So, let’s take a break from the DIY side of finances and look at what you should be doing when you decide that you need help. I mean, it could be as simple as you walking in the office that has ‘accountant’ slapped on the first nameplate you come across, but as with anything, it’s not.
So, what is an accountant? S/he is a qualified professional who has gone through years of training & actual work to reach a level where they are able to advise clients/employers in all affairs financial. But not all accountants are equal. Even with all your qualifications, differences arise from experience. Someone who has worked with steel companies for their whole life probably won’t know the tricks and trades of accounting for a farm (a popular one is to on purpose buy odd-shaped lots where you line the borders in a way that leaves small, unfarmable corners. These fetch grants from the EU government and thus is income for doing nothing. Sometimes half the size of your farm can be “unfarmable”!).
So, how do you choose?
Well, first of all, ask for suggestions from someone in your industry. It’s especially important for bloggers, as the rules & regulations of blogging & income are bound to go through a massive regulatory overhaul in the next few years and it’s good to be supported by someone who knows this industry and has dealt with other similar businesses before and thus knows how HMRC takes things.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, talk to them. It’s amazing how many people skip this step, but it’s super important! It’s not about whether you like each other, but whether you like their way of working and if you feel that they are qualified enough to deal with your initial circumstances. If they work only online and you are a “keeps their receipts in a shoebox” type, it’s not going to work.
Now, I’m a great fan of meeting face to face, but with modern tools, you don’t need to rely on your accountant down the street; you can request assistance from an accountant on the other side of the country. With the help of dropbox, google drive and Xero (online accounting programme), distance isn’t an issue. It’s more important that you work well with each other and that they can fulfil your needs within your budget.
Speaking of budgets, cheap isn’t always better and expensive isn’t always worth it. As in anything, it’s all about the balance. A good accountant will never oversell and force you to go over what you’d like to pay. As long as you don’t go in there expecting that for £50 a year they’ll take care of everything for you, a true professional will be able to work within your budget and come up with a solution that works for you. As a (very rough) guide, prepare to pay £150 for your yearly self-assessment. It all depends on your individual circumstances, so don’t be afraid to ask!
When you do meet with your accountant, ensure that you see their certificates. As in, don’t just take their word for it! Don’t be fooled by the blurb on their website, make sure you see the certs with your own eyes. No good accountant will be insulted by this, and in fact, most of them will have their certificates out, framed and sitting in the pride of place in their offices. They’ve worked hard for that piece of paper, and they will show it off.
Your main four bodies are ACCA, ICAEW (qualifies as an ACA), ICAS (qualifies as a CA) and CIMA (qualifies as a CGMA FCMA). Members of all three are qualified to take care of your affairs. There are differences in the education and thus what they will have looked at the theory for, however each qualification does require at least a year’s worth of experience, so you can rest assured that as long as an accountant has that bit of paper, they will be more than capable of making the most of your money. And that’s exactly what they will do. In accumulation of avoiding fines and reducing the tax payable, a good accountant will save you more money than what you pay them.
Can you recommend an accountant for me?
Nope. Because I don’t use an accountant, I’ve never obviously had to try to find one and thus don’t have first-hand experience in one, however two I’ve seen bouncing about and that I’ve heard people using are:
Kona Seven – Raj has an active presence in the UK Bloggers community on facebook and comes highly recommended from the group. As a blogger himself, he knows what the ins & outs are.
Starfish Accounting – they have an active presence in the blogging community and Georgi has guest blogged on various UK blogs about blogging finances.