Online Accountant Solutions

Anybody could set up their own online accountancy business today! Scary isn't it?

If you Google ‘online accounting', you’ll find hundreds of companies offering these services. On the face of it, they look like an easy way of managing your finances, but you need to be aware that online accounting could be offered by anyone. You don’t have to be an accountant to offer the service - even you could do it.

Anyone can set up as an online accountant, and all they have to do is buy access to an online bookkeeping system such as Xero, Sage Online, FreeAgent Central or Clearbooks. This costs upwards of £10 per month plus VAT, but they can then resell for £60 per month with the promise of all sorts of personal dedicated support, none of which needs to be provided by an accountant. So, the first reason to be wary of choosing an online accountant is that they are very possibly not an accountant at all.

For years accounting has stayed the same, in fact double entry bookkeeping has been around since the 15th century. Since that time, business owners have looked for an accountant who would not only help to guide them through the complexities of the UK tax system, but also help them to build their business whilst also providing advice and guidance on how to operate in the most tax efficient way.

Then came the online revolution. You can buy anything from a DVD to your weekly shop or even a car online these days, so why not have an online accountant? The simple answer is that choosing an online accountancy solution is not dissimilar to opting for the services of an online doctor, dentist or solicitor - or any professional in fact! Accountancy is not a commodity, it's a specialist skill and requires a detailed understanding of you and your business, something which is very definitely best left to the experts.

Some online services will argue that all of the figures which companies submit online are dealt with by professional accountants that are simply 'invisible' to the customer, but we find this hard to believe. Accountants are pretty dedicated people, they work for years to become fully qualified and to gain vital real-world experience, completing numerous accounting exams in the process that are incredibly hard to pass. So why, after doing all this work would they want to use their highly trained, razor sharp, number-driven minds to work in a back office trawling through pages and pages of data that has been submitted online, with no knowledge of the business it represents. Surely instead they would prefer to fulfil their end goal of working with clients to help them manage their businesses better.

It's only fair to point out that Xero, Sage Online, FreeAgent Central, Clearbooks etc all provide excellent online bookkeeping software (SJD has several clients who use these systems) but they never condone using these systems on a standalone basis. Instead they wholeheartedly support the client/accountant relationship, and would always recommend that their software is used in conjunction with the support of an accountant. These system providers are very different to the companies that have recently popped up, and provide purely online services with no direct accountant relationship.

So when it comes down to it, it really is that simple. If you want an accountant, appoint an accountant and not an online substitute. And if you do want to manage your finances using an online bookkeeping solution, that's fine too - but make sure you appoint a professional accountant to support you as well. The software will never be good enough on its own!

If you would like to become a client of SJD or have any questions about contracting please call our New business team on 01442 275789 or email

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