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Choosing the best accountant

What to consider when making your decision

Searching for an accountant can be quite overwhelming. There are so many different companies out there all claiming to be specialists. So how on earth are you supposed to narrow it down to just one? And how do you know you’ve chosen the right one for you?

Here are some things to consider to help you make the right choice.

1. Consider the best accountant 

There are many different types of accountants to choose from in the UK. Depending on your individual circumstances, perhaps you’d like one which specialises in services for limited company accountancy? Or perhaps your company is working in a specific sector and you want to work with an accountant who is knowledgeable in that area? Or perhaps your company operates in construction and you need help from your accountant in understanding additional obligations under CIS as an example?

Whatever area of expertise, you can take comfort in the fact that there is almost certainly an accountant out there which will meet your requirements. However if you’re a small small limited company, we recommend that you search specifically for accountancy services that specialise in this area. In doing this, you’re more likely to find a company that has the specialist industry and tax knowledge you need, is able to provide you with a tailored advice and gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t. 

2. Look for an accountancy service that suits your requirements

When you decide to set up your own limited company, you become a director of a company and have statutory obligations and responsibilities. Some directors prefer to have a more comprehensive accountancy service, whereby a dedicated team of accountants are on hand to prepare your company returns and bookkeeping. Others prefer to have a lighter touch and do some of the accountancy themselves. Whichever route you choose, ultimately you are responsible for managing your company and meeting your tax and accounting obligations.

Ask yourself what is important to you? Would you benefit from having a dedicated accounts team who provide a safe pair of hands to help with limited company accountancy along with advice on tax related issues? Or are you happy with less support and do more of the accountancy and book-keeping yourself? Once you’ve answered those questions, you can begin to narrow your search and identify the ideal accountancy service for you. At PayStream, we offer a range of accountancy services which could be of real benefit to you. 

3. Ask your network for recommendations

A recommendation from someone you trust can be invaluable. If any of your contacts are running a business, ask them who their accountant is and whether or not they are happy with the service they receive. You’re more likely to receive an honest and unbiased review by doing this. According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than they do any paid advertising.

As well as that, sometimes getting a recommendation from a friend can be financially rewarding. Many accountants offer incentives for referring people to their services, whether that be in the form of a voucher or cash bonus. Here at PayStream, you can earn a member referral reward each time you recommend someone to any of our services. Click here for more info and T&Cs. We'll also ensure the service is right for your friend or family and tailored to their individual circumstances.

4. Choose a provider that has a range of services so that they can fully support you 

You may have heard of IR35 or the Off-Payroll working legislation. Both pieces of legislation refer to recent changes whereby the responsibility for determining a contractor's IR35 status has moved to the end client, with the person paying the limited company (usually the agency) being responsible for deducting the necessary tax, if IR35 applies.

The impact of this shift in responsibility is that agencies and end clients are now more cautious of working with off-payroll workers, outside IR35. So you may find yourself working on a contract that falls inside IR35. If that does happen then choosing to work through an umbrella company is probably the best option for you. That’s because it’s one of the most hassle free ways to work. You can be set up in a matter of minutes and there are no unexpected tax bills as the umbrella company takes care of all of the necessary PAYE and NI deductions for HMRC. They also provide you with a record of continuous employment which can be great for mortgage or loan applications. For a full list of pros and cons, click here to view our benefits of working through an umbrella company guide.

Choosing a provider that offers both accountancy and umbrella company services means that they’ll be able to support you regardless of your IR35 status.

5. Make sure there are no hidden costs

Before you decide to officially choose an accountant, make sure that there are no hidden costs to any of the services you assumed would be included with your accountancy service. A trustworthy accountant will always be able to provide you with a breakdown of costs and detailed description of their service. 

6. Does the accountant have a good reputation? Are they experienced?

There are so many ways you can research the background of an accountant. Usually a quick Google search will tell you how long the company has been trading. Many of the leading accountancy practices have been operating in the UK for over 20 years, setting the standard for the industry as a whole during that time.

As well as that, you can usually get a good idea of the level of service a provider offers based on their Google and Trustpilot reviews. Anything above 4 stars is usually a good indication that the service they provide is good. It’s always worthwhile reading what customers are saying in their negative reviews, and more importantly looking at how the company responds to those negative reviews.

7. Compliance and accreditations

It may be tempting to choose the cheapest option, or one that is promising substantially higher take home pay than another. However, there is usually a reason why this is the case. Over recent years HMRC have been cracking down on tax avoidance schemes and those who engage with them, so we can’t recommend enough that you only consider accountants that operate compliantly. As appealing as it sounds to save a extra few pounds here and there, it’s really not worth the potential risk of an HMRC investigation and any subsequent fines. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

In order to pick a reputable accountant look out for those who are run by chartered accountants, we also recommend that you look at the company’s professional accreditations, such as the FCSA. They are the UK's leading professional membership body dedicated to raising standards and promoting supply chain compliance for the temporary labour market. In order to obtain FCSA membership, the provider needs to be independently audited by top industry experts in order to demonstrate the highest standard of compliance.

8. If you’re unhappy, don’t be afraid to switch accountants

You don’t have to put up with a mediocre service. If you’re receiving slow responses or are worried that your accountant is giving you inaccurate advice, then request to leave them and search for a new accountant. Some directors are under the impression that it’s time consuming and difficult to switch accountants but here at PayStream, changing accountants is easy. We'll facilitate the transfer and ensure that all of your company records are kept up to date.

So in summary, it’s really important that you do your research before deciding which contractor accountant to use. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, remember that compliance is key, as well as excellent customer service, value for money and their reputation within the industry. Good luck!

How to set up a limited company?

Setting up your own business through your own limited company is very rewarding. You will have the ability to dictate when, where and how you work. You’ll have the opportunity to build your own brand and will also be able to pitch for work that would be unavailable to a sole trader or an umbrella employee. In this guide, we'll talk you through how to set up your own limited company.

Read our guide

If you would like to speak to one of our experienced advisors to discuss anything mentioned on this page, please call us on 0161 923 0201 and press option 1.

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