Often when you’re starting your business, an accountant is the last thing on your mind. You’re focussed on products, services, pricing, branding, marketing - not the need to file a VAT return or an annual account. And when they become a last-minute decision, you don’t always pick the right one.
Likewise, as your business grows, so too does your need for support - someone who can guide you and advise you as you scale up. It might be that your accountant was great when you were starting up, but now you need a specialist small business accountant to help take you to the next level.
The reasons people change accountants vary. Some say they're not proactive, that they only do the bare minimum or very basic work. When you compare you may find someone new fills you with confidence through the questions they ask you, or that a specialist startup accountant is more important to you as you scale up.
It may be that they appear uninterested, that you’ve outgrown them, or that they use outdated systems and software. You may want a more personal touch, someone quicker or more hands-on - or you may feel that your accountant was overpriced and you feel it would make more sense to find someone more cost-efficient for your budget.
Whatever the reason, it’s inevitable that at some point you will consider a switch. So how do you compare to make sure you get the right one - and, more important, what’s the process you need to follow?
A straightforward process - once you have someone new in mind
Don’t worry about the process of changing, and don’t let it stop you moving on to someone more suitable. The process in reality is fairly straightforward - and your new accountant will even do most of the work for you.
Changing is as easy as one-two-three:
1. Find a new accountant
Even if you still need to compare, finding a new accountant can be a fairly straightforward process. You could spend your time asking and relying on contacts for a referral or use PROfiltr to compare. The problem with relying on a referral is that more often than not the person giving advice has never dealt with another accountant and so isn’t really in the position to provide valuable advice - that’s why we started PROfiltr!
2. Let your old accountant know you want to change You may need to do this using an official letter headed notice, or you could issue a verbal notice; it will depend on your own agreement and contract with your current accountant. Chartered accountants are bound by professional codes of ethics and should respect your wishes. They are also bound to follow certain procedures when corresponding with each other; your outgoing startup accountant must answer any communication and confirm any matters the incoming small business accountant needs to know about. If they don’t follow these procedures, they may be penalised by their regulatory bodies. Of course, you should make sure you give notice at an appropriate time.
3. Your new accountant will write to your old one, and take over from there Your new small business accountant will then write to the outgoing one to ask for “professional clearance” - it’s a courtesy, and an opportunity to discuss any issues. They’ll ask if there’s any reason why they should not work with your business, and request all information needed to start working on your behalf - this could include previous sets of accounts, details of any additional work being undertaken, or tax return and VAT schedules. Remember, your new one will need to repeat any checks, such as anti-money laundering checks, and will need your photo ID and proof of address before they can represent you.
Timing is key when you compare accountants to switch
Of course, there are a few things you should consider before kicking off the process. The main thing to remember when you compare is that time is definitely of the essence - select a changeover date that will cause the least disruption to your business; the end of financial year is the most obvious. If you switch mid-way through a financial year, you may face extra charges as the new one re-calculates what the previous one had already done.
You should also make sure all financial responsibilities to your outgoing startup accountant are handled - that all bills are paid up, and there’s nothing for them to chase you for. The most common barrier to switching is disputed unpaid fees.
Finally, you’ll need to assign authority to your new small business accountant for your tax affairs; this means they’ll be able to file on your behalf, and deal with Companies House or HMRC on your behalf, too. This is why going through the process to compare and find someone you like and trust is so important.
Going through the process to compare accountants and find a new one may seem challenging at first, but remember that they should act as a partner in your business growth. If you don’t have a strong partner, then changing could bring you more useful advice and most importantly higher profits.
A good small business accountant can help your business to thrive, but choosing one can be a difficult thing. PROfiltr takes the pain out of finding a great one; compare and get your free quotes here.