Few business owners enjoy dealing with the accounting aspects of running a business or have the expertise to handle complex issues like tax planning. A good small business accountant can take much of the burden from you, and their advice can more than pay for itself.
Small business accountancy needs
For many businesses, getting someone else to do the bookkeeping is a very attractive idea. You may want to get advice from your accountant on choosing and setting up your bookkeeping systems. As a minimum, you want to ensure you have compatible accounting software systems that make it easy to share financial data with your accountant.
Although you can use your accountant to handle day-to-day bookkeeping as well, this isn't always cost-effective. A less highly qualified (and lower cost) bookkeeping service, or part-time book-keeper, can be a better option. Equally, you may want to use a payroll service to handle the administration of employee pay, tax, pension and National Insurance contributions.
Whoever deals with your bookkeeping, you will need to produce annual statutory accounts. Most businesses choose to use an accountant for this, particularly if the business is a limited company. Alongside the statutory accounts, an accountant can deal with tax returns. Advice on tax planning can be very valuable, maximizing allowances and saving you money.
More broadly, a good small business accountant can offer advice on business and financial planning, including issues like setting up a new business and identifying the right sources of finance.
Choosing a small business accountant
Recommendations are often the best way to find a new accountant. Make sure you check their qualifications and ask what experience they have of dealing with businesses like yours.
Most small businesses find it best to deal with a relatively small firm of accountants. A small firm is more likely to consider you a valuable client than a larger firm would. Dealing with a local firm is also more convenient for face-to-face meetings.
The other major advantage is that smaller firms also tend to be less expensive. Make sure that you're clear on costs and how they charge - for example, as a fixed fee or an hourly rate. And make sure that you use their time well by being prepared for meetings and avoiding unnecessary phone calls and emails.
An initial meeting should be free of charge and should give you an opportunity to discuss your needs and get a feel for what they offer. Aim to choose an accountant that you think you can build a good relationship with.