10 reasons why it’s time to change accountant
10 reasons why it’s time to change accountant
Changing accountant is a big decision to make as you’re essentially trusting someone new to calculate your tax liability correctly, file your tax returns on time, and apply expert knowledge to minimise your tax burden. When you’re already used to working with an accountant, it may not always be obvious that it could be time to switch, or that changing accountant is necessary. However, this article will highlight 10 red flag signs that it’s probably time to change accountant and why.
1. Your accountant uses a lot of jargon that you don’t understand
Talking about tax and accounting principles is a highly technical subject that is not always easy to explain. If you’re regularly finding that you’re unsure of what your accountant is telling you, and they’re not making an effort to ensure you’re on the same page, then this is a warning sign that you may want to consider changing accountant. Clear and easy to follow communication makes such a difference when working with an accountant because confusion or misunderstanding can lead to costly outcomes. At best, it may mean that your accountant needs to spend more time on your accounts or corresponding with you which can lead to higher fees. At worse, it could result in mistakes that end in penalties or an HMRC investigation. For example, does your accountant make it clear when coffee is a tax-deductible business expense and when it is not? You may be surprised by the intricacies of the rule. Not only that, but you’re likely to be left feeling frustrated if you’re not sure about what your accountant is doing for you or feel uncertain about why your tax bill is the figure they have come to.
2. You’ve found your accountant to be unreliable on more than one occasion
Everyone has experienced missing a deadline or reminder at some point, but, for accountants, it’s a far less forgivable offence. That’s because HMRC won’t see the fact that your accountant forgot to submit your tax return on your behalf as a reasonable excuse. Ultimately, the responsibility is still on you to check it’s been done! Signs of an unreliable accountant can include much more than missing a deadline though, such as cancelling last minute on your meeting, losing your documents, or not giving you that call back that they said they would. All these behaviours will soon add up and will be a clear sign that you should work with a different accountant.
3. You are not a priority to them
Whilst you’re probably aware that you are not your accountant’s only client and that it’s not unreasonable for them to be busy handling other clients’ work, you don’t want to find yourself in the position where you can never get a hold of them. If you’ve experienced yourself leaving multiple messages for your accountant to call you back, having to set up meetings weeks in advance to speak to them or not getting replies to your emails in a timely manner, then chances are that you’re not being seen as a priority to your accountant. This can often be the case if you use large corporate accountancy firms as your own tax affairs are relatively small when compared to their overall client portfolio. Using top tier firms ultimately does not always guarantee a high-quality service. When choosing another accountancy firm, consider how much you’re willing to pay and what level of service you expect.
4. Your business has outgrown them
As an independent accountancy firm ourselves, we have seen this happen on several occasions. We don’t see this as a bad thing though! We pride ourselves on the fact that we were a part of their success story. If your business has experienced a successful growth period as well, then it should only be natural that you reassess your needs. Perhaps it may be better suited for your business to have your own in-house finance department, or it may be that you are required to appoint independent auditors for your accounts. Even if your accountant has been amazing until now and has in a way helped you get to this point, if they’re no longer able to keep up or support your growing business needs then you can’t let that stifle your growth trajectory.
5. You’ve been using the same auditor for a few years now
If your business is required to have audited accounts completed, then you’ll know that the purpose of the audit is to produce an independent and objective review on your processes for financial reporting. Many businesses find audits disruptive to the day-to-day operations as auditors not only request various internal documents but also information from key business stakeholders. Therefore, it can be tempting to use the same auditors year after year as they’ll develop familiarity with your business operations and form a better understanding of your processes. However, many will argue that familiarity may come at the cost of impartiality and lead to biased opinions. For that reason, it is best practice to rotate your auditing firm regularly. For certain businesses it is mandatory by statute to tender for new auditors every few years.
6. You need fresh insight to develop your business
Does it feel like your business has reached a plateau and you’re not sure how to get it to the next level? Then why isn’t your accountant helping? Many people forget that an accountant is a highly valuable business resource, and not only when it comes to tax and accounting! Accountants work with a broad variety of business owners from all different industries so they gain a unique insight into business development and growth. As such, you should also be working with your accountant as a business advisor. If your accountant is only giving you spreadsheets, graphs and numbers in your management accounts, then you’re missing out and should consider changing accountant. A good accountant for your business will be providing analysis, highlighting opportunities and risks, and forecasting different financial scenarios so that you are empowered to make key business decisions that will lead to growth. Switching to a new accountant that is interested in your business goals could be the breath of fresh air you need to help your business go further.
7. They’re unable to cater for your specific needs
There are many types of specialists when it comes to accountants, so if you require something specific and niche, then you may have to be prepared to find a different accountant with the experience and expertise that you need. Ideally, of course, you would only need to turn to one accountant who has a complete 360 understanding of your tax affairs. This way, they’ll be able to provide comprehensive and cohesive tax planning strategies to minimise your overall tax burden. For example, at Ridgefield Consulting, we offer specialist R&D tax credit services. We find that most of our R&D clients will switch from their old accountant who do not offer this service to us for their corporation tax as well. By doing this they have one single point of contact for both their needs; they receive a more streamlined service as we do not have to wait for their old accountant to complete their annual accounts before we can get started on calculating their R&D claim; and we’re able to ensure we claim every possible R&D expenditure as well as business expense because we can see the whole financial picture. If your tax needs are more complicated, then it can make much more sense to change to a different accountant who can do it all.
8. You’re managing your accountant
Working with a good accountant is like having a business partner or excellent personal assistant (PA). It’ll be as if they’re working seamlessly behind the scenes of your business or know exactly when to provide timely reminders so that they’re more helpful than nagging. If this is not the case however, then you may instead be finding that you’re the one doing the reminding that your company’s yearend has just passed, or you’re doing the follow up as to whether they’ve received the documents you sent in the post for your self-assessment tax return. When you feel like you’re managing your accountant to do the work that they’re supposed to be helping you with, then it’s another red flag sign that it’s time to change accountant.
9. They haven’t considered your future tax liability
It may not seem like a make or break when it comes to changing accountants; however, we would argue that this is one of the key differences between an accountant and a good accountant. A good accountant will not only be working to help you with your tax return for the current tax year but be looking ahead to spot opportunities for effective tax planning during the future years to come. It can range from something simple – such as pre-empting your need to register for VAT before you hit the threshold – or it could be something much more personal to your individual circumstances such as how to plan for business exit, disposing of assets between two tax years to make the most of capital gains allowances, or even inheritance tax planning for your estate. As tax allowances and thresholds are constantly changing each year, by considering the tax implications across longer periods of time, your accountant will be able to take advantage of future planning to help save you more money.
10. They’re not offering a good value service
Price is often the most decisive factor when it comes to choosing an accountant, despite the fact that paying a high fee does not necessarily guarantee the best service, nor does paying a low fee dictate you’ll receive a poor service. Whilst it’s understandable that you may rely on cost as an indicator for service levels (especially where practices use a bronze, silver, gold package or similar), you need to consider what you see as good value and what is important as part of a service to you. Perhaps you value your accountant being able to do something urgently for you even though you’ve given them last minute notice, or that they’re happy to provide training on accounting software so that you can manage your bookkeeping. These little acts of service are what add up to being a great service and therefore you should expect that this makes up part of your accountant’s fee. If you’re unhappy with the service from your accountant and are considering changing, then don’t shy away from higher fees if it means getting better value.
Get helping changing to a new accountant
These are our 10 reasons we think it could be time to change accountants. Did you know that switching over to us is simple? Start by having a consultation with one of our qualified accountants, and if you decide that you’d like to change over to us, you simply let your existing accountant know and copy us in. We then take it from there to ensure they transfer over all your historical tax information so that we can pick up where they left off. For more news and advice, sign up to our monthly email newsletter.
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