Top 5 Questions To Ask When Hiring An Accountant

Accountants do more than just handle your tax. For businesses of all sizes, accountants are a must-have essential to help you reach the next level. 

They keep on top of all your financial records and handle your bookkeeping. They’ll take care of any auditing, PAYE payrolls for your employees and all government related paperwork that needs completing. They make sure you never miss a deadline – and keep you HMCR compliant at all times.

Put simply, accountants are the time-saving miracles that keep your financially legal, compliant and up-to-date. 

Combined with U.S. bank study findings that 82% of businesses fail due to poor cash flow management, getting an accountant that you can trust should be pretty high on your priority list. 

If that’s not enough to convince you, you can discover more about how an accountant can help your business succeed here.  

Getting the right accountant for your business is no easy task though. To make it a little easier, we’ve put together a quick guide on getting the right match for your company and the top 5 essential questions you need to ask before you choose your accountant. 

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First, decide what you need from your accountant 

Before you can find an accountant for your business, you need to determine what it is that you need them to do.

Are you looking for someone to just handle your bookkeeping? Someone to make sure your tax is correct and compliant? 

Or an all-in-one accountant that will take care of every financial need that your business has? 

Deciding this will depend on how many of these services you’d like to keep in-house and which you want to hand over. And like any business decision, there are pros and cons to each. 

Every service that you keep in-house gives you more control over them. They can be more cost-effective too, as you’re not paying fees for someone else to take care of it for you. 

And with easy-to-use programs like FreeAgent, QuickBooks or FreshBooks, you don’t technically need an accountant to do this for you. 

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There are tons of resources and help at your fingertips to help you through the processes. In fact, we’ve got our own bookkeeping for beginners guide to easily get you started on keeping your own books. 

But with 60% of small business owners stating that they don’t feel knowledgeable about accounting and finance, this is not always possible. 

It will take some experience and learning to make sure you’re doing this right. That’s a lot of time invested into doing it yourself – which could be better used for something else if you hired an accountant to take care of it for you.  

Once that’s decided, it’s time for your first meeting with an accountant, and these all-important questions… 

1. What are your fees? 

Accounting fees

Sometimes this question can be a little awkward, but it’s an important one to get out of the way pretty quickly. 

After all, if a particular accountant doesn’t fit in your budget, they’re not right for you. End of story. 

So, ask how much their fees are.

Accountancy costs differ based on each person and the services they offer. If you head straight to the major firms, be prepared to bigger price tags. For small businesses and those just starting out, go to smaller firms or freelancers for a fee that might be more in your budget. 

Just be wary of trying to get too much for nothing. Accountants don’t work for peanuts. If you’ve got a strict budget, you may need to revisit what tasks you need them to do and what you can internalise.

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2. What services do you offer?

As briefly discussed earlier, accountants offer a wide range of services. Just as your business might not need all of them, some accountants don’t offer them all. 

Some accountants offer everything under the umbrella, while a few specialise in certain areas, like bookkeeping or tax return. So this question is vital to make sure that they can provide all the services that you need from them. 

If you’re after a specific service, it may be best to head to a specialist in that area.

Think of it as you’re getting your house renovated. The project is nearly complete, but you need one person to fit the bathroom. Would you rather call someone who specialises in bathrooms or a general handyman that has fitted them before? 

Don’t get us wrong, we’re sure that handyman could do an excellent job. But when you’re after one, specific service, you get better attention to detail and reassurance going someone who just does bathrooms. 

3. What experience do you have?

You would never hire someone without finding out if they’re qualified for the job. 

Discovering an accountant’s past experience is vital to making sure that they are capable of working with your company. 

Always ask what experience they’ve had. Ask what types of companies they’ve worked for before and what success they’ve had. If there are case studies available, get those too. 

When asking for experience, don’t get blown away by big names. What you’re looking for are companies that are in similar positions to yourself. 

Take Jeff for example. Jeff owns a start-up business that sells economical, made-to-order jewellery online that he runs with his wife Karen. 

He went to an accountancy firm and when he asked for experience, they wowed him with names of companies that had been up and running for at least 5 years and were 10 times bigger than him. 

The problem with this is that they are in completely different situations and would need different things from their accountant. What works for them might not work for Jeff. This was the experience he needed to know they had. 

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4. How often will you meet? 

Meeting your accountant

If things are going well, this is where you start to get into the nitty-gritty details of how this accountant will work with your company and how often their services would be required. 

Word of warning: be wary of those that only offer you a once a year meeting. 

Sure, you’ll save money, but if you’ve got a tax problem you won’t be able to spot it until it might be too late. We’d recommend meeting more often, such as quarterly, to make sure that everything in your business is in tip-top shape. 

This is also a good chance to bring up exactly how you’ll communicate with them. This could be: 

  • Entirely online or over email. 
  • Video or phone calls.
  • In-person by physically working in your office for certain days of the year.
  • Regular face-to-face meetings to discuss the current shape of your business. 

All businesses have their prefered way of doing this. There’s no right or wrong answer here, it all depends on what you feel is the right approach for you. 

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5. How will you help improve the company? 

This final question will really solidify whether or not you’ve got the right accountant for your company. 

It’s easy to get an accountant that can offer you the bare minimum. But that’s not what you want. 

A good accountant doesn’t just make sure that you’re compliant. They’ll work with you to streamline your processes, make sure you’re always using the best systems available for your business and discover ways to help legally minimise your tax commitments. 

With an accountant like that, your business can really go far. 

Ask the right questions 

The right accountant for your business should be in your budget, able to offer the services you need and work alongside your company to help take you to the next level. 

These questions are designed to help make sure you’re on the right tracks. But that’s not all you can ask them. 

When it comes to hiring an accountant, don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

You need to find someone who is the right fit for your company. Otherwise, you’ll be paying for someone that doesn’t offer too much for the long run.

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Business4Beginners has been advising new businesses owners since 2013. The founder, Paul Bryant, has created, grown and sold several successful businesses and remains the editor and fact-checker of all content published on the site.
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