The image of accountants tallying up numbers on a spreadsheet has been firmly left in the past. Thank goodness! As well as offering the traditional accountancy services like bookkeeping, payroll and tax advice, many small business accountants also describe themselves as business advisors.
The changing role of accountants
The shift from traditional accountancy services to a focus on business advisory has been possible mainly due to cloud accountancy. Platforms such as Xero, FreeAgent and QuickBooks have automated a lot of manual processes, freeing up accountants’ time to focus on other services that are central to a business’ growth and success.
While cloud technology has been around for a while, its use within the accountancy sector has been accelerating at an unprecedented rate. Research by GoGardless shows that more than a third of small business accountants now service over 80% of their clients on cloud accounting software.
Staying on top in a 24-hour business world means being adaptable. Cloud accounting enables you to access financial data anywhere at any time. Say, you’re on a business trip to the Far East and during a meeting, you need to know how much you spend each quarter on salaries. In the old days, you would have had to wait until your accountant woke up to get this information. Using a cloud accounting system, you can get this data within a few clicks.
From April 2019 it will be mandatory for all VAT registered businesses who have a taxable turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) to maintain their accounting records digitally. They’re also required to submit their VAT returns to HMRC using software that can access HMRC’s API platform. Appointing an accountant who is already fully up to speed with compatible software will spare you the stress and sleepless nights.
HMRC has a list on its website of compatible software providers.
With access to real-time information, accountants now have the ability to advise their clients on matters such as:
The biggest concern for small businesses is cashflow. Research by Amicus Commercial Finance shows that 70% of small to medium businesses see poor cashflow as the biggest threat to their business. Using cloud accounting software, an accountant can forecast your cashflow and help you to prepare for periods of slowdown.
A business plan is an essential document if you’re looking to secure funding through investment or via a loan. An accountant will be able to advise on the structure of the plan and assist with the preparation of its content, like the financial analysis. Small business accountants will also advise you on the best funding route. The options available to you may include applying for a loan from a mainstream lender or using alternative finance schemes.
One of the quickest ways to increase a business’ profit is by reducing its costs. An accountant can help reduce your expenses by taking an unbiased look at your spending to identify areas where money is being wasted and suggest ways to minimise these costs. For example, research by LateRooms has shown that SMEs waste thousands each year on business travel. By switching to online communication platforms, like Zoom or Skype, you could make significant savings each year.
Retaining top talent is vital to any business’ success. But, planning for what will happen when the owner or manager comes to leave or retire, is just as important. A smooth transition can be aided by having a succession strategy in place. If you’re passing the business onto a family member or a business partner, an accountant can assist with things like Inheritance Tax, wills, lifetime gifts and estate planning. Some work in partnership with other professionals like solicitors, to ensure all relevant areas have been considered.
The fee structure of accountants varies; some include these consultative services in the overall rate, whilst others offer them as add-ons. Once you find an accountant who ticks all the right boxes at a price that works for your business, you should focus on managing the relationship so that you can get maximum benefit from it.
How to get the most out of your accountant
It’s no good only speaking to your accountant once or twice a year when your accounts need filing. To get the most out of your relationship with an accountant, you should keep them informed of any changes to your personal or business circumstances. Plus, it’s important that you understand what you want the accountant to do for your business. Finally, you don’t want to waste money by paying an accountant to sort out your messy accounts. By keeping your paperwork and accounts organised and up-to-date, the accountant can focus on what they’re good at – keeping your business on a good financial track.
Small business accountants are a valuable resource for small to medium businesses who may not have the funds to bring in a dedicated finance director. By working with an accountant who utilises the power of cloud accounting technology, you’ll have access to a wider spectrum of advice that is outside of the traditional accounting services.
Narrowing down which accountant to use isn’t easy. However, PROfiltr takes away the pain of finding the right accountant for your business. You can compare and get free quotes from a range of small business accountants and begin achieving your 2019 business goals. Find out how it works here.