Choosing an Accountant

In summary

Essentially look for a firm of accountants who:

  1. Gives you a dedicated point of contact
  2. Is a specialist in the contractor and freelancer market
  3. Provides the opportunity to meet with your accountant (tax is complicated so it's nice to be able to chat things over face-to-face if you need to)
  4. Nationwide offices (so you don't have to drive 400 miles to see your accountant)
  5. Offers a low cost all inclusive fixed fee
  6. Good reputation - external awards are good indicators
  7. Offers some kind of guarantee on their service (some companies will tell you anything to sign you up and the service can be different to what's been promised)

If you would like to know more about how contracting works, forming a limited company or just want to have a chat about tax or going limited, please don't hesitate to contact us on 01442 275789 or email: newbusiness@sjdaccountancy.com.

The detail

One of the most daunting things when contracting through your own Limited company can be getting an accountant. At first glance it’s easy; you go down to your local high street accountant who quotes you anything from £1,000 - £2,000 plus VAT to do your end of year accounts for you and you're covered. However, this probably won't include VAT returns, personal tax or your payroll.

However, throughout the year you may have accountancy and tax related queries and questions for your accountant - you may need to call them for some bespoke advice. Each time you call your accountant, you're likely to be charged, so by the end of the year you could be looking at a bill exceeding £2,500. It's no surprise then that most contractors and small business owners soon stop calling their accountant and push their tax returns to the back of the drawer.

So it makes sound business sense to appoint a good accountant who is right for you. Not only will they be able to help with initial set-up issues such as registering your limited company, they will also be able to advise you on a myriad of complex financial issues, and ultimately to make sure that you keep as much of your hard earned turnover as you can. You’ll have enough on your plate with running your business, and the last thing you need to worry about is missing a tax deadline, making sure that your tax submission is accurate, or missing out on any opportunity to maximise your tax allowances.

Factors to consider

It might sound obvious now, but in the excitement of setting up your business you may forget about appointing an accountant and then rush into it later, only to regret that decision in the long run. So making the right choice when you first set up in business will save you both time and money.

Small fish big pond

You could be forgiven for thinking that it doesn't really matter which accountant you choose as they are all the same, providing that they are qualified. But this is definitely not the case. For example, it makes no sense to choose an accountancy firm who predominantly provides services to larger businesses, and may consequently not understand the needs of a smaller company such as yours, or even have much time for you. In this situation you may well find yourself being a very small fish in a very big pond.

No dedicated accountant

Another aspect to consider is customer service. Some firms operate a system where you speak to a different person every time and no-one ever really gets a clear understanding of your business and its individual issues. You will also probably find yourself repeating things over and over again if you have to call back multiple times. This option might be cheaper on the face of it - but at an overall level, when you consider the extra time which you will have to take, it could work out more expensive.

The UK tax system is complicated. To give you an idea, the HM Revenue and Customs Expenses Policy booklet is over 100 pages long, so just imagine what the corporation tax laws look like. With this in mind, it makes sense to have a dedicated tax advisor who you can pick up the phone to, or email when you need an answer to a question – without worrying that they are charging you for every minute, or that you are wasting their time asking what might appear, to them, to be ‘simple questions’. This will give you a certain level of comfort and reassurance to know that if you don't understand something, or if you have any concerns, you can talk to ‘your’ accountant anytime you like. After all it's you and your company, not them, that will be personally liable if anything goes wrong!

All inclusive fixed fees

Find below an extract from our page on the benefits of having an accountant about finding an accountant...

Call the company see how they sound, find out if you:

  • Get your own dedicated accountant - calling up a call centre type environment will soon get boring especially when you have to explain who you are and what you do each time you call. Ask yourself, if you don't get your own accountant who the heck is going to take time to get to know you and find out what your business goals are? Having a good accountant is more than paying £50 for bookkeeping software you can buy in your local high street!
  • Are they specialists in the contractor market? - contracting from a tax point may lack some of the technicalities of mergers and acquisitions of multi-billion pound organisations but it is still complex tax wise, and choosing a firm who also helps pubs, engineering companies and the local printers really doesn't make much sense. For sure your fees will be lower than their other clients, so where will the incentive be for the accountant to get to know you? Also if they don't specialise in the contractor market, how can they give you advice based on years of working within the contractor market?
  • Can you meet your accountant? - would it surprise you to know that most firms who aren't able to meet you say 'well it's ok that we only have one office 400 miles away from you as you'll never need to meet your accountant'. Of course they'd say that what else can they say! What they should really say is 'no you can't meet your accountant, even if you want to'. Sure some clients never meet with their accountant, however well over 50% of our 14,000 contractor clients 'do' meet with their accountant and they always find the time useful. Now we're not saying you 'have' to meet your accountant, but it is nice to know that if you need to or even just want to - you can (it's also free to meet your own dedicated accountant* at SJD).
  • Are they good at what they do? - of course if you ask any firm they'll say 'sure we're great', again they are hardly likely to say anything different. Check to see if they have won any external awards for customer service or accounting excellence. Also see where the awards came from, are they contractor specific? Are they just local town awards i.e. best accountant in XYZ city, great if you're in XYZ city but not much good if you live anywhere else in the UK. Some awards really don't mean that much after all how good is a 'Growth' Award for a client? It just sounds like they are growing fast which usually means growing pains for clients. Solid well known national, industry specific awards are the ones to look out for.

We obviously hope you choose SJD Accountancy when the time comes, but if you don't, we still hope you found this guide very useful. If you have any further questions please contact us on 01442 275789 or email newbusiness@sjdaccountancy.com

Appoint SJD Accountancy and never worry about your tax or accountancy affairs again!

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SJD Accountancy

SJD Accountancy are the UK's largest specialist provider of fixed fee, Limited company accountancy services to contractors; we've been acting for contractors across the UK since 1992 and have more than 15,000 clients.

We are the only national specialist firm of contractor accountants with offices nationwide. SJD Accountancy has more qualified staff than any other firm in our market with qualifications from the following major tax and accountancy bodies - ATT, AAT, CTA, ACCA, CA, ACA and FCCA.

  • Unlimited face to face meetings. This is a unique service only SJD Accountancy offers - unlimited face to face meetings across the UK - tax is complicated and sometimes only a meeting will do.
  • UK's largest contractor accountants with more qualified staff. No call centres, no outsourcing, no automated call handling. Simply telephone, email or meet your own dedicated accountant face to face.
  • Money back service guarantee. All your Emails received by 4pm on any normal working day will be answered the same day. Should it be necessary to leave a telephone message it will be answered same day/following day latest or we will make a full refund of that months fee.
  • Outstanding reputation. We have won more awards for customer service and accountancy excellence than any other firm in our market, including: Best Accountant for Contractors, Accountant of the Year and Best Professional Service Team to name just a few.
  • All inclusive low cost fixed fee accountancy package which includes completion of accounts*, payroll bureau, dividends and corporation tax computations, personal taxation, free bookkeeping software, your own dedicated accountant* and all company returns for a fixed fee starting from £120 plus VAT per month. Check our packages for more detail.

If you have any questions about contracting or would like any further advice please call our new business team on 01442 275789 or email: newbusiness@sjdaccountancy.com. Our new business team is open Monday to Thursday (8am to 8pm), Friday (8am to 7pm) and Saturday (10am to 4pm)

Appoint SJD Accountancy and never worry about your tax or accountancy affairs again.

Form your own limited company with SJD - our same day online company formation service includes company bank account set up, VAT/PAYE registration and advice on optimum share structure. 

You may also find the following pages, guides and case studies useful:

*If you would like us to complete your company year end accounts we simply ask that you have been a client of SJD for one year or have made 12 monthly payments. All accountants are part or fully qualified.