As a small- or medium-sized enterprise, finding an accountant that suits your business is crucial to the foundation of your venture and its future growth. In 2018, small business numbers saw a downturn (0.5%) for the first time since the turn of the millennium, meaning strategic business planning and advice is now more important than ever.
Selecting an accountancy firm that fits your business type and structure can be a difficult task, and there are a variety of considerations that need to be made before you start sifting through the plethora of candidates. You should have a clear vision of what you want your business to achieve before embarking on this journey and understand that enlisting the services of a specialist accountant is not a guarantee that you will get there.
In this article, Berley, London’s specialist chartered accountants, discuss the initial questions you should ask yourself before selecting a small business accountant and the implications that the answers may have for your enterprise.
Do I need an accountant?
To begin with, you need to decide whether or not enlisting the services of a specialist accountant is suitable for your business model. For some ventures, accountants are a prerequisite that should be involved in the planning stages of the business. These businesses are usually those with a high roof when it comes to potential success, profitability and expansion such as tech start-ups and ‘ideas’ companies, however, typically these will incorporate their accountants as part of the company. For others, an accountant might be perceived as a superfluous and unnecessary luxury whose services can be performed by the owner or proprietor. Despite this, however, the services rendered by an accountant are usually conducive to better business, so it is advisable that one is employed.
While you mightn’t require the sustained services of an accountant for the duration of your business’s practice, it is generally advisable to seek out an accountant when you’re starting out in order to ensure that your registration with HMRC and Companies House is done correctly and that your business can operate smoothly from the outset. Berley, London’s entrepreneurial and small business accountants are experts when it comes to helping small businesses establish themselves and these services, among others, we can provide.
What kind of accountant do I need?
The type of accountant required for your enterprise is reliant on your business structure and business type. In the UK, most businesses enlist the services of a qualified chartered accountant – a highly qualified professional accountant with workplace experience, competency completion and an above-degree level of education. If growth is one of the primary goals listed on your company’s agenda, then hiring a chartered accountant is recommended. If you simply require a bookkeeper or someone to prepare your taxes, it’s possible you can hire an alternative, less-qualified individual.
Not all chartered accountants will suit your business however, and an accountancy firm that specialises in small business, SME’s and start-ups is desirable for budding enterprises. You may end up needing to transition from a small business accountant to a larger corporate or in-house accountancy structure as your company grows, but beginning with a specialist small business accountant, such as Berley, is advisable in the early stages.
You will also want to consider the location of your business and whether communicating with your accountant digitally is preferable for your business. While some more traditional enterprises will prefer a face-to-face rapport with their accountant, it may be in your interests to consider conferring with your accountant digitally.
What can I expect from my accountant?
For a small business, sound strategic planning and advice is paramount. Further to this, a complete and comprehensive registration of your company is also mandatory for success. These are what your accountant should be providing you with from the outset and throughout your business’s establishment. An accountant is more than someone who oversees your company’s payroll operations or files your tax returns – they should be an active member of the business who provides considered and calculated advice in pursuit of nurturing and growing your business and its interests.
Enlisting the services of a specialist small business accountant should provide your business with an edge on your competitors, which is a valuable asset when considering the volatile and competitive nature of small business in the UK today. With 27,000 fewer businesses overall in 2018 when compared to 2017, sound business planning is more important than ever, so solid, sound advice is a requirement for success.
For start-ups, your accountant should be overseeing the registration or incorporation of your company with HMRC and Companies House, encompassing PAYE setup for your employees, as well as assistance drafting your business plan, financial forecasts and predictions, in addition to advising on best practices for growth and success. They will also manage your accounts and lodge taxes on your behalf in circumstances where you employ their services on a comprehensive, all-inclusive basis.
Can my accountant do my MTD?
In short, yes. With the imminent introduction of the Government’s Making Tax Digital legislation, all businesses will soon (April 2020) be required to migrate their financial records to a cloud accounting software platform, which can be managed by your specialist small business accountant. For VAT-registered businesses earning above the threshold (£85,000), this is a much more real eventuality, with MTD effective as of 1 April 2019. Your accountant should be able to specify where your small business will fall in terms of its classification and if you’re eligible for VAT registration under this.
If uploading your finances to cloud platforms such as Xero and liaising with your accountant via email are more suitable for your small business or start-up, the location of your accountant isn’t an important consideration. For small businesses that may not be situated conveniently when it comes to nearby accountancy firms, MTD represents a fantastic opportunity to find accountants that will suit your needs and are compatible with your business type and structure.
How to make the decision
In a nutshell, once you have asked yourself the aforementioned questions, you will need to research the candidates that are best aligned with your interests and then interview them. Often a first consultation is free, so once this is in motion, you will be able to gauge whether a particular firm appeals to you and whether what they can offer your small business is suitable and of value.
At Berley, we offer specialist financial and accounting advice to entrepreneurial businesses and start-ups looking to grow and gain momentum. We have a proven track record of assisting said businesses with all of their financial and fiscal considerations and can provide bespoke, considered advice tailored to your circumstances. To speak with one of our chartered accountants specialising in small business, please call us on 020 7788 8261 or fill out our Contact Form.
For more small business advice, see the following:
- Business growth in 2019: Expert advice for small businesses
- Accepting card payments, what are my options?
- Top 5 bookkeeping tips for small businesses
- Preparing your business for Making Tax Digital
- How to create a robust business plan