reason to hear, because it means you feel trapped and you are not operating in real time – you’re stuck in the past.
To avoid the risk of missing HMRC & Companies House deadlines you need a timely and efficient service, with a guaranteed turnaround of your accounts within an agreed time-scale of you having supplied all the information to your Accountant.
Most Accountants will keep all the key dates for their clients on a dashboard, so they know when you need something done, or to check that you have done something you said you would do.
To help your feeling of being in control of your business, you could also keep your key dates in your smartphone with alerts set up before the actual deadline dates, for example, when your Annual Return is due to Companies House.
2. We can’t change accountants until after our year end.
All businesses are due to pay tax on the profits made in the year.
If you change Accountants before your year end, you both have time to assess the situation and see if any tax saving strategies could be implemented. With modern cloud accounting software, it’s never been easier to switch Accountants.
3. I’m worried that HMRC will start a tax investigation if I change Accountants.
HMRC have various methods of deciding who to investigate – but choosing a business or individual because they changed accountants isn’t one of them.
4. I have been with my Accountant for years and I feel bad about changing.
The world of accountancy is changing. Many new Accountants are starting up in business, and they tend to be using technology to save clients’ money, be systems focussed to free up client time, as well as being qualified, regulated and experienced. The barriers to entry in this market have come down, meaning you have the benefit of more choice. You can easily meet and talk to prospective Accountants free of charge before making any switching decisions.
A fresh look at your business, may give you the benefit of new ideas, and all well qualified and experience Accountants will be up to date professionally – not just your existing Accountant.
With many Cloud Accounting software providers vying for your business a new Accountant can help you get a good deal on the best tech for your business. We know for sure, that will not be a desk top version of anything on the software market.
If you think of your Accountant as a personal friend that can make it difficult to discuss what needs are not being met. In terms of business, many Accountants know that loyalty means clients stay put longer – but if you are losing out think about being loyal to your business.
5. I’m too small to move to a “proper” accountant.
You’ll be hard pressed to find an Accountant who will turn any prospective client away, no matter how small you think you are, and even if you haven’t made a sale yet.
This is because Accountants know that if you’re in business you are doing so to make money, you may need their advice, but you plan to make it work. Never think you’re too small to talk to any Accountant.
Make sure you know what level of qualification your Accountant has. Basically you need a “Chartered” accountant – there are 3 UK Accountancy Institutes. Anyone who is an Accounting Technician, that’s MAAT, is part-qualified and is, as the name suggests, at Technician (assistant) level of recognised qualifications. Just because you haven’t made a sale yet doesn’t mean you should take unnecessary risks with your business – real accountants like all types of real clients!
6. I don’t need an Accountant – I have a Bookkeeper.
Anyone can become a Bookkeeper in the UK. There is no need for specialist knowledge or qualifications. This means you run the risk of having errors & omissions in your accounts, especially in the complex and ever-changing area of taxation. If your Bookkeeper makes a mistake you are usually responsible, if you use a reputable accountancy firm, they will put right any mistakes they make – at their cost. Nowadays, most Accountancy businesses provide Bookkeeping, whether manual or partially automated. You can use an Accountancy firm for Bookkeeping only and surprisingly, the cost is usually cheaper than a Bookkeeper who often charges an hourly rate.
If you do your own tax return you’ll have a good knowledge of what is allowable and what is not, and sometimes the DIY approach is a necessity if you have limited cash resources.
What if I don’t want to tell my old Accountant myself?
Then don’t. Too much anxiety is caused by this one.
Once you have completed Stage 1 below, your new Accountant contacts your old Accountant, and that’s how you can terminate your agreement with your old Accountant. Wherever possible a polite e-mail is the usual way to communicate the change, and any professional Accountant will not make the transition difficult for you, indeed, many Accountants will say, you can always come back!
Some may insist you sign a form relinquishing their responsibility, but you can do this remotely, and usually with the support of the new Accountant.
In the Accountancy business it is inevitable that some client will move on, and the market today makes it even easier for you to do so. Many modern Accountants do not conform to the model of tying a client in, at all costs. You have a choice.
The Process – how it happens
Stage 1 – The Engagement
- Your new Accountant will engage you as a client. This means you will both sign an agreement – an engagement letter. This outlines the services to be provided for you, how you’ll pay, the records you are required to keep and the grievance procedure.
- You will be asked to provide proof of your identity and address to meet Money Laundering Regulations. This is usually a scan/photo of a passport and a recent utility bill.
- You will be asked to sign a form 64-8, or follow an on-line procedure, which authorises the new Accountants to act as your tax agent (and removes the old Accountant from you’re Tax affairs). This means the new Accountant can then access your HMRC tax records, on your behalf.
- Once the engagement letter and the Tax Agent Authority have been signed, returned and identification has been approved, you are good to go with your new Accountant.
Stage 2 – Gaining Clearance to act
- This stage is a required formality between the outgoing Accountant and the new Accountant. After you have been engaged as a client, your new Accountant writes a ‘clearance’ letter to your previous accountant informing them that the new guys are now handling your accounts and financial affairs. The letter also requests copies of your latest prepared accounts, tax returns and associated working papers.
- Your old Accountant should respond to the letter, acknowledging that they know of no reason why your new Accountant should not accept the engagement and include all of the requested accounts.
- When clearance has been received, the new Accountant should have all of the information needed to prepare your accounts and tax returns, or to get you started on your new accounting software.
Any new Accountant worth switching to, will be able to give you help and support with this process because reassurance may be what you need. You can then start building a new business relationship, with a new trusted advisor.