How to Choose an Accountant

A good accountant should offer more than just ‘doing the books’ once a year.

There are several things to bear in mind when setting out to choose an accountant.

Firstly, once you have made your choice you are likely to have a long-term relationship with the practice. Many accountants are advising the third generation of a family business.

Secondly, many business people pay in excess of 20% and sometimes substantially more, of their profits in tax, and National Insurance. So it is worthwhile investing your time in finding the right practice for you.

How do you decide the right firm for you? As a general rule you should look for a firm which is similar in size to yours or has clients of the same size as your business – they will be more understanding of the issues and problems you will face.

Where do you find a list of practising firms? You can look in your local phone book, visit the accountancy bodies’ websites – the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has a directory of firms covering all its practices.

Many business people value a recommendation from others in business and this is frequently a good source. But you should remember that what works for one business many not work for another, so if you are recommended a practice you must find out what it is about the practice that makes it valued.

Once you have a potential shortlist of practices you should phone between three and six firms and arrange to meet at least three of these. Check in advance whether the first meeting to discuss their appointment is free of charge. During the meeting:

  • Tell them what you are planning to do and check whether they offer the services you need to build your business;
  • Tell them the accounting records you keep. Can they suggest improvements?
  • Ask for their comments on your business plan, If you need finance, you may need a plan. How much would they charge to do one with you?
  • If you also want personal financial advice, check whether they can provide this;
  • Establish what the fees will be and when they are payable;
  • Establish who at the firm will be dealing with your work – it may not only be the person you are meeting with. Do you get on with this person; is this someone you can work with? Do you feel that they will be able to help you develop your business?
  • Ask to speak to existing clients – references are always important.
  • Some issues which might help you decide:
  • Do they have experience of your sector and type of business?
  • What is their reputation? What professional qualifications do they have – do they belong to a recognised body?
  • Will they be acceptable to third parties, e.g. finance providers, shareholders?
  • For audit, investment business or insolvency work, make sure the practice accountant is authorised to undertake the work.
  • After choosing your accountant:
  • After appointing your accountant, you should receive a letter setting our their terms and conditions (the Letter of Engagement):
  • Your accountant should always keep in touch, not just at the year-end;
  • You must tell your accountant as soon as possible of changes in your business, problems, circumstances etc. It is worthwhile being totally honest and upfront with them;
  • After your accounts have been prepared, you should receive a letter setting out future tax liabilities;
  • Don’t be afraid to tap into your accountant’s knowledge for help with running your business;
  • Review your accountant’s charges every three years or so;
  • From time to time, assess whether your accountant’s services still match your business needs. If you are not getting what you want – ask.
  • If you decide to sell you business, tell your chartered accountant – they can plan to minimise tax liabilities and even help with the sale.
Once an accountant has been appointed, the relationship should quickly build so they become your trusted adviser.

It is always worthwhile talking to your accountant on non-financial matters.

Many accountants have close links with the local business community through their client base. If they don’t have the answer, they will usually know somebody who will be able to help you.

We are located at:

Linda Cotterill Chartered Accountants

Hopton Corner House





Contact us today!

If you have any queries or wish to make an appointment, please contact us:


Tel:- 01886 832392

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Created by Sarah Cotterill